United States District Court, D. Columbia
August 17, 2005.
KEVIN B. FITZGERALD, et al., Plaintiffs,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA HOUSING FINANCE AGENCY, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: GLADYS KESSLER, District Judge
Plaintiffs are tenants and a tenant association in a housing
project financed by the District of Columbia Housing Finance
Agency ("HFA").*fn1 Defendant is HFA.*fn2 Plaintiffs
bring suit challenging HFA's creation of HFA-financed housing
projects "in the absence of regulations required under [District
of Columbia] law to establish procedures for evictions and
protections from retaliatory action," claiming that these actions
violate their Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights and
District of Columbia law under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Am. Compl. ¶ 71.
This matter is before the Court on HFA's Motion to Dismiss.
Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, oral
argument on August 15, 2005, and the entire record herein, and for the
reasons stated below, HFA's Motion to Dismiss is granted.
In 1979, HFA was established as "a corporate instrumentality of
the District [of Columbia] . . . to generate funds from private
and public sources to increase the supply and lower the cost of
funds available for residential mortgages and construction loans
and thereby help alleviate the shortage of adequate housing."
D.C. Code § 42.2701.01(b). HFA "does not currently own any of the
projects, but merely issues municipal bonds to enable the
low-interest rate financing of multi-family rental housing."
Def.'s Mot. at 1-2.
Plaintiffs claim that "[w]hen they began their residencies in
two buildings in Southwest Washington, D.C., the buildings were
not HFA-assisted, and they enjoyed the benefits of D.C.'s
extensive rental housing laws. When their homes became an
HFA-assisted housing project, however, they lost the protection
of those laws."*fn4 Pl.s' Opp'n at 1 (citing D.C. Code § 42-2703.08(a)).*fn5
According to Plaintiffs, "[b]y law, they remained entitled to
`procedures for eviction and protection from retaliatory action,'
D.C. Code § 422-703.08(b);*fn6 but in reality, they were
deprived of those procedures because HFA had failed to engage in
mandatory rulemaking." Pl.s' Opp'n at 1. Plaintiffs maintain that
"because of HFA's misconduct, tenants in HFA-funded housing do
not benefit from established procedures for eviction and
protections from retaliatory actions in the way that all other DC
tenants do, to which they are lawfully entitled."*fn7 Am.
Compl. ¶ 27. Plaintiffs also allege that they "have complained to HFA that
they are suffering from unlawful retaliatory action, but [HFA]
has taken no action to adjudicate these complaints or enforce
[their] rights." Id. ¶ 30. According to Plaintiffs, "[t]he
conditions [they] were facing and describing to HFA were quite
severe. They complained of lack of heating facilities during the
winter, boarded up windows and deactivated ventilation and air
conditioning systems during the summer, vermin infestations,
mold, demolition activities causing severe dust and noise, and
doors that could not be locked." Id. ¶ 31. Plaintiffs maintain
that "Defendant HFA, by letter dated July 3, 2003, and signed by
Executive Director Milton Bailey, confirmed that it `has received
numerous calls and correspondence' complaining of `management
activities, rent increases, and the renovation.'" Id. ¶ 46.
Plaintiffs claim that "[t]he July 3 letter from HFA confirmed
that HFA had no procedure in place for dealing with tenant
complaints. The July 3 letter from HFA directs tenants to filter their complaints through their tenant
associations. It suggests that such a process is necessary
because HFA does not even have procedures in place sufficient to
track tenant complaints as they come in to the Agency." Id. ¶¶
Plaintiffs allege that on July 22, 2003, HFA issued a report
entitled "Capital Park Plaza and Twin Towers Resident Tour."
Id. ¶ 52. According to Plaintiffs, "[t]his July 22 report
includes hundreds of pages of correspondence from tenants
complaining of conditions that appear to violate the housing
code, as well as what appear to be dozens of formal complaints
using the [Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs] Tenant
Petition/Complaint form." Id. ¶ 53. Based on the findings of
this report, HFA asked the landlords to develop a "plan" to
remedy the problems it identified. See id. ¶¶ 54, 55.
Plaintiffs allege that when HFA found the landlords' plan
inadequate, it "merely demanded another `plan.'" Id. ¶ 56.
