Friday, December 7, 2007

10 Families Without Heat at Norwood

UPDATE: Special thanks to the Mayor's Office on Latino Affairs (OLA). On Friday, December 9th, nine provisional space heaters were delivered to the Norwood by OLA staff. The residents of the Norwood are grateful for this show of support, and we hope for a permanent fix soon.

Now that the cold weather is upon us, ten families at the Norwood have no heat this winter. Management tweaks the heaters after the District of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) housing inspectors cite them, but the heaters always break. Therefore, we are requesting brand new heaters for those in need.

One tenant has had no heat for the past 4 years. Because of a persistent gas leak in his apartment, he is afraid to use a space heater; he instead covers up with blankets to keep warm. He testified about this in our lawsuit against the owner and management company.

We have contacted the DCRA, and we hope that all residents at the Norwood will soon have heat this winter. We are also asking the DCRA to be on the lookout for other outstanding problems in the building which continue to persist.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Court Update, Problems Persist...

We have finished presenting our case for the tenant petition (lawsuit) we filed against the management company and landlord in the DC Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).

The Management company will present their case in the OAH at 941 North Capitol Street, January 9-10, 2008.

Ten tenants have testified about the unsafe and unsanitary conditions they are forced to live with, including:

-Living with mice and roaches.
-Bedbug infestations in their apartments. One tenant testified about finding a bedbug nest under his bed.
-Walking up 7 flights of stairs on crutches because the elevator was broken for 31 days.
-Children being bitten by bedbugs.
-Having no heat or A/C.
-Mold infestations along living room and bedroom walls.
-Stoves leaking gas.


We hope the management finally ushers in some much needed repairs in the new year.

For now, we request, and we wait...

To contact us, please email Norwoodinfo@Gmail.com

Friday, November 16, 2007

Op-Ed: Would you pay $200k for an apartment with bedbugs, no heat, and no working elevator?

UPDATE: Norwood to be featured on "Metro Watch" with Gloria Minott
Tune in Thursday, Nov. 29 at 9:35am-WPFW FM 89.3 Washington, DC and Around the World here.

DC Mayor Adrian Fenty unveiled his plan for Affordable housing earlier this week. The plan is decidedly long overdue for the District, but it could represent a refreshing step forward in the battle to preserve and build our affordable housing stock.

The Norwood tenants are most interested in the Mayor's plan to combat slumlords who profit at the peril of tenants:
"Another part of the mayor's plan is to prevent slumlords from converting deteriorated apartment buildings into high-priced condominiums. The legislation will be prepared by the Fenty administration to prevent landlords with persistent and unaddressed housing code violations from raising rents in rent-controlled buildings and from converting the building into condominiums to be sold at market rate."

We have penned the "Letter to the Editor" below to highlight the story of one building which represents many. We all have the right to safe and decent housing, a fact that is sometimes blurred by greed and apathy.


Would you pay $200k for an apartment with bedbugs, no heat, and no working elevator?


We are tenants at the Norwood apartments in Logan Circle. The city has cited our building with over 300 housing code violations in the last 14 months. As rents continue to increase, bedbugs, mold and a non-working elevator continue to worsen. Instead of addressing the Norwood’s problems, our absentee landlord sent developers to pitch condo conversion.

Mayor Fenty recently unveiled his plan to preserve affordable housing and prevent slumlords from converting deteriorating apartment buildings into high-end condos.

In the two years since we organized the Norwood Tenants Association, we have seen that the problems in our apartments are not unique. Indeed, our problems are replicated thousands of times throughout the city. We learned this by reaching out and partnering with community organizations such as the DC Tenant Advocacy Coalition (TENAC), the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), and the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate. As a result, we helped establish the DC Tenants Rights Alliance, a coalition of twenty deteriorating rent-controlled buildings across the city who are fighting off condo conversion attempts.

Despite our efforts to improve the unsafe conditions in our home, a building-wide bed bug infestation and other housing violations thrive. We continue to receive yearly rent increases with no improvements, and are presently engaged in multiple lawsuits against our slum lord.

Last may, our slum lord, offered us the building for the outrageous price of $12 million, “as is.” Our slumlord now wants to be rewarded for neglecting the building by squeezing the last bit of residual value from the declining real estate market.

It is critical that the city enforce the law that prohibits landlords from raising rents where there are persistent and unaddressed housing code violations. Today landlords take nearly automatic rent increases, regardless of problems. Tenants' only recourse is then to enter into a lengthy and expensive lawsuit process. The Mayor’s new plan supports tenants’ rights and saves money by prohibiting improper rent increases and illegal condo conversions before they happen.

The Mayor’s proposal gives us new hope. Someone is listening to the thousands of families in DC who grasp at the diminishing stock of affordable housing in the face of opportunistic developers and bad landlords. We urge the City Council to back the Mayor’s proposal, and to expand the focus beyond the four neighborhoods cited by the Mayor’s affordable housing protection team.

