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Owner Of Brightwood Building With Tenants On Rent Strike Retains Broker To Sell Property

The apartment building at 1320 Nicholson St. NW

The owner of a controversial Brightwood apartment building where tenants have organized a rent strike in recent weeks is looking to sell the property. 

Michael Lesesne retained Marcus & Millichap's Marty Zupancic and Christian Barreiro to sell the 24-unit apartment building at 1320 Nicholson St. NW, the brokerage firm announced Monday. 

Residents at the building have complained about bedbugs, mice, roaches, mold and leaky roofs. A tenant advocacy organization, the Latino Economic Development Center, helped the occupants of 16 of the building's units organize a rent strike. The tenants stopped paying rent to the landlord Oct. 1, instead putting the money into an escrow account managed by LEDC. The group held its first rally Oct. 12. 

Lesesne's family has owned the building since 1981. He lived in the building for over 20 years and inherited the property in 2011, the release said. Lesesne was then diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2012 and has undergone extensive treatment, which the release said caused him to be more distant from the property and factored into his decision to sell.

Zupancic tells Bisnow the owner had begun speaking with his team prior to the start of the rent strike, but he doesn't know if he anticipated it coming and if that could have factored into his decision to sell. He said he hasn't inspected the building, but noted that 23 of its 24 units are occupied.

"For a property that's, according to the tenants, in that bad a condition, it certainly has a high occupancy level," Zupancic said. "You'd anticipate maybe half the building wouldn't be there or at least 25%, so to have it 96% occupied for something in that bad a condition, that seems slightly odd." 

The building includes 21 one-bedroom units and three studios. The units average just under $900, which Zupancic said is below the typical rate for the area. His team has brokered the sale of three other Brightwood buildings this year. He said his team is well-versed in the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act process, which will give residents the ability to have their preferences considered. 

"The tenants will have their voices heard," Zupancic said. "They'll have the opportunity to negotiate and market their rights and their stake in the building to the buyers." 

Related Topics: Marcus & Millichap