By letter dated September 30, 2003, HFA acknowledged that there
were serious issues concerning "health, safety, security, and
maintenance issues," but stated that it would accept the
landlords' plan to resolve these issues. Id. ¶ 58. Plaintiffs
contend that "HFA offered no redress or further process relating
to past violations of tenant rights." Id. ¶ 59.
Plaintiffs maintain that they have complained to HFA that (1)
"their landlord is failing to conduct maintenance and correct dangerous conditions that are in violation of the housing code,"
id. ¶ 63; and (2) "despite their written pleas to the landlord
to bring their housing into compliance with the housing code,"
the landlord continues to increase rents, to reduce services to
tenants, and to seek to evict tenants. Id. ¶¶ 64, 65, 66.
According to Plaintiffs, "[a]t no point did HFA determine that
the tenant's complaints were unfounded; yet it never awarded them
any relief." Id. ¶ 67.
Plaintiffs allege that "[b]eyond its consistent
non-responsiveness, it appears that HFA now fails even to read
complaints from tenants." Id. ¶ 62.
On December 20, 2004, Plaintiffs filed the instant action
alleging a violation of their Fifth Amendment procedural due
process rights and District of Columbia law under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. On February 7, 2005, they filed an Amended Complaint which
included the same allegations as their Original Complaint. In
Count I, Plaintiffs claim that "[a] legal cause of action
constitutes a species of property protected by the Due Process
Clause[.]" Id. ¶ 70. According to Plaintiffs, "[b]y creating
assisted housing projects in the absence of regulations required
under DC law to establish procedures for evictions and
protections from retaliatory action, HFA, under color of law,
deprived Plaintiffs, and members of the associational Plaintiff,
of their property rights." Id. ¶ 71. Plaintiffs claim that
"[s]uch deprivation of [their] property by Defendant HFA was unlawful and in violation of
[their] Constitutional rights." Id. ¶ 72.
In Count II, Plaintiffs contend that "DC law requires HFA to
oversee procedures for eviction and protections from retaliatory
actions for tenants in HFA-assisted housing, including Plaintiffs
and members of Plaintiff NCPPTA." Id. ¶ 74. Plaintiffs claim
that they "complained to HFA of violations of their rights in
HFA-assisted housing." Id. ¶ 75. According to Plaintiffs,
"[u]nder color of law, HFA asserted control over [their] housing,
but denied [them], and members of Plaintiff NCPPTA, any
adjudicatory procedure or meaningful opportunity to be heard upon
their claimed rights." Id. ¶ 76. Plaintiffs claim that "[s]uch
deprivation of any meaningful opportunity to be heard upon their
claimed rights was unlawful and in violation of [their]
Constitutional rights." Id. ¶ 77.
In Count III, Plaintiffs allege that "DC law entitles tenants
in HFA-assisted housing, including Plaintiffs and members of
Plaintiff NCPPTA, to a set of regulations establishing procedures
for eviction and protections from retaliatory actions." Id. ¶
79. According to Plaintiffs, "[u]nder color of law, HFA deprived
[them] of their statutory rights by failing to undertake the
action required by law." Id. ¶ 80. Plaintiffs claim that
"[s]uch total denial of any legally established procedures was
unlawful and in violation of [their] Constitutional rights."
Id. ¶ 81. Plaintiffs seek: (1) compensatory damages; (2) the entry of a
declaratory order that HFA has violated their constitutional
rights; (3) the entry of a permanent injunction requiring HFA "to
adopt and follow rules that are approved by this Court that
adequately establish procedures for eviction and protections for
retaliatory actions for tenants in HFA-assisted housing" and
prohibiting HFA from "converting any housing into assisted
housing until HFA establishes [such] rules," id. ¶¶ 83(b), (c);
and (4) reasonable attorney's fees and costs.
On February 28, 2005, HFA filed the instant Motion to Dismiss.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A motion to dismiss should only be granted "when it appears
beyond doubt that, under any reasonable reading of the complaint,
the plaintiff will be unable to prove any set of facts that would
justify relief." Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73
(1984). Because such motions "summarily extinguish litigation at
the threshold and foreclose the opportunity for discovery and
factual presentation, [they] should be treated with the greatest
of care." Haynesworth v. Miller, 820 F.2d 1245, 1254 (D.C. Cir.
