The lawsuit alleges landlord ignored health, safety, and security issues at Ward 5 apartment, endangering residents and community members.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Washington Lawyers’ Committee and co-counsel Crowell and Moring LLP today announced a new lawsuit against neglectful management of The Franklin, a residential apartment building in Northeast D.C., for endangering the health and safety of its residents.
“The Franklin is a clear and present danger to its residents,” said Kelechi Agbakwuru, counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. “If it rains, the windows leak. The lock on one door is broken, allowing unsecured access to the Franklin. Mail, checks, and packages are stolen from the broken mailboxes. The landlord has been cited countless times for housing code violations ranging from vermin infestations to gas and carbon monoxide leaks.”
In the lawsuit, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee and Crowell allege that Brookland Investments and Novo Management Corporation flaunted DC housing law and failed to maintain the property. For years, the five residents named in the lawsuit have lived in atrocious conditions, exposed to life-threatening gas leaks, widespread toxic mold, infestations of rodents and roaches, broken elevators, blocked and smoke-filled stairwells, and non-working smoke detectors.
- Tappi Small: In November 2022, when Small’s carbon monoxide alarm sounded, she reported the problem to her landlord. Management blamed a faulty meter, claiming that it needed to be reset and not to worry. Luckily Small, who had a headache and chest pain, called Washington Gas and they found high levels of carbon monoxide. She was treated for carbon monoxide exposure in an ambulance on-site. The fire chief told Small that had she listened to management and ignored the alert; she would likely have died.
- Shanta Rodriguez: On July 23, 2023, Ms. Rodriguez entered the stairwell to walk her dog where a squatter had been smoking cigarettes in the hallway with no ventilation for an unknown period of time. The thick smoke in the stairwell caused Ms. Rodriguez to have an acute asthma attack and seizure, causing her to lose consciousness. An ambulance took Ms. Rodriguez to the hospital, where she spent a day recovering.
- Taniya Rogers: Inspections by the Department of Buildings revealed that Ms. Rogers lacks both a working carbon monoxide detector and a smoke detector. The cockroach infestation is so severe that she had to sleep in her car while the unit was fumigated.
“The plaintiffs and their families, and all residents living at The Franklin, need relief from the hazardous conditions, and they need it now, without further delay,” said Crowell & Moring’s Dan Wolff. “Residents should not be required to pay rent until repairs are made. Under DC housing law, landlords are obligated to provide smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, working heating and cooking appliances, and residence free of pests.”
Tenants are seeking an order from the court that would require management to make necessary repairs and security improvements, as well as restitution for harmed residents and penalties for violating DC law.
The Franklin – 1511 Franklin St., NE Washington, DC 20018
The Franklin is a 54-unit, apartment building located in the Brookland neighborhood, almost a mile away from the Rhode Island Avenue metro station. It is owned by Brookland Investments LLC and operated by Novo Management Corporation.
Read the filed complaint here.
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The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic, and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting, and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression.
About Crowell & Moring LLP
Crowell & Moring is an international law firm with operations in the United States, Europe, MENA, and Asia. Drawing on significant government, business, industry and legal experience, the firm helps clients capitalize on opportunities and provides creative solutions to complex litigation and arbitration, regulatory and policy, and corporate and transactional issues. The firm is consistently recognized for its commitment to pro bono service as well as its programs and initiatives to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion.