Tenants in Pr. George’s building slated for demolition say they are being evicted illegally

December 20, 2013

Tenants at an apartment building proposed for demolition in District Heights have filed a complaint with the county’s housing development office, claiming that the owners have allowed the property to deteriorate, failed to repair the heating system and threatened to illegally evict residents.

The complaint, filed Dec. 9 by the Maryland Legal Aid office on behalf of a tenant, alleges that the sale of Parkway Heights apartment building also failed to meet the Prince George’s County “Rental Conversion” law, which was passed in July to help remedy the shortage of affordable rental housing in the county.

The law requires an owner selling a multifamily building with 20 or more units to provide a written notice of the sale to each tenant and to the director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, giving the county the first right of refusal to buy the property.

“The circumstance at Parkway Apartments is exactly what the law sought to address, and development plans will result in the displacement of a significant number of county residents from affordable rental housing,” said Sabrina Ware, a supervising attorney for Maryland Legal Aid.

The garden-style apartment complex, which is in the 4300 block of Forestville Road, was sold in August 2012 for $2.8 million to a group of owners calling themselves the “4357 Forestville Road Owner, LLC.” The three-building complex is set to be demolished to make way for construction of a driveway into an industrial complex.

Jessica Nunez, a spokeswoman for the owners, said they bought Parkway Apartments nearly a year before the county passed the affordable-housing legislation.

“Everything the owners did was in accordance with the law at that time,” Nunez said. “Those requirements did not exist when they did the purchase. That new code was not enacted until 2013,” Nunez said.

Eric C. Brown, director of the Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development, said the sale of the Parkway apartments appears to have occurred before the county law was passed. “Had it been in place at that time, this is something we could have acted upon,” Brown said.

The building owners denied that they were allowing the building to deteriorate.

“The building owner is continuing to manage the property and is in daily contact with the remaining tenants to provide quality housing conditions,” Nunez said. The management company has been working with tenants to help them relocate, she added.

A hearing on the issue that was scheduled in District Court in Hyattsville has been postponed.

DeNeen L. Brown is an award-winning staff writer at The Washington Post who has covered night police, education, courts, politics and culture.
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