Accordingly, "[t]he [Amended] complaint is construed liberally
in [Plaintiffs'] favor, and the Court should grant [Plaintiffs]
the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged." New v. Rumsfeld, 350 F.Supp.2d 80, 88 (D.D.C. 2004) (citing Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276; accord Andrx
Pharmaceuticals, 256 F.3d at 805).
HFA seeks dismissal of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on the ground that
Plaintiffs lack standing.*fn8 Specifically, it claims that
Plaintiffs "have no cognizable injury, they have failed to show
how the Court may reasonably redress their alleged injury.
Furthermore, they cannot demonstrate that the HFA's inaction
singled out these plaintiffs, caused them injury or precluded
their right to redress." Def.'s Mot. at 12.
"Article III standing requires [P]laintiffs to establish, as an
`irreducible constitutional minimum,' that they face `injury in
fact' caused by the challenged conduct and redressable through
relief sought from the court." Shays v. Fed. Election Comm'n,
04cv5352 (D.C. Cir.), July 15, 2005, Mem. Op. at 8 (citing Lujan
v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)).*fn9
See Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, 396 F.3d 1235, 1240 (D.C. Cir. 2005)
The first element, "injury in fact," requires "an invasion of a
concrete and particularized legally protected interest." Shays,
Mem. Op. at 9 (internal quotation omitted). The second element,
"causation," demands "a causal connection between the injury and
the conduct complained of the injury has to be fairly traceable
to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result of
the independent action of some third party not before the court."
Id. at 9 (internal quotation omitted). The third element,
"redressability," requires that it be "likely, as opposed to
merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a
favorable decision." Id. at 9 (internal quotation omitted).
See Florida Audubon Soc'y v. Bentsen, 94 F.3d 658, 663-64
(D.C. Cir. 1996) ("Redressability examines whether the relief
sought . . . will likely alleviate the particularized injury
alleged by the plaintiff."); Vermont Agency of Natural Res. v.
United States ex rel. Stevens, 529 U.S. 765, 771 (2000)
(requiring a "substantial likelihood" that the relief will remedy
"For purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss for want of
standing, both the trial and reviewing court must accept as true all material allegations of the complaint, and must construe the
complaint in favor of the complaining party." Warth v. Seldin,
422 U.S. 490, 501 (1975). See Haase v. Sessions,
835 F.2d 902, 906 (D.C. Cir. 1987), Alliance For Democracy v. Fed.
Election Comm'n, 362 F.Supp.2d 138, 142 (D.D.C. 2005).
In the instant case, Plaintiffs' alleged injury results from
the severe conditions in which they live. See Am. Compl. ¶ 31.
Accepting as true Plaintiffs' allegations, as the Court must,
Plaintiffs have clearly sustained an "injury-in-fact," i.e., one
that is "both `concrete and particularized' and `actual or
imminent.'" Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, 396 F.3d at 1240 (quoting
Microwave Acquisition Corp. v. FCC, 145 F.3d 1410, 1412 (D.C.
Cir. 1998) (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560)). Plaintiffs lack
standing, however, because they have failed to demonstrate either
how this injury is "fairly traceable" to HFA's challenged action
or how a favorable judicial decision on the merits of their claim
will redress this injury.
Plaintiffs in this case challenge HFA's alleged failure to
"establish, by rulemaking, procedures for evictions and
protections from retaliatory action for tenants. . . ." D.C. Code
§ 422-703.08(b). See Pl.s' Opp'n at 3. Plaintiffs, however,
have not demonstrated that their injury uninhabitable premises
with House Code violations was caused by HFA's alleged failure
or can be redressed by the relief they request. To put it another
way, even if the Court was to grant Plaintiffs' request and order HFA to
adopt and follow adequate procedures, there is no guarantee that
they would achieve their goal, namely living conditions that are
habitable and in compliance with the D.C. Housing Code. The most
that Plaintiffs can achieve in this lawsuit is the creation of
administrative procedures, rather than the substantive outcome
they desire. Absent such a showing, Plaintiffs lack standing to
challenge HFA's alleged failure to adopt and follow such rules,
and the Court has no jurisdiction to consider their claims.
For the foregoing reasons, HFA's Motion to Dismiss is
An Order will issue with this Memorandum Opinion.
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