Last summer, D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General sued the current property owners of Marbury Plaza for numerous health and safety violations. Photo by Ben Gutman
Last summer, D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General sued the current property owners of Marbury Plaza for numerous health and safety violations. Photo by Ben Gutman
Marbury Plaza, a Southeast D.C. apartment complex, was a major attraction for middle-class Black families looking for a place to call home in the 1960s.

However, as the years progressed, the once-luxurious apartments deteriorated due to poor management, according to tenants at the property. Last summer, D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) sued the current property owners for numerous health and safety violations.

That same month, the OAG also filed three other repair and public safety lawsuits against property owners at Somerset Apartments, Sheridan Apartments, a gas station and a vacant apartment in D.C. Residents at these properties, including Marbury and the surrounding communities, suffered health hazards, violence, break-ins and other unsafe living conditions. While orders for restitutions, updated safety plans and inspections have been made for the other lawsuits, residents at Marbury Plaza await a resolution.

Shortly after the Marbury Plaza lawsuit was filed, the OAG filed a motion for an emergency order to repair the property. However, tenants at Marbury Plaza report the continuous decline of the property despite intervention from the OAG.

Francine Gladden, a Marbury Plaza tenant for 22 years, believes little has changed around the apartment.

“This building has been going downhill, nothing is up to par. To me, they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing for any resident…I don’t know what to do. I want to move but where would I move to?” the 72 year old said.

The lawsuit claims both the property owners and management company of Marbury Plaza repeatedly violated the Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which protects consumers from unlawful trade practices. In the filing, the OAG pointed to an alleged 148 housing violations which included repeated gas leaks, pest infestations, defective stair lifts for tenants with disabilities and broken door locks on units.

At the time the lawsuit was initially filed, the property suffered from many structural issues, according to the OAG. In some units, tenants were subjected to “mold and filthy air vents which spew dust,” according to the report. Tenants relied on space heaters and electric fans as the building often had insufficient heating and cooling.

Street Sense Media reached out to the property owners by phone and email twice for comment, however, they did not provide a response.

Gladden supported OAG claims from the lawsuit regarding the state of the property. Within the last year, she said she has been exposed to asbestos in her unit, multiple water leaks from the toilet and a broken stair lift, which she relies on due to her disability.

“My thing with Marbury Plaza is that they never actually fix anything,” she said. “They just patch up everything. I had a gas leak behind my stove and they wouldn’t replace that stove until I called the gas company several times about it because I kept smelling gas.”

While she is frustrated with the state of the building, Gladden said she is glad the OAG is going after the lawsuit. The OAG has been pursuing a number of lawsuits against property owners and landlords, including Marbury Plaza.

“Too often, D.C. residents are forced to live in dangerous environments within their own homes because landlords and property managers violate the law and fail to provide their tenants with safe and secure housing,” Attorney General Karl A. Racine said.

Restitution for tenants in similar cases

 

The OAG resolved major cases at three other D.C. properties in late June 2022, after landlords failed to provide safe and secure conditions for their tenants. As a result of these lawsuits, property owners were required to make various changes around their properties to improve safety and living conditions, resolutions that tenants at Marbury Plaza still await.

“Today’s resolutions and lawsuits reinforce that no matter what type of property you own — a shopping center, gas station, or residential building — you must prioritize the health and safety of D.C. residents,” Racine said in a press release.

For Marbury Plaza, tenants have not yet been given a timeline for the resolution of their case, as it has been awaiting a ruling from the courts for almost a year. The OAG is hoping to provide restitution for the Marbury Plaza tenants, while also working to ensure that the property owners will no longer endanger their tenants with unsafe living conditions.