The tenants of Glenwood Apartments in northeast D.C. are furious. Inside their units the ceilings are cracked, water-damaged walls are covered in mold and electric sockets are broken. While continuing to wait for repairs, residents received notification of a 43.1 percent rent increase.
They are outraged with AMC Holdings-DC, for continual disregard in addressing the needed repairs and the recent hardship petition filed with the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development, Rental Accommodation Division (RAD), requesting rent increase approval.
Residents of this 90-unit, two-building apartment complex, in Ward 5 at 2321 and 2315 Lincoln Rd. NE, are fighting back. On March 13, inside Glenwood’s lobby, 30 tenants gathered for a tenant’s association meeting. Joined by Jennifer Berger, supervising attorney with AARP Legal Counsel for the Elderly, and Erik Benny, associate with Foley and Lardner, the tenants shared stories of damages and overdue repairs in their units. They also voiced their opinions on the upcoming rental increase, and listened as the legal representatives answered questions, offered advice, and provided explanation of what to expect during this legal battle.
“It is important to stay in communication with each other,” said Berger. “Right now, we are waiting for a case number from the Office of Administrative Hearings.”
According to Berger, as of March 27, no case number has been assigned. Berger advised tenants to continue paying their current monthly rent with AMC until further notice.
On Sept. 30, 2013, housing provider AMC Holdings-DC filed a hardship petition with RAD requesting the 43.1 percent rental increase. Within their hardship petition, AMC submitted financial documentation that includes a list of extraordinary expenses – for example, $111,296.54 for repairs and $23,244 for painting.
However, with the large number of unaddressed repairs and numerous tenant complaints, residents question where the money is going and why their units are still in disarray. “Tenants have had issues with their units for months, even years, and these issues have still not been addressed,” said resident Gordon Cummings, 42, president of Glenwood’s tenant association.
On Feb. 20, the tenant association of Glenwood filed and submitted ‘Exceptions and Objections’ with RAD against the hardship petition. The tenant association claims the housing provider has exhibited substantial housing code violations; the housing provider has not “provided sufficient documentation to substantiate its claimed operating expense;” and housing provider’s hardship petition “undermines the legislative intent of the Rental Housing Act.”
As part of filing for hardship, AMC is required to address and complete repairs in each unit. To make this determination, DCRA inspects the building. On Nov. 26, 2013, several residents were mailed a ‘Notice of Violation’ from DCRA that listed each unit’s needed repairs and the amount fined to the housing provider if repairs were not completed.
At the association meeting, tenants accused AMC of “scrambling” to get repairs done. Residents claim these repairs are done poorly and that management is not giving them 24-hour written notice before entering their units as stipulated in their lease. “Try to cooperate with them so that they cannot say you denied them access ,” Berger advised the crowd.
Tenants have made several complaints about the repairs to their property manager. AMC’s general counsel, Martha Knudson, based in Cottonwood Heights, Utah, said AMC Holdings has “submitted the hardship petition on behalf of the building’s owners.” She said she did not have the owners’ name on hand, but would provide a statement from them. The statement was not available by press time.
According to the Rental Housing Act of 1985, a housing provider is authorized to increase rents enough to earn no more than a 12 percent rate of return on their investment. The Rental Act was designed to protect low- and moderate-income tenants from large rental increases and prevents the erosion of affordable housing in the District. Many of Glenwood’s tenants are elderly and on fixed incomes, and AMC’s hardship petition would have tenants pay well over 30 percent of their income towards rent.
Nannette Roberson, 73, moved into her one bedroom unit in 2006. Currently paying $940 in rent, she is determined not to pay the extravagant rental increase.
Inside her unit, the ceiling paint is peeling and falling, and her bathroom window seal has rotted. “If they’re not increasing the rent here, then I will try to stay,” Roberson said.
For now, the residents of Glenwood will continue to wait; wait for management to fix repairs; wait for a case number and a hearing; and wait and see if they can remain in their homes.