The residents of Peace House got one step closer to eviction when owner Ellen Thomas filed a lawsuit against them yesterday in D.C.’s landlord-tenant court.
The 12th Street NW rowhouse has long been home base for a 32-year-old anti-nuclear vigil in front of the White House that was started by Thomas’ husband, William Thomas. Ellen Thomas moved out of D.C. after William died in 2009, though she continued to rent Peace House to the activists who kept up her husband’s protest.
But this year, Thomas says, her tenants stopped paying rent. In late October she served them with an eviction notice asking that they pay her the 10 months of missing rent, utilities fees, and trash fines or leave the building. The debt was not paid within a 30-day period, so Thomas is taking the case to court.
According to Thomas’ lawyer, Aaron Sokolow, Thomas regrets having to file the lawsuit because she’s sympathetic to the activists. “It’s unfortunate that people with a shared goal have to use their resources in this fashion, but there just might not be another option,” Sokolow said.
According to the complaint filed yesterday, Thomas wants residents to pay nearly $16,500 in addition to vacating the building.
Despite the lawsuit, Anne Wilcox, an attorney for Peace House, is optimistic that the case can be solved in an amicable manner.
“Landlord-tenant cases are pretty standard in this city. You file an answer, you discuss,” she said. “I don’t think it should be seen as a type of case where people are not willing to discuss a resolution.”
Wilcox also contested Thomas’ claim that no rent had been paid since January, saying “it is [the tenant’s] position that some payments have been made.” (Wilcox wouldn’t specify what or when.)
Meanwhile, Peace House residents are planning to continue their usual protests and programming.
“We’re not going to let any nonsense deter us from our initial goal,” house manager Taylor Hall said last month.
Photo by Sarah Kaplan