Judge orders water service to remain on at troubled condo complex in Temple Hills


The Lynnhill condos on Good Hope Avenue. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

A Prince George’s County judge has postponed the scheduled water shut-off at a troubled condominium complex in Temple Hills, preventing the property from being condemned.

The Washington Sanitary Commission, citing outstanding utility bills, had plans to disconnect the water to the Lynnhill Condominiums on March 3. Prince George’s County sent a letter Feb. 10 to residents warning them that once WSSC shuts off the water, the county will be required to declare the buildings “unfit for human habitation and order all property owners and tenants to vacate immediately.”

But last week, Circuit Court Judge Albert Northrop granted a temporary restraining order to keep the complex’s water service on, utility officials said. Under the judge’s conditions, the Lynnhill’s management company was to pay $25,000 to WSSC by Monday at 3 p.m. The deadline was extended a day because of Monday’s snow-related closures. The $25,000 check was posted Tuesday, WSSC spokesman Jerry Irvine said.

The court order extends through March 14, Irvine said. Another hearing is expected around that time, when the judge could issue another order to prevent the water service disconnection.

If no agreement is reached by March 14, Irvine said, “we are back to where we have been and the water will be shut off.”

The Lynnhill Condominiums at 3103 and 3107 Good Hope Avenue are home to about 500 people. Most of them are low-income and working-class tenants renting from condo owners. Many residents say they moved to the complex for the location, just a block from the Naylor Road Metro station, and easy access to Suitland Parkway.

The outstanding water bill is just one of the problems at the complex. Over the years the community of about 200 units has struggled with debt, fire code violations and poor maintenance. Another court case addresses safety concerns at the property.

In that case, District Court Judge John P. Morrissey on Feb. 24 ordered the Lynnhill association to complete the installation of fire separation doors. It also ordered the complex to “repair and/or replace all defective trash shute door assemblies” and “water damage, holes, flaking paint, and deficiencies in the 7th floor ceilings and walls of boths buildings.”

The Lynnhill association has another hearing April 15 in that case.

The property’s management has been fined about 30 times over the past decade, according to county records. Fire inspections have led to numerous citations, including four fines of $5,000 in 2011 for reckless endangerment.

Residents cite problems with broken elevators, no hot water in some units and water leaks.

Irvine said the management company says it is working on some improvements, including contracting with a plumber to fix an ongoing leak on the property. He said that once the extent of the leak is determined and fixed, WSSC may be asked to adjust the complex’s water bill. It is still unclear how much an adjustment will take off the debt, he said.

The complex has a long history of unpaid water and sewer bills, Irvine said. After this week’s $25,000 payment, the Lynnhill account has a balance of about $75,000, Irvine said.

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Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.

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