LCE helps ordinary people with real-life problems. Hearing our neighbors' stories makes real the day-to-day struggles — and victories — of poor, vulnerable D.C. seniors seeking dignity and justice in their twilight years.
Preventing Homelessness: Alternatives to Landlord/Tenant
We recently came to the aid of Mrs. Jones, a 66-year-old African American woman living in a small apartment in D.C.’s Trinidad neighborhood with her daughter, granddaughter and two great-grandchildren, all of whom were facing eviction for "nonpayment of rent." When she reached out to us for help, Mrs. Jones had already received a formal summons from the court for a suit filed against her by her landlord, so we needed to respond swiftly before the case was decided against her. Mrs. Jones explained to us that her landlord continually refused to make necessary repairs in her apartment, which was the reason why she had withheld her rent. We represented her before the court, filing a countersuit to address repair issues, and scheduling mediation with the landlord.
An LCE paralegal visited Mrs. Jones' home to determine the nature and extent of the needed repairs, documenting several housing code violations, including mold, structural problems (such as sinking floors), and large cracks in the walls and ceilings. The home had also been without heat until Mrs. Jones' brother came over to fix problems in the electrical wiring. We recruited pro bono assistance from Venable LLP to help with this case, and their attorney coordinated a formal home inspection, attended the mediation, and helped argue our counterclaim to the landlord's suit, citing housing code violations dating back several years.
At trial, the judge ruled that Mrs. Jones' rent would be rebated by 50 percent for October 2005 through January 2008 and reduced further from January 2008 until the repairs were made. What began as a landlord's eviction suit for nonpayment of $4,000 in rent ended a year later with a legal victory awarding our client $14,000. Mrs. Jones felt truly vindicated; as she told us after the trial: "You can never go wrong telling the truth."
Project HELP — The D.C. Homebound Elders Project
A senior ("Mr. Garcia") suffering from partial paralysis and confined to a wheelchair had asked the manager of his low‐income apartment building if he could be moved to a handicapped-accessible unit. Not only was this request denied, but the building manager even tried to charge Mr. Garcia for scratches on the apartment wall, all of which were the result of him trying to maneuver his large, powered wheelchair through the small doorframes in his apartment. In addition, his home was also infested with bedbugs and rodents, which the building management was doing nothing to rectify. After significant advocacy by LCE's Project HELP staff attorney, including discussions with the corporate office that owned the apartment building, Mr. Garcia was finally moved into a clean, handicapped‐accessible apartment in the same building. He was ecstatic about showing off his new apartment to our staff member. Sadly, Mr. Garcia passed away after living in this new apartment for only a month or so. Following his death, some of his closest friends conveyed their thanks to LCE for treating Mr. Garcia with respect, providing him with dignity, and making him feel valued and important in the final days of his life.