Facing homelessness, owners and tenants of the financially failing Lynnhill Condominiums on Good Hope Road are looking to a federal bankruptcy judge to order utilities turned back on.
PEPCO and Washington Gas service was turned off to the 200-unit complex Tuesday, precipitating a crisis for the nearly 80 families still occupying the buildings. Prince George’s County officials were forced to post condemnation notices because the buildings are now not livable or safe without utilities.
Wednesday, as tearful residents working with Prince George's County Emergency Management officials to find other places to live, a lawyer for the bankrupt condominium association was headed to federal court in Greenbelt, Maryland, to file for an injunction against the utilities to force them to restore service, according to board members gathered at the buildings trying to manage the crisis. A judge has not made any decision yet, members said.
Condo association manager James Bryce and board member Walter Cook explained that the financially failing association has been under the control of a court-appointed trustee for several months, under the terms of the association's bankruptcy.
The association owes more than $1 million in past due utility payments.
There has not been enough income for the Trustee to pay both operating costs and satisfy the unpaid debt, the members said.
Meanwhile, Prince George's County Police brought in generators and outdoor security lighting Wednesday night. Officers will be assigned to patrol the complex to prevent looting from the darkened buildings.
As of Wednesday evening, residents still had access to the buildings and some planned to stay without light or heat.
Prince George's County officials said they would likely secure the buildings Thursday to prohibit residents from continuing to live there. Officials were working on a plan to allow monitored access during daytime hours so tenants and owners can move personal items out.
The Salvation Army and Red Cross were among the organizations on scene to assist people with urgent needs.
At least two moving companies were on hand to volunteer their services including MessMoversDMV and Judah Trucking and Transportation. Volunteers from at least two local churches were also on hand to provide help in moving.
At least 77 families are affected, according to Renee Pope, Assistant Director of Community Services for Prince George's County.
Pope organized a crisis center in the foyer of one building which included social workers and leasing agents from area rental properties who had vacancies to fill. Qualifying residents were being offered assistance with security deposits and other costs.
Children who are displaced will be allowed to stay in their current schools and be provided transportation to those schools, Pope said.