The Public Service Commission of Maryland has ordered the utilities back on at Lynnhill Condominiums in Temple Hills.
As of 9:30 p.m. Friday night, the lights are back on at the complex.
State regulations require utility companies to notify customers at least 14 days before terminating service. The notices must be placed in highly visible public areas, like mailboxes, entrances, and exits.
The Maryland Attorney General received affidavits from residents who claimed a notice was posted on Monday, October 24, that utilities would be turned off as early as the next day.
The Attorney General said based on the affidavits, Pepco or WGL, or possibly both, violated the regulations.
The commission ordered the utilities to give a written response explaining whether they gave a proper 14-day notice. They must also explain why they shouldn’t be fined or face a civil penalty.
In the meantime, the commission ordered Pepco and WGL to restore service as soon as possible.
Conditions have now turned dangerous for residents of a financially failed condominium complex who refuse to leave even though the utilities have been cut for four days.
Fire officials are deeply worried about tenants using open flame candles and generators inside the two seven-story towers at the Lynnhill Condominiums on Good Hope Avenue in Temple Hills. Fire alarms do not work because power to the buildings has been cut. Fire extinguishers in darkened hallways have been removed.
Prince George’s County attempted to condemn the complex after the utilities were cut, but Prince George’s County Circuit Court Judge Leo H. Green Jr. ruled that residents should be allowed access for a week while efforts to force PEPCO and Washington Gas to restore utilities go forward in court.
The ruling set up what amounts to a human crisis for those who refuse to leave. Police have brought in outdoor lighting and are standing guard to prevent unrest or looting.
There were 77 units occupied by at least 116 families, according to Renee Pope, Assistant Director of Prince George’s County Community Services.
County officials are assisting at least 37 of those families with relocation to other apartment complexes or homeless shelters. Others have found accommodations on their own through family and friends, Pope said. An unknown number are staying put.
The condo complex has been through two bankruptcies since 2008 without resolution. The latest bankruptcy managed by a court-appointed trustee was ended by a federal judge May 6 after the condo association board failed to come up with a financial work-out plan, or an offer by a developer to buy-out the remaining owners.
A new board took over in February. The board was meeting current utility bills and was making progress toward a pay-off plan for arrears, according to Board Member Walter Cook.
Cook expressed confidence that the board could have resolved the situation and found investors to move forward if given more time.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection filed for a temporary restraining order to stop the condemnation process and force the utilities to restore service. The condo association’s bankruptcy attorney has also petitioned the federal bankruptcy court to reopen the case.
Meanwhile, Prince George’s County Senator C. Anthony Muse said he would petition the Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, to force PEPCO and Washington Gas to restore power.