NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Weeks after the SeaView Lofts apartment complex in Newport News was condemned, attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against its owner.
The lawsuit, served Friday, names Benjamin Weinstein and SeaView Apartments LLC as the defendants.
While the apartment complex's troubles have been in and out of courtrooms since late June, August 5 was the first time Weinstein appeared in person for a court date.
When he was walking into the building, he told 13News Now: "Whatever the court tells us, we will obey."
Inside the courtroom, a judge cited what he called a lack of attention to the situation, "frustrating" and "unacceptable." A judge asked Weinstein to take the stand, where he cited evidence of prior efforts to improve and maintain the complex.
Weinstein said that when he purchased the building in 2020, he named it as "terribly neglected for years," citing he's spent approximately $2 million in renovations to the apartment, including more roughly $250,000 in repairs to the building's elevators alone.
He added that the longer residents are kept out of the building and not paying rent, the higher the likelihood of foreclosure and declaring bankruptcy over the property.
A Newport News Circuit Court judge countered, arguing that an owner is responsible for the problems of a building at its outset, and eventually ordered Weinstein to pay an additional $1,000 per day until the code issues at the building are fixed. Those fines may be "purged" based on the timeliness in which the issues are remedied.
Outside of the courtroom, Weinstein alleged new information regarding the status of rent payments among tenants, saying "a majority" of residents hadn't been paying "any" rent at the time of the condemnation.
This, happening on the same day attorneys introduced new lawsuits against Weinstein, filed at both the federal and state level, alleging Weinstein violated the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act as well as the Fair Housing Act.
The federal lawsuit claims this building had been the subject of several recent court orders, where the owners were required to fix the 15-story apartment's two elevators. It didn't happen.
"Even after months of such efforts by the City of Newport News and the Newport News Circuit Court, Defendants have refused to comply."
According to the state lawsuit filed in Newport News Circuit Court, attorneys are seeking compensatory damages of as much as $250,000 per Plaintiff.
As of July 29, inspectors still found broken elevators, leaks, and faulty fire alarms in the building.
The document says there were 43 health and safety complaints made about the building between when Weinstein bought the apartment complex in June 2020 and April 2021.
The lawsuit also cites persistent problems with leaking pipes, mold, trash chutes clogged with rotting garbage, a lack of heating and air conditioning, and repeated appliance failures.
"Seaview Tenants have endured dangerous health and safety violations," it reads.
Hundreds of people who lived in the apartment complex have been scrambling to find places to live since they were kicked out on July 1. The city has been paying $15,000 per day since then to temporarily house them.