Power is back on for dozens of families who had been evicted from a condo complex in Prince George's County after a condo association failed to pay $1.2 million in past bills.
The Public Service Commision of Maryland ordered utilities be turned on as soon as possible at Lynnhill Condominiums about 6 p.m. Friday. The commision, which oversees utilities throughout the state, said it is requiring Pepco and Washington Gas to show cause for why utilities were disconnected.
Pepco restored power to the building just before 9:40 p.m. It is not known at this time when gas will be restored.
In an earlier statement to News4, Pepco said it was reviewing the commission's order and residents at the condo building should contact their property management company. See the full statement below:
“Pepco received an order from the Maryland Public Service Commission this evening and is currently reviewing the order. The disconnection of electric service to any of our customers is a last resort that we only take if all other options have been exhausted. We care about our customers and are always willing to work with them to resolve issues involving their electric service. We can’t discuss specifics of this case due to state privacy regulations but we are always willing to make payment arrangements if our customers have trouble paying their bill. We also support a number of programs that help reduce and cover energy costs and there are a number of free programs available in Maryland that can help customers save energy and money. We encourage the customers affected to contact their property management company.”
Some of the families who had been evicted elected to stay -- in the dark -- after a judge allowed them more time in their homes.
But conditions have been extremely challenging as electric, gas and water service is still off at the condo building.
Friday, some residents wore helmets with headlamps to navigate the building's dark halls. Others hooked up generators on balconies.
Fire officials are so worried that residents will try illegal ways to cook and heat inside that they have begun hourly checks of the property.
"Like, really? Really? You are talking about what's against the law?" said resident Jack Lyle. "How about what is going on here. Is that against the law?"
The drama at Lynnhill goes back decades. The buildings have a history of code violations and the complex filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010, the Washington Post reported.
More recently, residents alleged, a past condo association misused their condo fees, failing to pay electric bills. Despite repeated payment plans and negotiation with the utilities, the back bills were not paid.
After the utilities were cut off Tuesday, the building was declared unfit for human habitation. Then, 77 families were given three days to move out; a judge extended that time to a week Friday.
Though the complex is made up of condominiums, many of them have been rented out. Many of the residents have low incomes or are elderly and didn't know where they would go.
And the remaining residents are angry. One owner said that, despite the condemnation, he still has to pay his mortgage. He compared the condos' financial situation to a "growing cancer."
"It just didn't start overnight; it's been here for years," said owner Maurice Braham.
Meanwhile, community organizations and local businesses are trying to help the families affected.
To help the Lynnhill residents, click here and go to "Neighbors in Need."