WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced his office has filed three new lawsuits against neglectful owners and managers of a Ward 5 apartment complex and two Ward 8 commercial properties for endangering the health and safety of District residents. In its lawsuit against the owners of an Ivy City apartment complex, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleges that they failed to maintain the property and exposed tenants to appalling and dangerous conditions, including vermin infestations, mold, broken heat and plumbing, and lack of fire safety systems. OAG also filed two separate lawsuits against the owners of a shopping center and a gas station in Ward 8 that have been sites of concentrated gun violence and drug activity, alleging that they failed to implement basic security measures to keep residents safe. OAG is seeking court orders to ensure the building owners make necessary building repairs and security improvements, penalties for violating District law, and restitution for the Ward 5 tenants who were harmed.
“Building owners who neglect their properties blight our neighborhoods and put the health and safety of District residents at risk,” said AG Racine. “Today’s actions are a response to repeated complaints from fearful community members and concerned tenants who continue to experience poor living conditions, drug activity and gun violence in their communities. We are taking action to hold these property owners and managers accountable for shirking their responsibilities and endangering our residents.”
The District’s Drug-, Firearm-, or Prostitution-Related Nuisance Abatement Act (Nuisance Act) allows OAG to take action against owners and operators to remedy drug and firearm nuisance activity at a property. OAG investigates properties referred to it by the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and community groups and works collaboratively with property owners whenever possible to solve the problem. However, when property owners fail to implement basic security measures, even after warnings, OAG files lawsuits to help ensure that residents of all income levels, including those who may have limited means to relocate, are safe in their neighborhoods.
Under the District’s Tenant Receivership Act, OAG can bring a lawsuit to fix chronic health and safety issues at a rental property when neglect by an owner or manager threatens the life, health, and safety of tenants. OAG can ask a judge to appoint a receiver, which is a neutral third party, to take control of the property and make all decisions about its management and operation. Under court supervision, the receiver ensures necessary repairs are made.
AG Racine filed two lawsuits against the owners of Ward 8 commercial properties under the Nuisance Act. The lawsuits seek to compel the owners to take necessary security measures to protect residents from gun violence and drug-related crime.
3505 – 3511 Wheeler Road SE
OAG filed suit against Hong Keun Kim, Chung Ja Kim, Won Kyong Hwang, and SH Property Management, Inc., the owners of a 22,268 square foot shopping center in Congress Heights that is home to a liquor store, convenience store, and several other businesses. The shopping center is located about 500 feet from Mary Church Terrell Elementary and close to several other schools, learning centers, and child development centers. OAG’s complaint alleges that the shopping center has been plagued by persistent gun violence and drug-related crime over the past year, including a shooting on May 26, 2019 that killed a 15-year-old boy and wounded three female victims, including a minor.
Prior to the May 26 shooting, there was a string of other gun-related offenses, including a prior homicide on October 20, 2018. Since January 2019, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has responded to over 191 calls for service, including at least 45 that were directly linked to illegal drug and firearm activity. Despite an April 2019 warning from OAG and advice from OAG and MPD about necessary security improvements, including repairing broken exterior lights, maintaining security cameras, and hiring security staff, the owners failed to take action.
Through this lawsuit, OAG is seeking a court order to compel the owners and managers of the shopping center 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 the complaint for this shopping center is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/Wheeler-Road-Complaint.pdf
4700 South Capitol St SE
OAG sued Capital Petroleum Group, LLC, DAG Realty, LLC and Eyob Mamo, owners of a Shell Gas Station located at 4700 South Capitol Street, SE in Washington Highlands. Since January 1, 2018, MPD has made 22 drug arrests at the property and has documented at least nine incidents of overdoses, shootings and robberies. In just the past eight months, MPD has responded to over 430 calls for service to the property, including 271 calls for disorderly conduct and mayhem, 41 drug complaints, 1 armed robbery and 14 reports of firearm activity including shootings.
OAG attempted to contact the owners and managers of this property about their obligations to put in place basic security measures to protect the community from persistent, dangerous illegal activity but received no response. The District filed suit to compel the owners to install and maintain security cameras, maintain adequate lighting, and work to limit trespassing and loitering on their property.
A copy of the complaint for this gas station is available at: https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-06/4700-South-Capitol-Street-Complaint.pdf
Tenant Receivership Act Lawsuit
AG Racine also filed suit against the owners of a multi-unit apartment building in Ward 5 seeking relief under the District’s Tenant Receivership Act, and for violations of the Consumer Protection Procedures Act. That suit seeks to force owners to make repairs required by District law, properly maintain their buildings, and return rent payments to tenants who were forced to live in conditions that violated the law.
1850 – 1854 Kendall Street NE
OAG sued Tavana Corporation and Mehrdad Valibeigi (aka “Mike Valley”), the owner and manager of Westwood Apartments in Ward 5’s Ivy City neighborhood. According to the complaint, Valibeigi collected rent but failed to maintain the buildings or make necessary repairs. Instead, OAG alleges, tenants suffer from dangerous and unsanitary conditions throughout, including severe infestations of mice, roaches and bed bugs, lack of working heat, electrical problems, leaking and collapsing ceilings, mold, and a lack of fire safety systems, which violate the District’s housing and fire codes.
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.
OAG previously sued Valibeigi under the Tenant Receivership Act over neglect at his buildings at 4559 Benning Road SE, 4569 Benning Road SE, and 4480 C Street SE in Wards 7 and 8. These other cases remain pending in the Superior Court.
A copy of the complaint for this apartment complex is available at:
Resources for District Residents
OAG uses the law and creative problem solving to improve the quality of life for residents in communities throughout the District, preserve affordable housing, and to hold landlords accountable for providing safe and habitable conditions. Learn more about OAG’s work to preserve affordable housing and learn how to report nuisance activity in your neighborhood.