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Looks like Sanford Capital isn’t the only bad landlord D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is going after.
On Monday, Racine’s office filed a lawsuit against both the owner of and the property manager for a 26-unit building in Columbia Heights, alleging that “unlawful and dangerous conditions” there “are a direct result of the [defendants’] actions or omissions.” Building conditions include leaks, mold, bedbugs, and erratic utilities, according to the suit.
Florida resident Ellis J. Parker owns the building, which is located at 2724 11th St. NW, through an LLC, while Stanley Ford Jr. manages it through his D.C.-based firm SCF Management. With just 15 occupied units as of today, the rent-controlled building has long vexed tenants and been an eyesore to neighbors.
Ford has not responded to requests for comment. Reached by phone, Parker said he had not heard the District was suing him, but that he has fixed “every single one” of the housing-code violations at the site.
“Let me tell you that I have a building that’s about 100-years-old, and that building hasn’t materially changed in 100 years,” said Parker, who is 85. He added that he has sought exemptions to the city’s rent-control rules to finance substantial repairs. “All those violations, they never found I had been guilty of anything.”
The lawsuit notes D.C. inspectors assessed more than 160 housing-code violations at the property last June, which had “remained unabated or had worsened” a year after the tenants brought action against the defendants in administrative court. The ceiling in an occupied unit has collapsed three times since November 2016—the last time as recently as March—”causing significant damage to the tenant’s belongings.”
“The refusal of the Respondents to abate code violations at the Property is particularly egregious in light of the fact that the tenants have modest financial means, and therefore lack feasible alternatives to the unsafe and unhealthy rental accommodations inflicted upon them by the Respondents,” the suit explains. “Notwithstanding [such a] refusal…[the] Respondents have consistently collected full rental payments.”
In D.C. Superior Court, the attorney general is seeking a third party, called a receiver, to conduct repairs at the property—an outcome his office has just achieved at one of Sanford Capital’s properties in Ward 8.
As in that litigation, Racine also wants the owner of the Columbia Heights building to return rent payments tenants made during the period it was allegedly neglected, citing D.C.’s consumer protection laws. “We will continue to seek justice against property owners who violate District law,” he says in a statement.
Check back next week for a deeper dive on this story.