WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that a Columbia Heights landlord will be required to pay nearly $680,000 in restitution and penalties after being found liable for failing to maintain an apartment building where tenants were forced to live in deplorable conditions that jeopardized their health, safety, and security.
Specifically, the final judgement entered by the court provides more than $422,000 in rent restitution for tenants and requires the landlord to pay $215,000 in penalties for hundreds of housing code violations that persisted at the property for years. The landlord will also be required to put in place policies and trainings that aim to prevent such negligence from happening again, as well as hire a new management company.
“No tenant should have to live in properties that are in disrepair,” said AG Racine. “It’s up to landlords to follow the law and provide residents safe, healthy, and habitable homes. And if they fail to do that, we will hold them accountable. This ruling will provide tenants with relief they deserve and shows that landlords that violate the law will pay. We’ve been working for many years to stand up for these tenants, and we already greatly appreciate the work of our partners in the community who were critical to raising these problems and defending the tenants.”
Attorneys from the law firm, Arnold & Porter, also played a critical role in representing several of the building’s tenants and successfully litigated a separate mold claim on their behalf.
“I have lived in this apartment for nearly 30 years. It’s home. But it hasn’t always felt that way. My family has had to deal with issues such as crumbling walls, water damage, and mold. We’ve also had to deal with an array of pests: rats, mice, bedbugs, roaches, and more,” said Felipa Arias, a tenant of the building. “Whenever we would ask the building’s management to remedy these issues, the repairs that were made either didn’t last long or didn’t actually fix the issue. Many of us living in this building are immigrants. We had to deal with a language barrier and laws that were unfamiliar to us. Although this has been a frustrating and long journey, I appreciate AG Racine for standing up for us and for his office’s work to support us.”
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed suit in 2017 against the owners and managers of the apartment building at 2724 11 Street NW for engaging in a pattern of neglect dating back many years. Tenants were forced to live in a building that suffered from a multitude of recurring and ongoing code violations, which included: vermin infestations, mold contamination, and lack of heat. Despite notice from tenants and District government agencies, the violations were continually ignored by the property’s landlords. Following interventions from OAG, in 2017, the court appointed a receiver to oversee renovations to bring the property up to code and ordered the owners and managers to pay $1.875 million to fund the receivership. The property remains under control of the receiver as repairs continue.
As part of the final judgment, the court granted injunctive terms requested by OAG, requiring the owners and managers of the building to:
- Pay a total of $422,322.16 in rent restitution: The restitution includes 100% rent refunds for the 18 months between June 2016 and the appointment of the receiver in November 2017.
- Pay penalties to the District: The owners and managers will be required to pay the District $215,000 in civil penalties, which includes the former maximum penalty for 215 violations of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA). The owners and managers will also be required to pay over $42,000 in fees and costs incurred by the District.
- Accurately represent the building’s conditions: The owners are permanently barred from misrepresenting the conditions of the building to tenants.
- No longer manage the property: The property managers are prohibited from engaging in any property management or other related activities in connection with the building.
- Implement written policies and provide training to all staff at the property: These actions will help ensure repairs and maintain that the building is in compliance with the District’s housing code.
This judgment resolves the District’s CPPA claims in this case. When landlords fail to provide safe and habitable housing to consumers, OAG can take action under the CPPA, which prohibits a wide variety of deceptive and unlawful business practices and protects consumers, including tenants.
A copy of the final judgment is available here.