WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) secured a court order against a Ward 4 landlord—76 M Inc. and Peter Odagbodo—requiring the cleanup of toxic lead hazards at three residential buildings on Kansas Ave NE. In its lawsuit, OAG alleges that the landlord failed to maintain its apartment buildings as required by law, exposing tenants to unsafe conditions, including vermin infestations, mold, and fire and electrical hazards. OAG also alleged that the landlord failed to address hazardous lead paint and endangered tenants, including at least two children under the age of five. The court order, secured just two weeks after OAG filed suit, requires the lead cleanup to be completed by March 13. In the ongoing lawsuit, OAG seeks to force the building owners to make necessary building repairs, as well as recover monetary and injunctive relief for harmed tenants.
“It is illegal in the District of Columbia for landlords to expose residents to toxic lead paint, which causes serious health consequences, including irreversible brain damage in children,” said AG Racine. “We filed suit to force this property owner to fulfill its legal obligation to repair the buildings and make them safe and habitable for tenants. While experience demonstrates that most landlords in the District follow the law, the Office of the Attorney General will take legal action to force neglectful landlords to protect tenants’ health and wellbeing.”
76 M Inc. is a real estate and property management company based in the District of Columbia. It owns three apartment buildings located at 6145, 6147, and 6149 Kansas Avenue NE, which contain a total of 12 units. Peter Odagbodo is a Maryland resident who works for 76 M Inc. managing the buildings, including maintenance and repairs.
OAG has the authority to enforce the District’s Tenant Receivership Act, Consumer Protection Procedures Act, and Lead Hazard Prevention and Elimination Act, among other laws that protect District tenants. Under the Tenant Receivership Act, landlords can be forced to fix chronic health and safety issues at a rental property when the life, health, and safety of tenants are threatened. The Consumer Protection Procedures Act prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unlawful businesses practices and protects consumers, including tenants.
Lead is a toxic metal that can cause painful physical symptoms, including organ and brain damage, and is especially dangerous to young children. To protect residents from lead exposure, the District’s Lead Hazard Prevention and Elimination Act places safe maintenance requirements on buildings constructed before 1978, when the federal government banned consumer use of lead paint. The District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) performs inspections of suspected lead paint hazards and determines what steps a property owner must take if one is identified. If property owners refuse to eliminate the hazard, DOEE may refer the matter to OAG.
In its complaint, OAG alleges that 76 M Inc. and Odagbodo violated the District’s Tenant Receivership Act, Lead Hazard Act, and Consumer Protection Procedures Act by:
- Failing to remove toxic lead paint from apartments: Since April 2019, DOEE inspectors found lead-based paint hazards at all three of the Kansas Ave NE apartment buildings and advised the owner about how to eliminate the hazards. The building owners and manager missed an initial deadline to remove the lead paint from one unit and failed entirely to remove it from another. They also failed to pay previously-ordered inspection costs and penalties.
- Failing to provide safe living conditions for tenants: The landlord failed to maintain their apartment buildings or make necessary repairs as required by District law. Instead, tenants were subjected to severe rodent and roach infestations; defective plumbing that resulted in water damage and widespread leaks; mold; and defective heating systems that provided no heat in some apartments and severely overheated others. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs also cited the property for fire code violations, including electrical hazards and missing fire suppression systems.
- Deceiving tenants about the conditions of their apartments: When 76 M Inc. offered apartments for rent, it represented that the apartment buildings were maintained in compliance with District law. Tenants agreed to pay rent in exchange for what they believed would be safe, habitable apartments—but the building owners and managers failed to uphold their end of the bargain.
A copy of the complaint is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/DC-v-76M-Odagbodo-Complaint.pdf
Under the terms of a Consent Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) proposed by OAG, 76 M Inc. and Odagbodo, are required to eliminate all lead-based paint hazards at 6145, 6147, and 6149 Kansas Ave NE by March 13, 2020. They are required to hire workers trained in lead-safe work practices to repair and repaint any hazardous surfaces, as well as eliminate any dust or soil hazards at the property. They are also required to submit reports by March 20, 2020 that certify that the necessary cleanup has been completed.
A copy of the order is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/DC-v-76M-Odagbodo-TRO.pdf
OAG is continuing to seek a court order appointing a receiver—a neutral third party that ensures building owners make necessary repairs under court supervision—along with penalties for violating District law, and restitution for the Ward 4 tenants who were harmed.
Resources for Tenants
In response to the District’s affordable housing crisis, AG Racine is using the law to protect tenants, hold abusive landlords accountable, and preserve existing affordable housing. OAG has won court orders forcing building owners to fix issues including mold, vermin infestations, and fire code violations at properties across the District and secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in restitution for residents who were forced to live in unsafe conditions. OAG has also sued landlords who refused to take basic security measures to keep tenants safe, stopped landlords who illegally converted rent-controlled apartments into short-term rentals, and took action against landlords who discriminated against District residents who use housing vouchers. Learn more about OAG’s work to preserve affordable housing and find resources to help renters on OAG’s Tenant Resources page.
Protecting Yourself from Lead Exposure
District residents are encouraged to report suspected violations of environmental law, including suspected lead paint hazards, to DOEE. Information on reporting suspected violations through a smartphone app is available at: https://doee.dc.gov/release/311-tip-app-local-environmental-violations
Residents, property owners, and contractors can find information and resources about lead and the District’s lead laws on DOEE’s website at: https://doee.dc.gov/lead
Tenants can learn more about their rights to lead-free housing at: https://doee.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/ddoe/publication/attachments/DC%20Tenant%20Rights%20Form%20May%202018.pdf