Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Slumlords" Sued by District

Last week, Mayor Fenty, together with the Interim Attorney General Peter Nickles and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, filed a lawsuit against 23 landlords whose residential properties have been found to have a "history of serious code violations" according to the District's petition. The District cites nearly 70 buildings across all seven wards of DC which "[suffer] from a history of neglect and indifference." The action will affect more than 470 rental units in total.

The District is capable of filing such a motion because of its status as a municipal corporation; last week's action is the first of its kind, where the District has taken action against more than one property in a single suit. “We’ve all seen the pictures and heard the horror stories from tenants of these buildings. It’s immoral to have human beings living in these conditions, and it’s against the law. With today’s action, it will stop," Fenty said, on the day of the filing.

Alan Heyman, spokesman for the Interim Attorney General, was kind enough to explain the petition as the last chance for slumlords. According to Heyman, all of the building owners have been persistent violaters of DC law in one of two categories: in lacking a basic business license, or lacking a certificate of occupancy. DCRA has exhausted its options in getting these buildings to comply with the law, which forces the Office of the Attorney General to act as its lawyer and file a complaint against the building owners. The petition is asking the courts to order building owners to comply with the laws of the District or deal with consequences such as fines, or even worse, being held in contempt of court. For 13 of the buildings, the District is seeking to appoint 'receivers' who will collect rent checks on behalf of the owners, and ensure that those funds are used to repair the respective properties.

Among the apparent targets of the District are the Stancils, five of whom are separately named by the District in its press release. Rufus Stancil, who has been on the District's 'slumlord-radar' for quite some time, was sentenced to six nights in jail in 2002, plus two years of probation, and ordered to live for 60 days in the very building that he was convicted of neglecting, 2922 Sherman Ave, NW, according to DCRA. At the time, the building had more than 429 alleged housing violations. David B. Tolson, founder of DBT Development, also makes the list, together with Deauville Partners, LLC, which together own 3145 Mount Pleasant Street, NW, which was recently charred in a highly publicized five alarm fire. This is not why Tolson is being called before the court, but rather because he had allegedly been renting out the building without a basic business license. The building which was engulfed in flames in early March, has accumulated more than 7,000 code violations over the years.


Jesse Kaye on May 5, 2008, 3:37:00 AM said...

Its pretty amazing that these property owners are being made examples of. Something had to be done to help some of the tenants living in such drab conditions. I believe that the issue at hand is not just to protect the tenants but to come up with solutions on how to help both the owners to vacate their buildings but also keep the buildings up to code for the tenants. Under current legislation, there is very little support for owners to vacate buildings to redevelop.

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