Silver Spring Apartment Tenants File Lawsuit Over Untreated Mold
Lawsuit alleges years-long battle with management that refused to remediate ‘toxic mold’
The Enclave apartments.
Photo via The Enclave
Tenants of The Enclave, a Silver Spring apartment complex cited for more than 2,500 housing code violations last year, are suing the property’s owners and managers.
Gregory Bennett and Ignacia Joyner on behalf of “others similarly situated,” filed the class-action lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court earlier this year and the first hearing in the civil case is scheduled next month.
The lawsuit, alleging current and former management companies and owners of The Enclave were negligent in failing to fix persistent mold issues for more than three years, is seeking an undetermined amount in damages, and an injunction requiring mold inspection and remediation of all units and common areas.
The number of additional plaintiffs – tenants or former tenants who rented units in the past three years — that could be included in the lawsuit was not listed.
In February, county inspectors recorded more than 2,500 code violations in 829 units at the high-rise apartment complex, near Route 29 and New Hampshire Avenue in the White Oak area, and found an average of 3.1 violations per unit.
The inspection piggybacked on a September inspection of roughly 300 apartments that uncovered 367 violations. The September inspection was spurred by an uptick in complaints to the county from Enclave residents — 113 complaints were received last year compared to 41 in the previous four years.
Between the two inspections, which included about 97 percent of units, 16 percent of violations found were considered health and safety issues, including mold, mice and roach infestations, according to inspection reports.
“The named plaintiffs and the other tenants who have retained us simply what a safe and habitable living environment,” attorney Jonathan Nace, who is representing the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
“They want the owners and property managers to comply with their contractual and legal obligations and correct this dangerous situation. The sheer number of common and typical complaints of mold and unhygienic conditions reveal a complete failure by the Defendants to do so. This suit allows all of the tenants to come together and seek the common resolution they deserve: a clean, safe, habitable apartment,” the statement said.
Attorneys for The Donaldson Group, the property’s management company, and The Enclave’s owner, New York-based Enclave Holdings, LLC, declined comment.
Lawyers for both sides intend to argue whether Enclave owners and management violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act by leasing properties “known to have hazardous conditions,” whether the apartments must be inspected, whether Enclave staff breached “the implied warranty of habitability,” and whether plaintiffs are entitled to damages, according to court documents.
An initial scheduling hearing is slated for early June.
The plaintiffs Bennett and Joyner hired industrial hygienists to conduct mold inspections in their apartments, according to the lawsuit, and the inspections revealed both units were “uninhabitable, unsafe and unhygienic.” The inspectors “found a systemic problem” in each of The Enclave’s three towers and “reasonably believes that every unit within the Enclave needs a qualified mold inspection.”
Joyner was forced to leave her apartment in November due to “dangerous levels of toxic mold” that management “refused to inspect or remediate,” according to the lawsuit.
“Defendants have refused to provide mold inspection and remediation for each unit that has requested it, or in the common areas,” the lawsuit alleges. “Instead, Defendants have made attempts to insulate themselves from liability … by allowing tenants to ‘break their lease’ without compensating them for moving costs, past damages … or providing a mold inspection to determine the need to move out.”
Plaintiffs allege The Enclave owners and management don’t remediate issues after tenants moved out of apartment units and have “repeatedly ignored” tenants’ pleas for help.
The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial on behalf of a large, unknown number of tenants who have rented units from the Enclave between 2016 and 2019.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org