The D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development yesterday decided to make "several thousand dollars" worth of repairs to a Northwest apartment building whose owner was cited recently for several city housing code violations.
Gregory S. Marsh, 36, an officer of the corporation that owns the building at 1619 R. St. and an officer in four other corporations that control four other rental buildings, entered guilty pleas in D.C. Superior Court to 472 housing code violations last week. Marsh answered the housing code citations on behalf of the corporations.
Abe Greenstein, acting director of the Neighborhood Improvement Administration, said the repairs were needed to give the 30 tenants at the R Street building a "consistent" supply of hot water and to stop water from leaking into several apartments.
The city has the right to correct housing code violations when a landlord fails to do so and to charge the cost of the repairs to the landlord, Greenstein said. If the landlord fails to pay the repair costs and interest charges within 60 days after the bill is delivered, the property can be sold at the city tax sale held every January. If the owner does not redeem the property within the next two years, the purchaser at the tax sale or the city can take possession.
"We're not going to allow them to go in and make any repairs," Marsh told a reporter yesterday. "We've made all repairs. They have hot water all the time... I think this is an attempt at harassment." Marsh threatened to sue the city government for "continued harassment."
Marsh later told a reporter in the same conversation that he knew the heating and hot water systems needed repairing, but all tenants had to be moved from the building before the repairs could be made.
The city's Rental Accommodations Office had refused to allow him to remove the tenants, Marsh said, so the repairs had not been made. He denied he wanted to convert the building to condominiums, a charge made by tenants.
Marsh and the building's tenants, many of whom are retired people, have been at odds since August when the tenants went on a rent strike and began paying their own fuel and utility bills.
On Wednesday, Marsh sent a letter to each tenant telling them to pay their back rent or he would start eviction proceedings within 48 hours.
The tenants, several of whom met with Greenstein Thursday, contend that Marsh has allowed trash to accumulate in trash storage rooms, failed to repair damaged apartments and generally not maintained the building.
Greenstein said the city had made no decision about correcting violations in the other four buildings.