Yardi Faces Federal Lawsuit Amidst Antitrust Accusations

Federal class-action suit targets Yardi Systems and 18 firms, alleging rent-fixing via RENTmaximizer tool to automate rent-hike cartel.

Yardi Faces Federal Lawsuit Amidst Antitrust Accusations

Federal class-action suit targets Yardi Systems and 18 firms, alleging rent-fixing via RENTmaximizer tool to automate rent-hike cartel.

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Good morning. Yardi Systems faces accusations of rent-fixing via its RENTmaximizer tool. European owner of Westfield malls keeps select top US high-end venues, reversing full exit plans. Meanwhile, NYC eases landlord terms under Local Law 97.

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Yardi Faces Federal Lawsuit Amidst Antitrust Accusations


Yardi's Anant Yardi (Yardi, Getty)

Yardi Systems and 18 property management firms face a federal class-action lawsuit, accused of orchestrating rent-fixing through Yardi's RENTmaximizer tool to create an automated rent-hiking cartel.

Standing trial: The suit alleges that this coordinated manipulation eliminated competition in the rental market, enabling landlords to collectively raise rents while minimizing vacancies, ultimately harming millions of renters. The lawsuit claims Yardi's tool eliminated market competition by coordinating rent hikes among landlords, violating antitrust laws.

Unfair advantage: Yardi promoted the product as a way to boost rental income by a minimum of 6% annually. The lawsuit claims Yardi and other property managers used RENTmaximizer to set prices well above competitive levels. A confidential witness from Bridge Property Management revealed the software gave landlords an unfair advantage because they effectively set rents higher by consensus, limiting renter options.

Playing defense: Yardi has defended its software, claiming it adjusts prices based on supply and demand and does not use confidential or competitor data. The company dismissed the allegations in the suit, asserting there is nothing illegal about revenue management, and vowed to vigorously defend themselves. The complaint also named several major US landlords, including JLL, Bridge Property Management, Kushner Real Estate Group, and McWhinney.


Industry implications: This lawsuit comes after similar allegations against RealPage, currently under investigation by the DOJ’s Antitrust Division. Tenants accused RealPage of promoting anticompetitive rent hikes by recommending prices based on what other RealPage customers were charging. The allegations against Yardi and other major property management firms highlight the growing scrutiny in the real estate industry regarding automated rent-recommendation tools and their impact on tenants.


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European Mall Owner Still Betting on US High-End Shopping

Westfield owner keeps betting on US malls

Westfield Valley Fair mall, located in California’s Bay Area, is one of owner Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s top U.S. properties. PHILIP PACHECO/BLOOMBERG NEWS

The European owner of Westfield malls is shifting its strategy, opting to retain some top-performing high-end malls in the US rather than exit the market entirely as initially planned.

Strategy shift: Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield initially planned to sell most of its American malls by the end of 2023. But they’re reconsidering, as solid performance has offered more options. While they still aim for a significant reduction in their US portfolio, they intend to retain some top-performing malls, including flagship properties like Westfield Century City and Westfield Garden State Plaza, which are currently experiencing improved occupancy and sales compared to 2022.

High-end resurgence: Some high-end shopping centers, like those operated by Simon Property Group (SPG) and Macerich (MAC), have steadily recovered. Unibail's flagships have also rebounded, reaching 2019 occupancy levels, with higher customer foot traffic and tenant sales compared to 2022. Notably, Unibail's Westfield Valley Fair Mall in CA’s Bay Area, which underwent a $1.1B expansion before the pandemic, enjoyed 66% more tenant sales in 2022 than in 2019.

Strategic investments: Unibail is investing in its top properties and developing projects in various locations, including IL, NJ, and Bethesda, MD while adding apartments and open-air retail. The company is holding onto its valuable properties, which account for over half its US portfolio value, as it seeks to maximize value. Unibail has sold lower-quality malls at discounts up to 12%, with Westfield Valencia Town Center recently selling at a sub-3% discount.


Balancing act: While Unibail is holding onto its most valuable US mall properties, it still faces the burden of reducing a heavy debt load. Selling assets remains crucial to the company's strategy to improve its financial health. According to analysts at Green Street, the company's approach focuses on reducing its debt burden while seeking to maintain value and gradually exit the US market.