Buying our building may be the only way to preserve our affordable housing and to fix our problems. The city should budget part of the projected surplus funds for tenant purchases, co-ops and affordable condo options.

Norwood Tenants Association

David Fabian
Silvia Salazar
Randy Green
Henry Jones

Friday, November 9, 2007

Norwood Tenants Association Has 'Their Day(s) in Court'

The Norwood tenants have been on overdrive since the Summer of no elevator in the face of landlord intimidation tactics. We have already had several hearings for our consolidated tenant petitions, and several tenants have had the chance to speak out about their problems in court. Our next hearing dates are November 13th and 14th, 2007.

On November 30th, 2007, we will have our first hearing in DC Superior Court for the Right to Organize case. As we mentioned earlier this Summer, the landlord served Norwood tenant organizers with papers demanding they quit holding meetings to organize tenants, a clear violation of the DC Tenants Right to Organize Act of 2006.

As a result of these intimidation tactics by the landlord, Norwood Tenant's Association board members, David Fabian and Randy Green, have filed the first lawsuit under the 2006 Tenant Right to Organize Act. The Norwood tenants hope to prove once and for all that tenants have an absolute right to organize and meet in their buildings.

We look forward to updating you about the progress of our lawsuits, and we encourage you to 'stay tuned' to the Norwood!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Norwood Completes Marathon 26-Hour Tenant Meeting

After our record 26 hour marathon tenant association meeting from July 31st to August 1, 2007, going without a working elevator for 31 days, and catching up on much-needed sleep, we are glad to report that our marathon tenant association meeting was a success.

After starting the at 4pm last Sunday, we set up outside the building to spread the message of tenant rights and unsafe and unsanitary conditions that we are still living with in the Norwood. We posted signs, handed out fliers about tenants' rights to organize, and allowed people to sign our petition to Mayor Fenty in support of the 2006 Tenants Right to Organize Act.

At 3:00 am Monday, we even witnessed live bedbugs marching down the first floor hallway. By 6:30 pm on Monday, we closed out a fantastic meeting, helping to raise awareness about affordable housing, tenants' rights, and conditions at the Norwood.

Neighbors, community groups such as TENAC and LEDC, and Norwood residents expressed their support by sending emails, calling, bringing food, water, signs, money donations, and most importantly moral support. Various media outlets stopped by, including WJLA 7, Univision, and WPFW radio.

We still need your support to finally bring the Norwood into full compliance with the DC housing code. Please contact us if you would like to help or make a donation at the top of this page.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Petition to Support the DC "Right of Tenants to Organize" Law

Show your support for the tenants at the Norwood in the face of lanlord intimidation tactics. There is already a law protecting tenants rights in the District, we are demanding that it be enforced. Leave a comment and we will deliver it to Mayor Fenty with the petition.

July 29, 2007
Dear Mayor Fenty:

The “Right of Tenants to Organize” law became effective on September 19, 2006. This law gives tenants the right to organize, meet in common lobby areas, and post information regarding tenant rights and general tenant association activities.

I support this law, and oppose the illegal and abusive actions of landlords to intimidate, harass, evict, and prevent tenants from organizing. Please enforce the law and support the Norwood tenants by defending their right to organize.
------------------------
29 de julio de 2007
Estimado Alcalde Fenty:

La ley “Derechos de los inquilinos para organizarse” entro en vigencia el 19 de septiembre de 2006. Esta ley de otorga el derecho as los inquilinos para que se organicen, reunirse en el edificio y compartir información sobre los derechos de inquilinos y asuntos de la asociación de inquilinos.

Yo apoyo esta ley
, y me opongo a la intimidación y acciones ilegales abusivas departe de los dueños contra los inquilinos incluyendo, molestar, y desalojar a los inquilinos porque se están organizando. Por favor haga que se cumpla con la ley y apoye a los inquilinos del edificio Norwood prestando su apoyo defendiendo sus derechos para organizarse.

Tenants Hold Marathon 24-Hour Meeting to Exercise Their Rights

For Immediate Release: July 29, 2007

Norwood Owners Again Threaten Tenants With Eviction

Norwood tenant association organizers are again being threatened with eviction, after a lemonade sit-in protesting a month-long broken elevator. In response, the association is holding a twenty-four hour marathon meeting in the building lobby from Sunday, July 29 at 4p.m. until Monday July 30 at 4p.m., to educate tenants of their rights to organize without fear of intimidation or eviction threats from property owners.

The City's 2006 Tenants Right to Organize Act, sponsored by Councilmember Jim Graham, gives tenants the right to organize for their common welfare, to meet in building common areas, and to distribute literature. Building owners are subject to a $10,000 civil fine for each instance of interference with their rights to organize.

Despite this, on July 24, selected Norwood tenants received thirty-day eviction notices from owner's attorney Kevin Kane, demanding that tenants stop "loitering" and refrain from using the lobby for any organizing purposes.

