In mid-March, residents of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA in Shaw, a refuge for abused and mentally ill women, got a rude surprise. Vision Realty Management, which recently started managing the building, filed suit against 54 residents of the 116-room facility, claiming they owed thousands of dollars in back rent. Most of the women protested, saying they were paid up.
Now, months later, it seems they were right. The overwhelming majority of the suits, says Rebecca Lindhurst, an attorney with nonprofit Bread for the City, have not held up in court. “We have done an exhaustive search of all the cases that came out of that initial wave of suits, and according to my findings, it looks like everything except maybe five cases were dismissed,” she says.
Sam Lowery, a Vision Realty partner, admits there were some recordkeeping issues on his company’s end.
“When [tenants] produced the evidence that they’d paid based on evidence that we didn’t have in our possession,” Lowery says, “we asked that those cases be dismissed, and rightfully so.”
“A few residents” still owe money, he says, “but we’re working with them.”
Alex Padro, a Shaw advisory neighborhood commissioner who’s been involved in the dispute since March, claims Vision took advantage of the fragile state of some of its tenants by suing without proper cause.
“The fact that you had a new management company…come in, and records that were in disarray, prompted them to overreact,” he says. “It was very cavalier, very unprofessional, and demeaning [to the YWCA residents].”