Columbia Heights landlord ordered to pay more than $600K in rent restitution, penalties

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine chalked up a major court victory Wednesday in a case against a neglectful Columbia Heights landlord.

The landlord, who oversaw 2724 11th St. NW, is being ordered by a judge to pay more than $422,000 in rent restitution for tenants and $215,000 in penalties for hundreds of housing code violations dating back years, according to a statement from Racine’s office.

A new management company, policies and trainings will also be required.

Among the housing violations are vermin infestations, mold contamination and lack of heat, Racine’s office said, adding that the owners continually ignored notices from tenants and D.C. government agencies.

“No tenant should have to live in properties that are in disrepair,” Racine said in a statement. “It’s up to landlords to follow the law and provide residents safe, healthy, and habitable homes. And if they fail to do that, we will hold them accountable. This ruling will provide tenants with relief they deserve and shows that landlords that violate the law will pay. We’ve been working for many years to stand up for these tenants, and we already greatly appreciate the work of our partners in the community who were critical to raising these problems and defending the tenants.”

Racine’s office sued the owners and managers of the apartment building in 2017.

The final judgment includes more than $422,000 in rent refunds to tenants for the 18 months between June 2016 and November 2017. The landlord also has to pay D.C. $215,000 in civil penalties, including the former maximum penalty for 215 violations of the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. On top of that, they owe D.C. more than $42,000 in fees and costs.

In a statement, Felipa Arias, a tenant of the building, said she’d lived in her apartment for almost 30 years.

“It’s home. But it hasn’t always felt that way. My family has had to deal with issues such as crumbling walls, water damage, and mold. We’ve also had to deal with an array of pests: rats, mice, bedbugs, roaches, and more,” she said.

“Whenever we would ask the building’s management to remedy these issues, the repairs that were made either didn’t last long or didn’t actually fix the issue. Many of us living in this building are immigrants. We had to deal with a language barrier and laws that were unfamiliar to us. Although this has been a frustrating and long journey, I appreciate AG Racine for standing up for us and for his office’s work to support us.”

The law firm Arnold & Porter represented several of the building’s tenants and successfully litigated a separate mold claim, the OAG said.

You can read the final judgment online.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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