WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that his office filed three separate lawsuits against neglectful owners and managers of apartment complexes in Ward 8 and Ward 4 for endangering the health and safety of District residents.
In its lawsuit against the owners and managers of Marbury Plaza, a 674-unit complex in Anacostia, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleges that they failed to maintain the rent-controlled property for years and exposed tenants to dangerous and unlawful conditions, including widespread toxic mold, infestations of mice and bedbugs, broken elevators and stairlifts, and non-working air conditioning. OAG also filed another lawsuit against the owners and managers of two rent-controlled residential buildings in Brightwood, where lack of proper security and maintenance have led to several frightening assaults on residents in recent months, and a third lawsuit against owners and managers of an apartment building in Washington Highlands that has become the site of concentrated drug activity and gun violence, including shootings that shattered windows of a nearby elementary school. OAG is seeking court orders to ensure building owners make necessary repairs and security improvements, restitution for harmed tenants, and penalties for violating District law.
“Landlords and property managers have an obligation to provide their tenants with safe and secure housing. Not doing so, is illegal and puts too many DC residents, including seniors, individuals with disabilities, and members of our immigrant communities— in danger in their own homes. Sadly, we’re seeing this firsthand at Marbury Plaza and other apartment complexes,” said AG Racine. “Protecting vulnerable tenants is among the top priorities of my office. When landlords fail to live up to their basic obligations, allow their buildings to fall into disrepair, and turn a blind eye to the suffering of tenants, my office will hold them accountable and stand up for these residents, who deserve safe homes.”
OAG enforces the District’s Tenant Receivership Act (TRA) and the Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) to protect tenants. Under the TRA, landlords can be forced to fix health and safety issues at a rental property. When landlords fail to provide safe and habitable housing to consumers or violate other laws, OAG also can take action under the CPPA, which prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unfair business practices and protects consumers, including tenants.
The District’s Drug-, Firearm-, or Prostitution-Related Nuisance Abatement Act (Nuisance Act) allows OAG to take action against building owners and managers who fail to implement appropriate security measures and allow drug and firearm activity to occur at a property. OAG investigates properties referred by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and community groups and works collaboratively with property owners whenever possible to solve the problem. But when property owners fail to comply with the law after warnings, OAG files lawsuits to help ensure that residents are safe in their neighborhoods.
Marbury Plaza (2300 - 2330 Good Hope Road, SE)
Marbury Plaza is a 674-unit rent-controlled apartment complex located in Anacostia. It is comprised of two eleven-story towers and seven garden-style buildings. Constructed in 1968, Marbury Plaza was once an amenity-rich building that provided safe and secure housing to a multitude of tenants. However, since the property was purchased by a new owner in 2015, the buildings have deteriorated significantly.
OAG filed suit against Marbury Plaza’s owners and managers, MP PPH, LLC and Vantage Management, alleging that their neglect has turned the building into “a minefield of housing code violations” that endangers the lives and health of tenants. The lawsuit alleges that tenants, many of whom are seniors with disabilities, fear for their safety because anyone from outside can enter the property through unsecured doors. The complaint also describes poor air quality due to widespread toxic mold; filthy air vents spewing dust; infestations of rodents and bugs; unsafe electrical wiring; and insufficient heating and cooling. In June 2021, building-wide outages of air conditioning during a heatwave forced tenants to sleep outside on their balconies and forced District government to provide cooling facilities.
In addition to allowing the property to decline physically, OAG alleges that the owners and managers of Marbury Plaza unlawfully discriminate against tenants. Tenants with disabilities have been frequently stranded in the basement and lobby due to prolonged stairway chair lift and elevator outages. These issues have prevented tenants with disabilities from using and enjoying their homes on an equal basis with other tenants. District residents seeking housing in Marbury have also been turned away based on their status as voucher holders. Both of these practices are illegal discrimination under District law.
In its suit, OAG is asking the court to appoint a receiver to ensure all necessary repairs are made at the building. OAG is also seeking relief for harmed tenants for rent that was collected while the buildings were in violation of the District’s laws and regulations, and civil penalties.
A copy of OAG’s legal complaint against the owners and managers of Marbury Plaza is available here.
Somerset Apartments (1450 Somerset Place NW) & Sheridan Apartments (1451 Sheridan Street NW)
The Somerset Apartments and the Sheridan Apartments are two residential buildings located next to each other in Ward 4’s Brightwood neighborhood. They contain a total of 59 rent-controlled apartments and are home to many Amharic speakers. In recent months, multiple tenants have suffered assaults, robberies, and attempted home invasions as a result of unsafe conditions at the properties.
OAG filed suit against 16th St. Elijah LLC, the owners and managers of the Somerset and Sheridan Apartments, alleging that they have failed to maintain the properties in safe and habitable conditions, leading to serious threats to the safety of tenants. OAG’s lawsuit alleges 16th St Elijah has ignored tenants’ pleas to secure building entrances with adequate locks and install cameras; add security bars to windows; collect keys from former tenants or change locks when new tenants move in to prevent non-residents from entering the building and current tenants’ apartments; and install adequate lighting in and around building entrances and common spaces.
In its legal complaint, OAG details serious security incidents at the property, including multiple violent crimes, that resulted from a lack of adequate security. For example, in February 2021, an intruder attempted to enter a ground-floor apartment in the early morning hours—using a knife to slice through a window screen—while a female tenant was dressing. (The intruder fled only after the tenant’s husband began striking the intruder’s hands with a stick.) In January 2021, there was an attempted robbery at gunpoint in the laundry room of the Somerset Apartments. In 2020, an intruder entered Somerset apartments through the laundry room window and attacked a tenant. Other tenants have reported robberies while attempting to enter the building, attacks in the building, and burglaries of individual apartments.
OAG is seeking a temporary restraining order to immediately improve security at the building and ensure tenants are protected, as well as a permanent order requiring long-term security measures. OAG is also seeking to recover restitution of rent paid by tenants who suffered with unsafe and insecure housing, and additional penalties and costs. OAG also continues to investigate other issues at these properties.
A copy of OAG’s complaint against the owners and managers of the Sheridan Apartments and the Somerset Apartments is available here.
OAG’s motion for a temporary restraining order is available here.
422 Chesapeake Street SE
422 Chesapeake Street SE is a 13-unit apartment that sits steps away from Hendley Elementary School in the Washington Highlands neighborhood of Ward 8. OAG filed suit against the building’s owners and managers, 422 Chesapeake Street SE, LLC, alleging that the building has been plagued by persistent violence linked to drug activity that has endangered residents, community members, and students at the elementary school across the street.
Over the last two years, there have been multiple shootings at the property, including shootings that led to stray bullets breaking school windows and endangering schoolchildren during recess. In March 2021, a pedestrian walking past the property was wounded when at least 21 shots were fired. MPD has also recovered large quantities of fentanyl at the property, as well as crack cocaine, PCP, and multiple guns.
Despite the ongoing violence and repeated notices from OAG, the owners of 422 Chesapeake Street SE failed to take simple and necessary security measures, like securing entrances, installing security cameras, and hiring security staff to monitor the property. Through this lawsuit, OAG is seeking a court order to compel the owners and managers of the property to implement basic security measures to address the dangerous illegal activity taking place at their property. The suit also seeks civil penalties for each day since they were first put on notice about the Nuisance Act violations.
A copy of OAG’s complaint against the owners and managers of 422 Chesapeake Street SE is available here.
Resources for Tenants
OAG works to make sure residents across the District have access to safe and affordable housing and holds landlords accountable if they violate the law. Access OAG’s resources to help renters and tips on how to report problems with your landlord or your housing conditions.