Tenants and Tenants Union Sue Meridian Heights Apartments For Unlawful Neglect of the Property

Tenants have endured long-term safety and health violations for years despite repeated requests to remedy the issues

CONTACT:
Gregg Kelley, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org, 202-319-1070

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, a class of tenants of the Meridian Heights Apartments, along with the property’s tenant association — 2801 15th St. NW Unidos (“TA”) — filed suit against the owners and property management of the property (“Management”) due to years of extreme neglect that has significantly harmed the tenants. Meridian Heights is home to a mostly Latinx community of working class tenants located in the District’s Columbia Heights neighborhood.

The class and TA seek an injunction to demand immediate repairs and damages.

The complaint details the unsafe, unhealthy, and unlawful conditions that the tenants have been exposed to, including pervasive mold, rodent, cockroach, and bedbug infestations, broken appliances and plumbing, improper air ventilation systems, malfunctioning heaters and air conditioning systems, and structural issues such as cracks in the ceilings, damaged floors, peeling paint, and windows and doors that do not adequately shut and/or are not properly sealed.  Accordingly, the apartments and common areas do not meet the D.C. Housing Code.

As a result of the ongoing failure to make repairs to the units and building, Meridian Heights’ tenants have suffered significant physical and psychological harm as well as financial injury. The COVID-19 global pandemic, which forced tenants and their children to spend their time indoors, has only exacerbated the harms caused by Management’s failure to address the conditions.  In particular, poor ventilation and mold that are present in a significant number of the units trigger the asthma of residents and many of their children. Tenants find it hard to sleep because of the bedbugs, rodents, and cockroaches crawling around, and some have woken up to bite marks.  Dangerous faulty electrical outlets and non-working smoke detectors place the tenants at risk of fire and other hazards, the complaint details.

Yet, Management rarely makes repairs despite repeated attempts by tenants and the TA to report the egregious conditions, according to the complaint. When Management does make repairs, the fixes are shoddy at best and do not adequately address the issues. This kind of practice frequently leads to displacement when tenants feel forced to leave their communities to escape the uninhabitable conditions of their homes.

Class Plaintiff Estela Rosales noted in her native language, Spanish: “We are filing this complaint because we have dealt with horrible conditions in our housing for too long, even after repeatedly requesting repairs from the landlord.  Ultimately, the landlord doesn’t care how we live.  We deal with cockroaches, mice, bedbugs, and mold.  It is us and our children who suffer.

We, the tenants, can’t take it anymore, and because of the situation we find ourselves in, we are seeking justice for the harm we have suffered and calling for immediate repairs.”  [Counsel for the plaintiffs translated Ms. Rosales’ statement.]

The plaintiffs are represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Proskauer.

“In D.C., working-class renters of color, like the tenants of Meridian Heights, are too often forced to live in housing where maintenance is entirely inadequate. Further, when they try to band together to request that management make improvements, management often interferes with their ability to organize or retaliates against the tenants. The Consumer Protection Procedures Act and Tenant Right to Organize Act provide strong protections that the tenants at Meridian Heights intend to use to stay in their homes without continuing to make health and safety compromises,” stated Brook Hill, Counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.

“No one should have their health and safety jeopardized by their living conditions. Through this lawsuit, which exposes the hazardous conditions Meridian Heights tenants’ have lived in for far too long, we seek to bring each of the apartments up to code, address health violations that have long been ignored, and protect the health and safety of these residents,” said Proskauer Partner Ann Ashton.

Links to the case documents can be accessed below:

Filed Complaint

PRESS:

JD Supra

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ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: Founded in 1968, 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. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org or call 202.319.1000.

ABOUT PROSKAUER:

Proskauer is a leading international law firm serving clients from 12 offices located in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. At Proskauer, “for good” means giving of ourselves and making a positive impact on the lives of those less fortunate. Our pro bono work breaks boundaries. From high-impact litigation and complex transactions for nonprofit organizations, to matters for low-income individuals seeking equal access to justice – we are committed to driving businesses, as well as society, forward. Additional information about the firm can be found at www.proskauer.com.


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