Following years of struggle with condominium fees, code violations and landlord-tenant disputes, the Lynn Hill Condominiums in Temple Hills, Md. are being closed for code violations. Residents were given 24 hours to vacate on Aug. 22, but attorneys representing the tenants and condo association owners said they were filing a lawsuit to provide displaced tenants with more time to find someplace else to live.

In an emotional scene marked by shouting and angst from the several of the 100 tenants remaining in the units, Prince George’s County Fire Department Chief announced that buildings located at 3103 and 3107 Good Hope Road were unsafe and unfit for human habitation after the units failed a morning Fire Inspection. Specifically, the management company was unable to rectify 14 of 23 fire code violations that were uncovered last week. Inspectors also say they found a fire alarm system that didn’t work, broken fire doors and vacant condos filled with trash.

Bruce Branch (Courtesy Photo)

Some residents also said the units reeked of urine and some areas were overflowing with flies and other insects that were hovering around garbage. The units, several of them which were boarded up, also had become a safe haven for the homeless and squatters. Yet several people wanted to remain, even though most of the residents left last October when the utilities were shut off because of unpaid bills.

“There is nothing else we can do,” said Fire Chief Ben Barksdale who cut his press conference short because of yelling and screaming by residents who said the process was unfair and they should have been given more time to vacate. “There were just too many violations.”

County officials also issued a statement that said management had been previously notified of violations several times and ordered to make corrections, but failed to do so in an expeditious manner. Social Services were on hand and set up temporary offices at Community of Hope AME Church located in the basement of the Iverson Mall. Social service worker said the county would be paying for extended hotel room stays, providing transportation to the mall and deposits for first month rent and deposits for displaced residents. The Maryland Business and Clergy Partnership also offered their help along with Rev. Charles McNeill, Jr. president of the National Capital Baptist Convention D.C. & Vicinity and a board member of UCAP.

Residents who occupied about 36 units were paying rent of only $400 to $500, far below local market rates. A few had just moved in when the bad news hit. Now they will lose not only rent, but security deposits. Attorneys for the tenant association and condo owners said there had been several offers for the property although they failed to identify who the potential buyers were. They also said they would be attempting to reach out to absentee condo owners to apprise them of the situation. Meanwhile many people are being uprooted on short notice and forced to find another place to live. Many were in tears as the news came down from the chief.

“This is a human tragedy,” McNeill told the AFRO. “The county and elected officials have to do a better job of handling these types of situations.”