Blackstone Group’s Invitation Homes criticized for evictions, aggressive rent hikes in new report

Private equity and real estate firm The Blackstone Group owns Invitation Homes, which late last year became the largest single-family rental landlord in the country when it merged with Starwood Waypoint Homes.  The combined company owns over 82,000 homes around the US, concentrated in Florida (23,800 homes), California (13,000), Atlanta (12,400), Phoenix (7,400), and Chicago (4,000).

The single-family rental industry emerged in the past several years as private equity firms like Blackstone, Starwood Capital, Colony Capital, Cerberus Capital, and others bought up hundreds of thousands of homes.

Last week, advocacy groups Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Americans for Financial Reform, and Public Advocates released a report on the impact of the single family rental industry and Invitation Homes on renters and prospective home buyers: Wall Street Landlords Turn American Dream into American Nightmare (Report linked here).

Recent Media Coverage:

The Intercept, Jan 20, 2018: “You Think Your Landlord Is Bad? Try Renting From Wall Street”

CBS Sacramento, Jan 18, 2018: “Report Claims Larger Landlords Exploiting Tenants, Harming Neighborhoods”

LA Weekly, Nov 29, 2017: “What Happens When Wall Street is Your Landlord?”

ABC News, Nov 16, 2017: “Billion-Dollar Landlords: Rental home giant once led by Trump ally is under fire from some tenants, critics”

LA Times, Nov 4, 2017: “As renters struggle to pay the bills, landlords and speculators cash in” 

Wall Street Journal, Jul 21, 2017: “Meet Your New Landlord: Wall Street”

KQED, Jul 7, 2017: “From Foreclosure to Eviction: One Family’s Struggle to Recover”

The report details the personal stories of several residents of Invitation Homes’ and other companies homes. For example:

Renita Barbee, Invitation Homes renter

Renita Barbee, photo: Francine Orr/ LA Times

“When I found my home, I fell in love. I’ve lived here for four years – and while I love my home and make a decent salary as a city dispatcher — we just can’t afford it. My mother passed earlier this year who helped pay the rents and my husband has had two strokes – we have no other choice but to leave. When I first moved into this home, the rent was $1850. Only four years later and my most recent increase notice stated to take my rent from $2120 to more than $3000 — a nearly $800 rent increase all at once. That’s when I got involved with ACCE and joined with other tenants of Invitation Homes organizing together to start pushing back. We started sending letters, and protesting at Blackstone Group’s headquarters. That’s when my landlord sent a letter saying the rent increase was only $2330 and that the initial increase was a mistake. Even so, my family can’t afford it. My husband and daughter will move in with relatives, and I plan to rent a room from a coworker until I get on my feet again. If companies like Invitation Homes keep these rent increases up — we’ll all end up on the street. We need rent control for single-family homes like mine to keep us in our homes!”

 

José Rivera, Starwood Waypoint (now Invitation Homes) renter

 

Jose Rivera

“When I moved into my home I was told initially that I was in a program to buy it. However, after several years and after Waypoint merged with Colony Starwood, I learned they were just giving me the run around and that homeownership was never going to happen. In January I received a notice to renew the lease and I asked them to fix some serious issues with the property – including broken pipes which were causing serious sewage leakage in my home. After one of the major leakages, we were forced to sit with raw sewage in my mother’s bedroom breathing in mold and bacteria until they came to look at it three weeks later. Instead of fixing the pipes, their solution was to merely clean the carpet.

As anticipated, not too long after, there was a sewage leakage again.

So I filed another complaint.  Five days later, I received in the mail a 60-day notice to vacate.

I didn’t think that fixing the pipes or a new carpet was too much to ask for. Families shouldn’t have to face an eviction because they asked to live in a habitable home.”