Jubilee Housing Inc. has filed an appeal in the District's highest court asking restoration of its exemption from city restrictions on evictions, lawyers said this week.
Last month, the D.C. Rental Housing Commission ruled that Jubilee cannot evict a tenant from a building it owns in Northwest without adhering to D.C. eviction laws. The commission further ruled that Jubilee is not entitled to a blanket exemption from eviction laws for all nine of its buildings, but must apply for exemption on a case-by-case, tenant-by-tenant basis.
Jubilee, a nonprofit group that provides low-rent apartments and counseling services for the poor, wants to evict the tenant without proving it has just cause, as required by D.C. eviction laws. It argues that as a nonprofit provider of housing, it is entitled to an exemption.
Mark Drooks, attorney for Jubilee, said the agency has asked the D.C. Court of Appeals to overturn the commission ruling because, he contends, it exceeded the commission's jurisdiction and is unsupported by law.
In another court action, Jubilee and an attorney for the tenant filed an agreement in Landlord Tenant Court that will allow the tenant to pay her rent directly to Jubilee. Since eviction notice was first filed almost two years ago, the tenant has been paying $280 a month for her two-bedroom apartment in the Mozart Building at 1630 Fuller St. NW into a court-held account. The court would then turn over the rent to Jubilee.
"We have not waived our rights to evict the tenant in this agreement," said Drooks. "We simply agreed to make it easier on her since she was unhappy about taking a bus to court once a month to pay the rent."
However, Mitch Berger, an Antioch law student representing the tenant, said the agreement will shift the focus of the lengthy legal action away from the tenant and to Jubilee's eviction exemption status.
When Jubilee filed its motion to evict in 1983, directors said it was because the tenant, and three others who have since moved, were promoting drug traffic in the building and endangering other tenants.
Berger denied that the remaining tenant promotes drug use and said the agreement "goes a long way to show our client is not a drug dealer."
Drooks said Jubilee's original intent was to use its eviction exemption status to remove the tenants without having to go to court and prove the tenants were a danger.
"What this tenant does in her apartment is a non-issue," he said. "What is at issue now is Jubilee's status, which is being tested in a case involving this tenant."
Drooks said eviction of the tenant is tied up in Landlord Tenant Court until Jubilee's status regarding eviction exemption can be resolved through other court actions.