📖 Read: US banks saw an 86% increase in brokered deposits, totaling over $1.2T in 2Q23, raising regulator concerns due to the risk associated with high-cost deposits that can go sideways in challenging times.

▶️ Watch: John Burns Research recaps operator responses from their August 2023 Burns Single Family Rental Survey in a one-minute video.

🎧 Listen: PGIM's Cathy Marcus discusses opportunities in multifamily, industrial, and retail as global markets await asset repricing and tapering interest rates.


NYC Property Owners Get Flexibility Under Local Law 97

New York City has unveiled its rules for Local Law 97, aimed at reducing building emissions, offering some flexibility for owners who have already begun compliance efforts.

Compliance countdown: City officials are giving some grace to landlords not compliant with emissions and water use goals due to COVID-19 delays and a short timeline for rule implementation in 2024. Building owners can avoid fines if they demonstrate efforts to meet the goals, such as obtaining work permits and contracts with builders, with completed upgrades expected between 2024–2029.

Offset opportunity: Building owners who complete electrification upgrades and replace fossil fuel equipment ahead of deadlines will receive credits, though financial benefits remain unclear. The issue of whether landlords can purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset their building's electricity usage is uncertain, with real estate advocates supporting RECs and environmentalists expressing concerns about potential loopholes.

Forecasting fines: Under Local Law 97, around 13,544 properties may face fines of up to $902M by 2030 for non-compliance, with approximately 3,780 properties potentially owing a collective $213M in penalties by the end of 2023. By 2040, this could escalate to 15,832 buildings owing fines amounting to $1.3B, and city officials anticipate spending $12–$15B to bring buildings into compliance by 2030, with only $6B recouped through cost savings.


Striking a balance: Property owners have previously requested a state-created tax abatement and incentive program to help offset upgrade costs. While NYC is attempting to strike a balance between environmental goals and economic considerations by offering some leniency and incentives under Local Law 97, the financial implications for property owners remain a subject of concern.


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  • Delinquency surge: The CRED iQ CMBS delinquency rate has surged by 56% since January 2023, reaching 5.07% in August, primarily due to maturity defaults and refinancing challenges.

  • Cyber siege: MGM Resorts (MGM) is experiencing an ongoing cyberattack, crippling its reservation systems and casino operations, which caused a 2.4% stock price drop.

  • Neumann's own: Despite previous leasing controversies, former WeWork (WE) CEO Adam Neumann is considering renting space at 88 University Place, linked to the WeWork IPO failure.

  • Retail gem: A $90M refi for a 181KSF retail property in Brooklyn has been secured by a JV of Midtown Equities, Aurora Capital, and ACHS through a loan from Apollo Global Management.

  • Office silver lining: Amid office market difficulties, major companies like Google (GOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), and Meta (META) are embracing a partial return to the office, offering hope for refi opportunities and sparking optimism for an office revival.

  • Conversion challenges: Amazon's (AMZN) makeover of the historic Lord & Taylor flagship on Fifth Avenue into a modern workspace highlights the challenges and creativity required for office conversions.

  • Top triggers: According to CRED iQ, these top triggers could land a property on the distressed loan watch list…

  • Recession risk: Declining consumer confidence, marked by reduced household income growth, inflation, and record-high credit card debt, raises concerns about the US economy's future trajectory.

  • Industrial domination: LA-based Rexford Industrial Realty (REXR) has acquired three industrial properties worth $46M in off-market sales, bringing its total industrial investment in the region to over $1.2B this year.

  • Portfolio purge: Australian REIT US Masters Residential Property Fund is selling its 479-property NYC rental portfolio due to difficulties stemming from high costs, taxes, and tenant-friendly regulations, cutting a billion-dollar portfolio to $858M.

  • Messi madness: Lionel Messi purchased a waterfront mansion in Fort Lauderdale's Bay Colony for $10.8M, featuring 10.5KSF of living space, eight bedrooms, two docks, a waterfront pool, gym/spa, and an Italian kitchen with water frontage.

  • Office-to-resi: A new working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research identifies NYC, San Francisco, DC, Boston, Denver, and San Jose as financially feasible markets for converting offices into residential properties.


Cumulative Population Growth since 2019

The robust recovery of US retail, marked by record-low store space availability and surging demand from tenants like experiential, discount, medical, and food and beverage, has defied expectations, largely thanks to flourishing population growth in the Sun Belt.

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