The D.C. housing department, which recently sold six rehabilitated houses in Brookland without telling most of the buyers that thousands of dollars in mechanic's liens were outstanding against the properties, has had the liens removed and has apologized to the homeowners.
The housing department had copies of the lien releases and letters of apology hand-delivered to the property owners Thursday.
City housing officials and the two title companies that handled the sales of the houses in the 900 block of Evarts Street NE had said that they considered the liens invalid at the time of sale, but housing official Ben Carter said they should have been removed before the sales.
City housing officials succeeded in having the 15-month-old liens removed three days after their existence was publicly disclosed. City officials had no comment yesterday on the liens' removal.
"At the time of settlement on your property there were no valid mechanic's liens against your property," Carter said in the letter delivered to the homeowners. "However, since the release of the liens had not been properly recorded by the subcontractor with the Office of the Recorder of Deeds, their records indicate that liens remained on your property.
"We regret the inconvenience that this inadvertent oversight has caused you and your family," Carter wrote, adding, "Again I apologize for any misunderstanding."
Carter explained three weeks ago that the city had paid building contractor Leander Calhoun Jr. $28,493 last December to settle the $52,000 lien he had filed against the homes to cover the cost of rehabilitation work his company had done there.
But the D.C. Development Corp., an arm of the housing department that was overseeing the property, never filed its copy of the release with the D.C. Recorder of Deeds nor required Calhoun to do so.
"I'm elated," said one of the homeowners, A. Donald Cowan. "I feel that the house is finally mine . . . I want to personally thank Ben Carter."
Cowan and his neighbors had been told their homes were free of liens when they went to settlement on the two-story brick row houses in January and February. Four of the buyers discovered only after the settlment that liens remained outstanding.
A lawyer accompanying a fifth homeowner discovered the liens listed in papers presented at settlement. A sixth homeowner said she knew about the liens but settled anyway because she wanted the house.