"We are holding this twenty-four hour marathon meeting to demonstrate District tenants’ rights, and to tell the owners these rights cannot be violated,” notes board member Randy Green. Affordable rental housing continues to be a dwindling commodity in D.C. as landlords are on a condominium conversion binge, threatening both safe and habitable housing while ignoring their legal obligations to maintain buildings. The Norwood is a prime example. After The Tenacity Group proposed condo conversion in January 2007, tenants rejected the offer, and building conditions have markedly deteriorated.

As is their legal right, Norwood tenants want a safe and decent place to live, such as a working elevator and an end to grave vermin infestation problems. The association says NO to intimidation, YES to lemonade in the lobby, and YES to tenant organization.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

After lemonade: Norwood Owners Try to Evict Tenants

On Tuesday, July 24th, two Norwood Tenants Association board members were served with a quit or vacate letter from the owner's attorney, Kevin Kane..

RELATED: See
Norwood Tenants Say "We're Not Leaving"

The letter states that tenants were in violation of their lease and demands that tenants stop "loitering in common areas of the building including the lobby" and "utilizing [the lobby] for anything other than entering and exiting the building." The letter went on to say that the tenants in question were "harassing other tenants in the building," a claim that is patently false and baseless. According to the letter, tenants will be evicted after 30 days if they do not "cure the violations by...refraining from loitering ... not setting-up any table, display or other object in the lobby of the Building."

As a duly registered tenants association protected by the DC Right of Tenants to Organize Amendment Act of 2006 (DC ST § 42-3505.06), tenants have the right to organize and join, meet, or assist for the purpose of mutual aid and protection. The law states that no owner or agent shall interfere with the right of a tenant to conduct the activities related to the establishment or operation of a tenant organization including distributing literature in common areas or such as the lobby, and holding meetings in common areas. Such violations are subject to a $10,000 fine.

By threatening tenant association board members with eviction, the building owner is engaging in intimidation and harassment tactics to discourage tenants from organizing. Our goal as a tenants association is to ensure a safe and decent place to live. This includes a working elevator and no more building-wide bed bug, roach and mice infestations. We have no intention to give in to such intimidation will continue to serve lemonade and organize. Our extensive tenant petition (lawsuit) details many other landlord intimidation tactics and deplorable conditions that are allowed to fester in the building. This notice to quit or vacate follows a pattern of continual landlord and management harassment of tenants, and we again demand that it cease.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please respond to this post.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Norwood Tenants Say "We're Not Leaving"

Hold Lemonade Sit-In, to Protest Broken Elevator in Sweltering Heat
For Immediate Release: July 11, 2007

Norwood Tenants Say "We're Not Leaving"; Hold Lemonade Sit-In, to Protest Broken Elevator in Sweltering Heat

At the Norwood Apartments in Northwest DC , the elevator has been out of service for one month, the hottest of the year. Many tenants have been without air conditioning for even longer. Making the best out of a difficult situation, starting today July 11, 2007, the Norwood Tenants Association will hold a lemonade-sit-in at the building lobby to greet fatigued residents from 3pm to 7pm, every day until the elevator is fixed. Residents will be greeted with a cold refreshment before they venture up the stairs in the nearly 100 degree heat.

Tenants have been forced to lug strollers, bikes, groceries and laundry up seven stories of stairs since June 14, 2007, when a resident was trapped in the elevator. Shortly after, the DCRA cited the building owner for numerous elevator safety violations. Despite tenant complaints and mounting fines, management has moved at a snails pace in making repairs.

The Norwood Apartments is an 84 unit rent-controlled building in the Logan Circle area, which was the subject of a condo-conversion pitch in January 2007. The tenants refused to discuss condo conversion until building maintenance problems were fixed.

In addition to the elevator woes, many tenants are battling bedbugs, mice, mold, no heat or air conditioning, persistent gas leaks, and security problems, with little or no help from management. We tenants are expressing our absolute right to stay in our homes, and calling on the landlord to make repairs.

The reductions in service at the Norwood can be seen as de facto eviction tactics aimed at longstanding residents. "We are holding this lemonade-sit-in to show the landlord that we won't be bullied into leaving," said Norwood Tenant Association board member, David Fabian. Affordable rental housing is a dwindling commodity in DC, and for some landlords, the urge to convert to condos blinds them from their duty to provide safe and habitable housing. The tenants at the Norwood Apartments stand in solidarity in saying 'We're Not Leaving!' (¡No nos vamos!)

TENAC strongly supports the Norwood and their tenants’ association, in their long and valiant struggle, and salutes their excellent leadership.

D.C. TENANTS’ ADVOCACY COALITION
REPRESENTING ALL D.C. TENANTS
P.O. BOX 7237 WASHINGTON, DC 20044 (202) 628-3688
WEBSITE: www.tenac.org E-MAIL: tenacdc (at) yahoo.com

http://dc.indymedia.org/newswire/display/139857/index.php