WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Attorney General Karl A. Racine announced that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the owners of the Terrace Manor housing complex in Ward 8 have agreed to a court-monitored plan to ensure that tenants who remain in the complex can live in safe, habitable conditions in the near term and move into fully renovated apartments later this year.
The abatement plan, if adhered to by the owners and managers of the complex, will resolve part of a lawsuit that OAG filed last year. In that case, Attorney General Racine alleged that the owners, which include Sanford Capital, LLC (Sanford), exhibited a pattern of neglect at Terrace Manor and violated the District’s Housing Code. The suit also alleges that Sanford violated the District’s consumer protection law by charging rent, but failing to properly maintain the property. That portion of the case -- which seeks to recover, among other relief, restitution for rent payments tenants made to Sanford while was not maintaining the property -- continues.
“Protecting affordable housing in the District is a priority at OAG, and this abatement plan is a strong first step toward ensuring that the remaining tenants at Terrace Manor can live in habitable homes,” Attorney General Racine said. “Additionally, we will continue to aggressively pursue our consumer protection claims, which, if proved, could return rent reimbursements to the remaining tenants at Terrace Manor, as well as past tenants who suffered and were forced out of their homes due to Sanford’s neglect.”
The lawsuit alleges Sanford failed to perform basic maintenance on its buildings as evidenced by numerous housing code violations at the apartment complex. The maintenance issues -- many of which were longstanding -- included persistent problems with inoperable and missing smoke detectors, inoperable fire extinguishers, rodent infestations, lack of heat and hot water, and other issues.
Abatement Plan Highlights
The abatement plan to which both parties have agreed and that Superior Court Judge John M. Mott has approved includes two major phases. Those phases address the short-term resolution of housing code violations and a longer-term renovation of portions of the property. A copy of the plan is attached.
Short-term provisions in the plan include:
- The assignment of a dedicated inspector for the property from the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA); the inspector will confirm any Housing Code violations from past inspections that remain outstanding and note any additional violations at the property;
- Sanford must abate those violations rapidly and report the work to DCRA and OAG; the inspector will then return and re-inspect the repairs for compliance within 10 days;
- Any abatement action the inspector deems incomplete will constitute a breach of the abatement plan;
- Within 30 days of the agreement, Sanford will clean the entire property, including vacant units; abate any mold problems and rodent or insect infestations; replace drywall where necessary; clean up all trash and debris in common areas; and secure vacant units and post “No Trespassing” signs on them.
Longer-term provisions in the plan include:
- Sanford agrees to fully renovate two buildings on the property with a view to moving all remaining Terrace Manor tenants into those buildings once all tenants agree in writing to relocate;
- The rehabilitation will include new drywall, flooring, appliances, HVAC, and laundry accommodations;
- Sanford will waive rent for the remaining tenants from the time construction commences on the fully renovated buildings until the rehabilitation is complete, which the plan requires to be 90 days or less from the time that Sanford acquires the proper permits;
- Sanford will pay all moving expenses for tenants, set rental rates at all tenants’ current amounts, and commit not to increase the rent for 12 months following the completion of rehabilitation;
- Sanford will ensure that vacant units in the non-rehabilitated buildings at the property remain secured and inaccessible to squatters, vermin and illegal activity;
- Sanford will establish a 24-hour hotline for emergency repairs, respond quickly to requests, and keep a log of all emergency repairs undertaken;
- The District will provide police reports from the property to Sanford; if patterns of calls/criminal activity are noted, Sanford will increase security measures;
- Sanford will perform routine exterminations every 30 days for the next two months, and every 60 days thereafter;
- If Sanford rehabilitates or renovates other units at the property, tenants will retain the right of return to their original units.
This is the second suit the Attorney General has brought against Sanford for a pattern of neglect at an affordable housing complex in Ward 8. Last year, the District sought and received an abatement plan for a Sanford-owned property in Congress Heights.