Kevin McCarthy’s below-market room rental at a luxurious Washington, D.C. condo building may cause the California Republican ethics problems, but for sure it’s a problem for the owner of unit, prominent political pollster Frank Luntz. The type of rental arrangement that McCarthy described during a May 4 “Fox and Friends” interview violates bylaws of the condo building, the Clara Barton at Penn Quarter. “Frank [Luntz] has been a friend of mine for more than 30 years. … I’ve rented a room from Frank for a couple of months, but don’t worry, I’m back to — going back to where I normally am, on my couch in my office. But, yes, we pay fair market rate,” McCarthy said.
But the bylaws specifically prohibit condo owners from renting anything less than the entire space — and for not less than six months. “No portion of any Unit (other than the entire Unit) shall be leased for any period,” the bylaws say. “No Unit within the Buildings shall be rented for transient or hotel purposes … No lease shall be for a term of less than six months.” The bylaws also specify that “all leases shall be in writing” and say that all leases must be promptly forwarded to the building’s board of directors.
The Clara Barton is in one of the hottest, most desirable neighborhoods in Washington. It’s just a few blocks from Capitol Hill and is surrounded by scores of high-end dining choices. The building’s website boasts that it offers “Hotel-style living with every conceivable amenity and service. Out your door is DC’s version of Manhattan with restaurants, shops, theaters and the metro.”
Luntz’s condo encompasses 7,000-square-feet of living space. The House Minority Leader rented one of its 12 bedrooms and probably has access to any of its 12 full bathrooms and 4½ baths. He reportedly was paying just $1,500 a month. The current market rate for nearby one-bedroom rentals starts at about $3,000 per month.
Luntz did not respond to requests for comment via email, text or Twitter direct message from The Washington Post, which first reported on the arrangement last week. A spokesman for McCarthy also did not respond a request for comment.
The pollster also may be in some hot water with the District of Columbia. The DC government regulates short-term and room rentals, saying that it “considers renting out a spare bedroom a business” and requires landlords who rent out a bedroom to fill out forms with the D.C. Office of Tax Revenue, which provides the city with the location and ownership of the business.
People who rent their apartments also need to apply for a Basic Business License with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said DCRA spokesman Jameel Harris. Those failing to register their spare bedroom rental as a business can be fined up to $2,000. Hotel and “transient accommodations” under 90 days are subject to a 14.95 percent tax on the listing price. About 90 residents at Clara Barton are listed on the DCRA website as having obtained such licenses, but Luntz is not among them.