WASHINGTON — They can turn on the lights and cook once again, but big problems remain for the Lynnhill Condominiums in Temple Hills, Maryland.
The condo complex owes several utility companies more than $1.2 million in unpaid bills and that debt led to the power and gas being cut to the building for almost two days last week.
The mountain of unpaid bills have stacked up over the years, according to William C. Johnson, attorney for the complex. Johnson said the past due bills are a result of bad decision making by the condo association and the failure of many owners to pay their condo fees over the years.
“We found based on our view, $2.2 million of past due homeowners’ assessments that would have solved a lot of problems,” Johnson said.
The uncollected money led to bills not getting paid and eventually resulted in the complex filing for bankruptcy on more than one occasion, even though the courts never approved the bankruptcy cases.
Last Wednesday, Pepco and Washington Gas shut down service to the complex, which resulted In Prince George’s County forcing residents out of the buildings because the structures without power were deemed unsafe.
Residents rushed to move out, and others camped in their darkened condos. But at the urging of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, the Maryland Public Service Commission stepped in and ordered the utilities back on. The commission made the order after residents claimed they didn’t receive proper 14-day notice from the utility companies that their service would be stopped.
The complex never lost water service, but Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission told WTOP that it is owed close to $200,000. Spokesman Lyn Riggins said WSSC has worked out a payment plan with the complex, but this month’s payment of $7,000, which was due last week, never came in. The water company said it also is owed more than $11,000 for water usage in September.
Maryland State Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s, said the state is trying to figure out how to best help the residents, since he said those who paid their bills on time should not be forced to move out. Also, Muse said he wants the Maryland Attorney General’s Office to investigate how the condo association fell so far behind on their bills.
Muse said if it turns out unpaid condo fees are to blame, work needs to be done to get those who haven’t paid to pay up.
“We just can’t sit here and say, ‘You don’t pay, but you’ll get services,’” Muse said.
Options for the condo association include working out a payment plan with the utility companies or possibly working with developers. Johnson said at least one developer has shown interest in acquiring units, but any deal like that would have to be approved by the condo association.
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