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Tenants At This Brightwood Building Are On Rent Strike. Now, The Owner Is Trying To Sell

The owner of a decrepit apartment building in Brightwood Park, Michael Lesesne, has listed the property for sale shortly after tenants started a rent strike to protest what they’ve said are unlivable conditions.

The rent strike started on October 1, and tenants held a rally in support of the strike earlier this month. At the rally, residents described living with bedbugs, cockroaches, and rats; swollen, leaking ceilings; and persistent, widespread mold growth in their units. Instead of paying rent to their landlord, tenants in 16 of the building’s 24 units have begun depositing their rent payments into an escrow account managed by the Latino Economic Development Center, an advocacy organization that has helped tenants organize other rent strikes in D.C.

Lesesne has listed the property for $3.1 million.

Bisnow reports that Lesesne’s family has owned the building since 1981, and Lesesne himself lived in it for 20 years. The property owner was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, which has affected his ability to care for the property and nudged him toward listing it for sale, according to the outlet.

Broker Marcus & Millichap is working with Lesesne on the sale. Marty Zupancic of the firm told Bisnow that the building is not in the kind of condition that tenants have described.

“For a property that’s, according to the tenants, in that bad a condition, it certainly has a high occupancy level,” Zupancic said to the outlet (23 of the 24 units are occupied). “You’d anticipate maybe half the building wouldn’t be there or at least 25 percent, so to have it 96 percent occupied for something in that bad a condition, that seems slightly odd.”

Rob Wohl, a tenant organizing manager at LEDC, says the sale is positive news for tenants.

“It suggests that [the rent strike] is pretty successful. This building should have been sold a long time ago—the owner is clearly not interested in investing in it and keeping it up to code,” Wohl says. “We’re not doing a victory lap yet, because Lesesne still owns the building and it could be on the market a long time. But it’s good.”

About Marcus & Millichap (NYSE: MMI)

Marcus & Millichap is the nation’s largest brokerage firm focused exclusively on investment sales. It is based on a simple premise: matching each property with the largest pool of pre-qualified investors. With over 2,000 investment sales and financing professionals located throughout the United States and Canada, Marcus & Millichap is a leading specialist in commercial real estate investment sales, financing, research, and advisory services. Founded i­n 1971, the firm closed 8,954 transactions in 2020 with a value of approximately $43 billion. Marcus & Millichap has perfected a powerful system for marketing properties that combines investment specialization, local market expertise, the industry’s most comprehensive research, state-of-the-art technology, and relationships with the largest pool of qualified investors. To learn more about the company, please visit