Business Health Justice Uncategorized — 09 October 2012
Capital News Service

LANGLEY PARK – Residents at three apartment complexes in Prince George’s County took to the streets Tuesday to protest against substandard living conditions.

The tenants of Newbury Square, Bedford Station and Victoria Station apartments in Langley Park have complained of rats, roaches, roof leaks, and broken heating units since 2011, when Laramar Specialty Services, LLC took over management of their properties.

In the last month, the roofs of four units at Bedford Station have collapsed, including one that fell on a young couple while they slept, according to CASA of Maryland.

“These people…have been subjected to awful living conditions,” said Elizabeth Clark, the tenant organizer for Prince George’s County at CASA of Maryland, a community action organization that organized the protest.

The three properties were foreclosed on during the financial crisis and were assigned in 2010 to a financial caretaker, CW Capital Asset Management, a real estate special servicing firm, according to CASA. In 2011, CW Capital Asset Management hired Laramar Specialty Services to manage the apartments’ daily operations.*

Laramar representatives did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Last year, a court ordered the company to clean up the apartments and make repairs, according to CASA. Clark called the fixes “cosmetic alterations.”

Often, she said, Laramar would send their maintenance crews a few days in advance of county inspections to paint over cracks instead of fixing them.

A month ago, Laramar sent two armed guards to patrol the Bedford Station and Victoria Station complexes, which sit next to each other on University Boulevard.

Tensions escalated when the guards began to tell off residents for standing on the streets or waiting at bus stops, said Gloria Villalobos, a Bedford Station resident.

“They herd us in as if we were animals,” she said.

Villalobos said she and her daughter were told by the guards to go inside while waiting for their bus three weeks ago. When the women refused, the guards demanded to see their identification and threatened to call the police.

Security guards at Bedford Station and Victoria Station on Tuesday declined to comment.

The protest was held on the street just outside Bedford Station. About 30 residents showed up, holding signs demanding fair treatment and chanting, “Yes, we can!”

*Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified CW Capital as the financial caretaker that hired Laramar Speciality Services.  The correct name of the company is CW Capital Asset Management.

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About the Author

Aisha Azhar is a graduate student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. She has freelanced for the Laurel Leader, the Prince George’s Sentinel, The Takoma Voice, and The Dupont Current. Azhar also worked as an editor for Saudi Gazette, an English-language daily in Saudi Arabia.