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MASSZONIA v. WASHINGTON

January 26, 1971

Anna MASSZONIA, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, and Rose Howard, Hilda Marie Jackson, Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Intervenous,
v.
Walter E. WASHINGTON, Individually and as Commissioner of the District of Columbia, and William H. Brown, Individually and as Water Registrar of the District of Columbia, and Lyman C. Delle, Individually and as President of ABC Realty Co., Inc., and ABC Realty Company, Inc., Defendants


Robinson, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBINSON

ROBINSON, District Judge.

 This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiffs' Supplemental Complaint, Motion for Preliminary Injunction and the Appointment of a Receiver Ancillary Thereto, Plaintiffs' memorandum of points and authorities in support thereof, and the Defendant, Walter E. Washington's opposition thereto. The Court heard argument by counsel for Plaintiffs and Defendant Washington on Auguest 21, 1970, and has considered the post-hearing memoranda submitted by Plaintiffs and Defendant Washington, as well as all affidavits in support thereof. On November 5, 1970, the Court heard additional argument by counsel for the Plaintiffs and for Defendant Washington as well as the Plaintiffs' oral Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal. On January 7, 1971, the Court heard Plaintiff-Intervenors' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. Upon consideration of all of the above, as to the three motions pending: Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction on their Supplemental Complaint; Plaintiffs' Motion for an Injunction Pending Appeal; and Plaintiff-Intervenors' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction; the Court makes the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law.

 FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. The named plaintiff, Anna Masszonia, a tenant in the apartment complex at Fourteenth and Girard Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C., who filed this action on her own behalf and on behalf of all other tenants similarly situated, is the certified class representative of all tenants in that complex. Approximately sixty-six (66) units were occupied at the outset of this litigation.

 2. Anna Masszonia, a disabled, low income, welfare recipient, representing a class that is best described as generally low income with at least twenty-six (26) public assistance recipients, has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

 3. The Defendant Walter E. Washington, Commissioner of the District of Columbia, has actively participated in this case through the Corporation Counsel, as has the Water Registrar of the District of Columbia.

 4. The ABC Realty Co., Inc., a corporation authorized to do business in the District of Columbia whose president and registered agent is Lyman C. Delle, is and has been the owner of the apartment complex at Fourteenth and Girard Streets, N.W., since 1961.

 5. The ABC Realty Co., Inc., has been served with all pleadings but has not answered the complaint or otherwise entered its appearance. Attempts to locate its officers have failed.

 6. Personal service has not been effected on Lyman C. Delle and the District of Columbia has not received a response to its notice of deficiencies, dated August 21, 1970, served at Lyman C. Delle's place of business.

 7. The apartment complex consists of three, adjoining, six-story and basement buildings at 1401 Girard Street, N.W., 1405 Girard Street, N.W., and 2804 Fourteenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. The exact number of units in this complex cannot be ascertained because of the poor conditions in the complex and the self-help efforts, taken by the tenants at the instruction of this Court, in moving from 2804 Fourteenth Street, N.W., to 1401-1405 Girard Street, N.W., pendente lite. It is certain, however, that there are at least one hundred thirty-eight (138) units in the entire complex, with the number of units in the 2804 Fourteenth Street, N.W., building approximately equal to twice the number in either 1401 or 1405 Girard Street, N.W.

 There are enough vacant units in 1401 and 1405 Girard Street, N.W., to accommodate the tenants now residing in 2804 Fourteenth Street, N.W.

 8. From 1961 until October, 1969, ABC Realty Company has operated the apartment complex without applying for a Certificate of Occupancy.

 9. From 1961 until the license year 1968, ABC Realty Company has operated the apartment complex with a valid apartment house license issued by the then Department of Licenses and Inspections for the District of Columbia.

 10. Because of unabated housing regulations violations, ABC Realty Company's application for a renewal housing business license on all three addresses for the license year 1968 was pending from July, 1968 until February 3, 1970. On that date, the License Branch of the Department of Economic Development denied that application, as well as applications for the license years ending October 31, 1969 and October 31, 1970. The denials were sustained on March 12, 1970 and May 20, 1970 by the District of Columbia Board of Appeals and Review on the grounds that there was substantial evidence of continuing violations of the housing regulations extant on the complex.

 11. On February 26, 1970, a tenant in the apartment complex commenced a lawsuit in the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions against ABC Realty Company, Lyman C. Delle, and one Phillip Minke, on behalf of past and present tenants, seeking to recover rents collected from them since 1961. Mitchell v. ABC Realty Co., Civil Action Number GS 3522-70.

 12. At or about this time, some of the tenants began withholding their rent while some continued paying rent until their June 1970 rent payment was returned to them. At this time, no rent is being paid by any of the tenants.

 13. At or about the time of the commencement of the General Sessions lawsuit and the first cessation of some rent payments, the Defendant ABC Realty Company ceased to pay water, gas and electricity bills for the complex as they came due. This resulted in the termination of the water services for 2804 Fourteenth Street, N.W., on May 19, 1970 and again on May 21 and 22, 1970, as well as the threatened termination of the gas and electricity on June 23 and 24, 1970.

 14. The basic utilities, including water, gas, electricity, heat and hot water, had been provided by the ABC Realty Company as part of the leasehold and were not under the individual control of, or individually assessed to, the tenants.

 15. A substantial number of housing regulation violations have been noted from 1966 to the present, specifically:

 
1401 Girard Street, N.W., July 12, 1966, 47 violations noted, no notation of abatement; December 8, 1967, 22 violations, no notation of abatement; June 12, 1969, 89 violations noted, 35 remaining at the abatement inspection; May 25, 1970, 262 violations ...

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