AG Racine Takes Action to Preserve Affordable Housing, Protect Tenants' Rights

OAG Announces New Lawsuit, Court Rulings Against Slumlords in Wards 4 and 7, and Restitution for Illegally Evicted Tenant in Ward 8

WASHINGTON, D.C.Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced four recent actions by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to ensure that tenants across the District, regardless of their income level or neighborhood, can live in safe, habitable housing. OAG has filed a lawsuit against the owner of an apartment building in Brightwood Park for forcing tenants to live in deplorable conditions. In two separate OAG lawsuits against slumlords, the court has appointed third party receivers to oversee the rehabilitation of several neglected apartment buildings in Brightwood and Deanwood. In a separate court ruling, OAG has obtained a judgment for more than $22,000 in restitution for an Anacostia tenant in a wrongful-eviction case.

“Slumlords shouldn’t be able to neglect their properties and drive tenants out of their homes, no matter what the tenants’ background or income level is,” said AG Racine. “As part of our efforts to preserve our city’s limited supply of affordable housing, we will continue pursuing legal cases against unscrupulous landlords who take advantage of tenants, neglect their properties, and attempt to evade our housing laws.”

Each of the actions is part of AG Racine’s broader effort to preserve affordable housing in the District by bringing suits and other actions against landlords who fail to maintain safe, habitable housing for their tenants or who abuse their tenants’ rights. Several of the actions were brought under the District’s Tenant Receivership Act (TRA), which enables OAG to request a receiver when a landlord demonstrates a pattern of neglect in failing to maintain a property in habitable conditions; and the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), which prohibits deceptive and unscrupulous business practices and requires businesses to provide restitution to consumers they have harmed.

220 Hamilton Street NW Lawsuit
AG Racine recently filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against the owners and managers of 220 Hamilton Street NW, a 34-unit apartment building in Ward 4, for years of neglect that has left the building in extremely poor condition. Problems include broken and leaky plumbing; a leaky roof; water damage that has severely compromised the building’s structural integrity; rodent infestations; and a faulty electrical system, which leads to frequent power outages in the building. In July, housing inspectors from the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs cited the owners for 173 housing code violations at the property, including 98 severe violations that threaten the tenants’ health and safety. When inspectors visited the property again 30 days later, the owners and managers had failed to address 113 of the code violations. The suit seeks a receiver to take control over the property and address its health and safety issues. It also seeks restitution for back rent paid by tenants while the owners and managers failed to properly maintain the property. The defendants are owner 220 Hamilton Street LLC; Vivienne Awasum, the owner’s registered agent; and property manager Vision Realty Management LLC.

A copy of OAG’s complaint in D.C. v. 220 Hamilton Street, LLC, is available at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/220-Hamilton-Complaint.pdf

Receiver for Brightwood Property
AG Racine recently obtained an order in D.C. Superior Court appointing a receiver for a Ward 4 apartment complex at 5320 8th Street NW owned and managed by EADS, LLC, a company under the control of Delores Johnson. The case involves a 39-unit building in which the majority of tenants are Spanish speakers. OAG sued Johnson and EADS as well as related individuals and entities (Jason Saunders and Minnesota Group, LLC) for allowing deplorable conditions at the building, including mold infestations, plumbing leaks, malfunctioning heat, rodent infestations, and fire safety issues. The court appointed Ben Gilmore as the property’s receiver and ordered the owners to begin turning over rental income to Gilmore and pay him $35,000 by January 14 so he can begin addressing the building’s health and safety issues. The suit also seeks consumer restitution for back rent under the CPPA.

A copy of the Court’s receivership order in D.C. v. EADS, LLC is available at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/5320-8th-Street-Receivership-Order.pdf

Receiver for Deanwood Properties
On January 10, a D.C. Superior Court judge granted AG Racine’s motion for a temporary receivership over apartment buildings at 711 and 719 49th Street NE in the Deanwood area of Ward 7. There are 19 units total in the two buildings. In June, OAG sued owner Thomas Stephenson for multiple violations of the District’s housing code, including infestations of rodents, bedbugs, and roaches; heating and hot water systems that repeatedly fail, often leaving tenants without heat or hot water for days or even weeks and months at a time; and plumbing leaks that have led to problems including collapsing ceilings and mold infestation. In addition, the complaint alleges, Stephenson has threatened to raise the rent on tenants who request necessary repairs. The suit also seeks back rent for tenants under the CPPA.

On January 10, a D.C. Superior Court Judge ordered a temporary two-week receivership for the properties, appointed Karen Bower as the receiver, and ordered Stephenson to pay $15,000 for the receiver to begin repairs on the property. A follow-up hearing on whether the Court should order a longer-term receivership for the property is scheduled for January 25.

A copy of the OAG’s complaint in D.C. v. Stephenson is available at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/Stephenson-Complaint.pdf 

A copy of the Court’s temporary receivership order in D.C. V. Stephenson is available at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/Stephenson-Receivership-Order.pdf

Arnida B. Lamont Wrongful Eviction Case
Last month, a D.C. Superior Court Judge ordered Arnida B. Lamont to pay $22,740 in restitution to the tenant of a property she owns at 1503 W Street SE for illegally evicting the tenant and locking her out of her home. Lamont was also ordered to pay an additional $22,740 as a civil penalty to the District for violating the CPPA. OAG began investigating the case in 2018 after the tenant complained that Lamont cut her water pipe while the tenant was at a Landlord-Tenant Court hearing regarding the property. The tenant claimed Lamont did this in an effort to drive her out of her home and in retaliation for the tenant contesting Lamont’s attempt to evict her. OAG alleged that, after Lamont learned of the tenant’s complaint and subsequent OAG investigation, she illegally evicted the tenant and locked her out of her home in July 2018. OAG filed a lawsuit and obtained a temporary restraining order, which Lamont then violated twice in September 2018 by attempting two additional evictions.

A copy of the Court’s order in D.C. v. Lamont is available at: http://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/Lamont-Judgment-Order.pdf

Resources for Tenants
OAG’s Housing and Community Justice Section improves the quality of life for residents in communities throughout the District and preserve affordable housing by holding landlords accountable for providing safe and habitable conditions. Learn more about OAG’s work to preserve affordable housing and find resources to help renters on OAG’s Tenant Resources page.