On July 21, 2021 Cohen Milstein and the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on behalf of the Park 7 Tenant Union and three individual tenants of Park 7 Apartments, an affordable housing apartment building located in Northeast, Washington D.C., against the property’s owner, Park 7 Residential LP, and its management company, 3801 Management LP, which are owned and operated by Christopher Donatelli. Plaintiffs allege that defendants violated their “right to organize,” which is protected under the District of Columbia’s Right of Tenants to Organize Act of 2006 D.C. Code § 42-3505.06.
On October 18, 2021, the parties signed and submitted to the court a Consent Agreement, where they agreed to terms by which the Tenant Union could freely meet and post and disseminate tenant union literature without fear of retaliation. On May 25, 2022, the case was settled for a confidential figure.
Plaintiffs claim that in open defiance of District of Columbia law protecting the rights of tenants to form and operate a tenant organization, the landlord and property manager of the Park 7 apartments, an apartment complex with 377 units in Northeast Washington, D.C., have engaged in an ongoing campaign to intimidate, harass, and retaliate against residents who have attempted to organize their fellow tenants to collectively address the many safety and sanitation concerns affecting tenants at that property that persisted in the midst of a global pandemic. The complex is home to low-income and almost exclusively Black residents.
Tenants at the Park 7 apartment complex have attempted to engage in basic organizing activities, such as holding meetings, disseminating informational literature, engaging with non-tenant organizers to assist with organizing tenants, and advocating for each other as a unified group in response to concerns with the landlord and property management. Yet since 2020, tenants, including the plaintiff leaders and members of the Park 7 Tenant Union, have been met with consistent obstruction and intimidation. Specifically, plaintiffs claim that defendants have summoned the police when tenants attempt to hold meetings or meet with management, denied access to common rooms for meetings and intentionally disrupted those meetings so that they cannot be peacefully held, threatened Park 7 Tenant Union members and leaders with unlawful evictions, and removed educational fliers placed in public spaces by Park 7 Tenant Union members.
Defendants’ actions, plaintiffs allege, are in clear violation of the District of Columbia’s Right of Tenants to Organize Act of 2006 (“Tenants’ Right to Organize Law” or “Right to Organize law”), D.C. Code § 42-3505.06. Under the Right to Organize Law, tenants are explicitly granted the right to engage in self-organization activities in order to assist each other, advocate to address tenants’ concerns, and improve the living conditions they face.
Plaintiffs assert that defendants’ actions are for the purpose of preventing the Park 7 Tenant Union and its members from continuing to engage in protected activities to advocate for better treatment and living conditions, among other things.
Plaintiffs believe the situation will continue unabated unless defendants are enjoined by the court from taking further unlawful actions against plaintiffs. Plaintiffs therefore seek injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent the continuation of these unlawful practices, as well as damages for the harm already inflicted upon plaintiffs.