Earlier this week, Proskauer and the Washington Bar Association filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of tenants of the Meridian Heights apartment building (“Meridian Heights” or “Real Estate”) against the landlord and associated property managers for failing to keep the property habitable. Meridian Heights is home to a predominantly Spanish-speaking working-class tenant community located in Columbia Heights, Columbia District.
As stated in the complaint, the landlord and property managers repeatedly and systematically refused to make the necessary repairs in the apartments and common areas of the property, despite repeated calls from tenants. As a result, the property is full of shortcomings, including
- significant infestation by rodents, cockroaches and bedbugs;
- excessive mold on the walls and ceilings caused, among other things, by moisture in the interior and insufficient ventilation in housing units;
- lack of heat in the winter months and air conditioning in the summer months;
- no hot water for significant periods of time;
- persistent water supply problems and leaks;
- improperly sealed doors and windows that let water into the apartment, cold air in winter, hot air in summer and insects;
- significant structural problems, including holes in walls, doors that cannot be closed properly, and broken floorboards;
- defective and unusable main appliances;
- broken and dangerous electrical outlets; a
- waste accumulation, which exacerbates many of the above problems and allows odors to penetrate the property.
The damage experienced by tenants in Meridian Heights as a result of these conditions was only exacerbated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, which forced tenants and their children to spend most of the day in their homes.
In addition, as detailed in the complaint, property owners and managers also interfered with tenants ‘ability to address conditions in Meridian Heights through a tenants’ association, including calling the police when tenants acted collectively to protest the dire conditions in Meridian Heights.
The complaint alleges that the conduct of the landlord and property managers violates tenants’ leases, implicit guarantees of habitability and peaceful use, the DC Housing Act, the DC Consumer Practices Act and the DC Law on the Right to Organize of 2006.
The complaint seeks damages and a court order and a declaratory measure, inter alia, seeking immediate redress so that tenants can stay in their homes without endangering their health, safety and well-being, as well as their minor children. Landlords and property owners must be held accountable for their behavior and the constant rejection of tenants’ concerns and complaints and glaring violations of DC laws.
Proskauer’s team includes Ann Ashton, Wilderness Castillo-Dobson, Benjamin Eisenberg, Amy Gordon, Shannon McGowan, Corey Rogoff, Raven Wells-Scott, Allison Witt and Jessica Cohen.