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When Multiple Companies Are In Charge Of A Real Estate Property, Lawsuits Get Complicated

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The pitfalls and annoyances of being a landlord are well known; if you want to avert a family feud at a holiday gathering by avoiding discussions about politics, you can just ask your uncle who rents out a house that he owns about how much the tenants get on his nerves.  Disputes between landlords and tenants about which repairs are necessary and about whether the damage is due to the landlord’s poor track record of maintaining the property or the tenant’s lack of caution in using the property are an ordinary and expected part of the landlord-tenant relationship.  If you do not keep a rental property in livable condition, though, the best possible outcome is that no one will want to live there and the properties will remain vacant.  The worse outcome is that your tenants will sue either simply because you created hazardous conditions or because a preventable accident happened.  Lawsuits are expensive enough and stressful enough when the dispute is only between a tenant and a landlord.  Many residential buildings are cooperative efforts among several companies.  In that case, disputes over which company is legally responsible for which problems with the property can be very complicated.  If your company is one of several that owns or operates an apartment complex, and that apartment complex is the subject of a lawsuit, contact a business litigation lawyer.

The Bedford Station and Victoria Station Lawsuit

Two apartment complexes in Prince George’s County, Bedford Station and Victoria Station, were built more than 70 years ago and have never undergone a major renovation.  Arbor Realty Trust, a real estate investment company that owns residential buildings in several cities, bought the buildings in 2013.  Although the properties were obviously in fixer-upper shape, Arbor bought them and began renting them out without making any substantial repairs, and then it progressively raised the rent.

By 2019, tenants have raised plenty of complaints about unlivable conditions, including pest infestations, mold, non-functioning HVAC systems, holes in walls and ceilings, rusted radiators, and fire hazards.  The tenants’ rent strike gained publicity, but did not lead to repairs.  In 2021, with the help of a non-profit organization called CASA de Maryland, Inc., a group of tenants filed a class action lawsuit against Arbor Realty Trust.  It alleges that racial discrimination is the defendants’ motivation for keeping the property in such poor condition; the tenants are all immigrants and their children, mostly from Guatemala and El Salvador.  The plaintiffs point out that Arbor properties with mostly White tenants, such as its properties in Alamo Heights in San Antonio, Texas and in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, are in much better condition.  The lawsuit also names as defendants seven other companies which are subsidiaries of Arbor Realty Trust or which manage its properties.

Contact an Attorney for Help

A Washington DC business litigation lawyer can help you if a residential real estate property that you own or manage is the subject of a lawsuit.  Contact Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing for a consultation.

Resources:

ggwash.org/view/81985/bedford-and-victoria-station-tenants-launch-a-class-action-lawsuit-against-their-landlord

dcist.com/story/21/07/20/langley-park-tenants-are-suing-their-corporate-landlord-alleging-reverse-redlining/

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