July 21, 2021
Tenants have experienced prolonged racial and economic mistreatment from the building owners and property management company
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON – Today, the Park 7 Tenant Union and tenants of Park 7 Apartments, an affordable housing apartment building located at 4020 Minnesota Ave. in Northeast D.C. comprised mainly of Black residents, filed suit in a right to organize case against the property’s owner, Park 7 Residential LP, and its management company, 3801 Management LP, which are owned and operated by Christopher Donatelli (“Defendants”). The suit claims Defendants have waged a years-long obstruction campaign against tenants who have actively organized to protest the deteriorating conditions in the Park 7 Apartment building. Since opening in 2014, Park 7 has lapsed into deterioration, including hallways piled with garbage, chronic leaks and water damage, pervasive mold, security hazards, inoperable appliances, and widespread pest infestations. Also, D.C’s Office of Attorney General investigated several Park 7 tenant complaints regarding the landlord’s water billing practices in violation of the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which resulted in a refund of $450,000 to Park 7 tenants in 2019.
As a result of these building conditions and the property management’s harassing tactics, the tenants organized the Park 7 Tenant Union in order to assert their tenant rights to ensure Defendants provide them with a safe habitable living environment in exchange for rent.
DC law protects tenants’ right to organize and advocate on their collective behalf, and neither a landlord nor a property manager may obstruct or retaliate against any tenant engaging in protected activities. Since at least 2017, Park 7 tenants have made efforts to organize to address safety and sanitation issues at the building. Residents have experienced retaliation from Defendants, including targeted harassment, unnecessary calls to the Metropolitan Police Department, unwarranted claims in landlord tenant court, and threats of eviction. The property is comprised nearly entirely of Black residents who utilize housing subsidies, and fear that they are being targeted for those reasons. Some tenants faced harassment so severe that they were eventually pushed out.
“I believe housing to be a human right, tenants should not fear the housing provider because they have the expectation of living in a well maintained, decent, clean and safe community.” Said Tara Maxwell, President of the Park 7 Tenant Union.
“The tenants of Park 7 have experienced unsafe and unsanitary conditions for many years, and their ability to organize as a group to make demands for improvements to their community is a right that is guaranteed under law in the District of Columbia. The bullying tactics by the owner and management company are rooted in racial and economic discrimination, and come straight from the playbook of unscrupulous property owners,” said Brook Hill, counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
“This is a clear-cut case of a prominent landlord with a long history of mismanagement and abuse taking advantage of a historically disadvantaged group of tenants,” said Brian Corman, the Cohen Milstein attorney handling the case. “This is why tenant organizing is so important and why D.C. protects courageous groups like the Park 7 Tenant Union – to assert their rights under the law and fight back at abusive owners.”
The plaintiffs are represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
A link to the filed complaint can be found [here].
CONTACT: Gregg Kelley, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs Gregg_Kelley@washlaw.org, 202-319-1070
ABOUT THE WASHINGTON LAWYERS’ COMMITTEE: Founded in 1968, The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression. For more information, please visit www.washlaw.org or call 202.319.1000. Follow us on Twitter at @WashLaw4CR.
ABOUT COHEN MILSTEIN SELLERS & TOLL PLLC: Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC is a national leader in plaintiff class action lawsuits and civil rights-related litigation. As one of the premier plaintiffs in the United States, Cohen Milstein has more than 100 attorneys in offices in Washington, D.C., Chicago, IL, New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and Raleigh, NC. For more information, visit https://www.cohenmilstein.com or call 202.408.4600.