Latino Tenants Sue Bedford and Victoria Station, owned by a Publicly-Traded Slumlord, on Long Suffered Abuses in Langley Park
19 JULY 2021, HYATTSVILLE, MD – Today, Latino renters in Bedford Station and Victoria Station, organized through immigrant advocacy organization CASA for years, filed a complaint against their landlord’s flagrant neglect, which creates hazardous, unsanitary conditions in apartment complexes riddled with vermin, mold, broken appliances, and crumbling infrastructure. Through counsel, Joseph Donahue of The Donahue Law Firm, LLC, and Jonathan Nace of Nidel & Nace, P.L.L.C., the tenants, the vast majority of whom are Latino or other minorities, argue that the owner’s disregard of federal law and its contractual obligations have caused significant damage to the Langley Park community.
“For more than a decade, we have been trying to speak to the owners and managers of this property to work together to improve the property conditions, and our pleas have continued to fall on deaf ears. We do not want slumlords in Langley Park,” said Gustavo Torres, CASA Executive Director. “We do not want an out of state property owner who intentionally divests from our community because of our country of origin or the language we speak. We do not want this Real Estate Investment Trust, Arbor Management Acquisition Company, to think that they can enrich their investors on the backs of the women and children who live in the apartments they own. We demand dignity.”
The infrastructure at Bedford and Victoria Station is crumbling, leading to multiple incidents in the last few months alone of ceilings collapsing. Cockroaches, bedbugs, rats and mice infest the walls and apartments. The appliances often fail, including the refrigerators, stoves that leak gas, non-functioning heating and air conditioning units and lighting and electricity outlets. The walls and ceilings are covered in mold and too often trash litters the property. Every year the rent goes up, but the maintenance and infrastructure improvements continue to be non-existent. Records show that since 2014, Bedford and Victoria Station have had far more code violations than neighboring properties.
“This case is very simple,” said Joseph Donahue of The Donahue Law Firm, LLC. “Arbor Realty Trust is one of the largest multifamily housing landlords in the United States. However, in becoming a landlord on that scale, it has created a conflict of interest for itself. It has duties to its shareholders and it has duties to its tenants. As a publicly traded company, Arbor needs to ensure profits for their shareholders. But above all, they need to provide safe homes for their tenants. Arbor has violated their duties to their tenants – our clients – because in the end, the profits for the shareholders were more important. That is what this case is all about.”
Bedford and Victoria Station consist of 589 one- or two-bedroom apartments whose occupants are 0.0% White, 14.8% African American, and 85.2% Hispanic/Latino. Bedford and Victoria Station are two apartment complexes owned and managed as one community by the Defendants: The Arbor Realty Trust, Inc., a real estate investment trust incorporated in Maryland, as well as Arbor Realty Limited Partnership, Arbor Management Acquisition Company, LLC, Arbor Realty SR, Inc., Bedford United, LLC, Victoria United, LLC, Hyattsville United, LLC, Realty Management Services, LLC.
Plaintiff Maria Lara is a single mom who together with her daughter pays $1,613 in monthly rent. Their apartment is contaminated with mold and infested with insects. In addition, its condition is dangerous, with hazardous electrical defects as well as defective HVAC, stove, flooring, bathroom, refrigerator, and oven.
“I am suing today because I have lived in my apartment for more than 10 years, and my rent keeps increasing – but they never fix anything that’s broken,” said Maria Lara, CASA Member and Plaintiff. “With so many bathroom leaks and mold, mice, and rats, I am worried about my daughter’s health and wonder if she’ll catch an infection one day. The question I ask the landlord is: would they live in these terrible conditions? Do they think they can get away with this because we’re poor, because we’re immigrants, or because we don’t speak English?”
“I stand in solidarity with the tenants of Bedford/Victoria Station,” said Calvin Hawkins, At-Large Member, Chair of Prince George’s County Council. “During a time when working families are still climbing their way out of the implications of the pandemic, the home is a place that provides a safe haven. Healthy and safe standards of living should be maintained no matter one’s residential or immigration status.”
“Mold, broken appliances and mice are not acceptable living conditions for anyone and certainly not anyone living in Prince George’s County,” said Deni Taveras, D-2, Vice Chair of Prince George’s County Council. “The residents of Bedford and Victoria Station Apartments are living under inhabitable conditions due to the degree of neglect and disinvestment. We must work together to make Prince George’s County a healthy and happy place to live. I stand with CASA and the families of Bedford and Victoria Station in their crusade for quality and affordable housing justice for all.”
“Doing business the way Bedford/Victoria Station owners have is unacceptable in Prince George’s County. My residents deserve better conditions and treatment,” said Delegate Wanika Fisher, D-47B, Assistant Majority Leader.
With over 115,000 members across the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, CASA is the largest member-based Latino and immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region. Visit us at www.wearecasa.org and follow us on Twitter at @CASAforall.