NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — According to recently filed lawsuits, a condemned apartment building in Newport News has an "unmanageable mold problem," in addition to already recorded safety issues inside the SeaView Lofts apartment complex.
Friday, attorneys representing dozens of SeaView tenants filed both state and federal lawsuits against Ben Weinstein, the owner of the now-condemned apartment complex near Newport News' City Hall.
Failed safety inspections for the building's elevators forced residents to have to evacuate indefinitely at the beginning of July.
The lawsuits catalog personal stories from residents, as well as issues inside that go beyond the original problems that led code officers to ask a judge to condemn the building.
One lawsuit, filed in Newport News Circuit Court, argues Weinstein allegedly violated the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act, saying quote:
"The SeaView Tenants suffered from illness and disease because of mold and extreme temperatures in the building. The SeaView Tenants had to withstand the elements from outside through storms because of faulty doors, windows, and walls. The disabled residents were imprisoned and prevented from leaving their apartments when the elevators were inoperable."
The suit goes on to say that between June 2020 and April 2021, residents recorded at least 43 complaints with the city's code compliance office.
“These people have nowhere else to go. It’d be one thing if they could go somewhere else, but they can’t. Read through the complaints, we hear these stories of people living in a car, somebody’s couch, they’re homeless, and they’ve suffered," said James Speer, an attorney with the Virginia Poverty Law Center and one of several attorneys representing the Plaintiffs in this case.
Since class-action lawsuits cannot be filed in Virginia, the second lawsuit is a federally filed lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleging Weinstein violated the Fair Housing Act and "discriminated against each Plaintiff and member of the putative class when they refused and failed to fix, maintain and operate the elevators."
Depending on the outcome of the lawsuits, some tenants may be entitled to recoup some of the money they spent when they were forced to vacate.
“He’s got a duty to fix things as the landlord, that’s what the law requires," Speer said.
An attorney representing Ben Weinstein issued the following statement to 13News Now regarding the new lawsuits:
Seaview Apartments, LLC, Blue Rise Group, LLC, and Mr. Weinstein take all allegations of this type seriously. However, they have yet to be served with these actions and accordingly have not had a chance to properly evaluate and respond to the claims made. Additionally, they remain focused on making repairs and renovations to the building so that tenants will be allowed to return. Due to the intricacies of the litigation process, Seaview, Blue Rise, and Mr. Weinstein will address the claims in the proper judicial venues as they arise.