A Maryland-based company that owns an apartment building in Northeast D.C. will need to pay $450,000 to people who lived there because residents were improperly billed for water.
According to the District’s Attorney General Karl Racine, the money will go to more than 470 current and former tenants of Park 7 Apartments who were improperly billed for water.
Prosecutors said the company “Park 7 Residential” charged tenants for water even though their lease agreements stated that the cost of water was included in rent.
“When a landlord or property manager promises to include the costs of utilities, including water, in the base rent, they must honor their promise to tenants,” Racine said in a statement.
“We stand ready to investigate and prosecute landlords and property managers who fail to honor their most basic promises.”
Racine said his office had investigated water billing complaints from Park 7 tenants since 2014.
“We thank the Park 7 tenants for bringing their concerns to [the Office of the Attorney General],” said Racine.
A news release from Racine’s office stated that the water usage was billed through a submetering company and tenants were fearful that their water would be shut off or that they could be evicted; so they paid the overpriced bills.
The building on Minnesota Avenue near Benning Road has 377 apartments and 362 of them are designated as affordable housing units.
“The cost of utilities, and whether utilities are included in rent, can impact decisions about where tenants–especially low-income tenants–can afford to live,” the news release said.
Along with the $450,000 payment, the company will need to pay the District more than $200,000 for costs and expenses related to its investigation and submit reports about water billing at the property for the next two years.
The company will need to wipe out debts and remove negative credit entries related to water billing for the affected tenants.
Current or former tenants who have questions should call the OAG’s consumer protection hotline at 202-442-9828 or visit email@example.com.
Racine’s announcement comes about a week after he said that the notorious landlord Sanford Capital would be forced to return more than $1.1 million in rent payments to 155 tenants who lived in “uninhabitable conditions” at three properties.
In that case, Racine released a statement saying that it “sends a message to slumlords that business practices that put profit ahead of the safety and well being of their tenants will not be tolerated.”
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