More than 100 families began to leave their homes today in Prince George's County, Maryland, after their electric and gas service was shut off because the condo association hadn't paid $1.2 million in utility bills.
The drama at Lynnhill Condominiums in Temple Hills has been building for years; the complex has a history of code violations that stretches back into the late 1990s. The complex filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010.
More recently, the condo association alleged that a past management company was misusing residents' condo fees.
"What they did was they were taking owners' condo fees and not paying utilities," said Stanley Briscoe, the condo association's treasurer.
The condo board treasurer said he was frustrated, because he had hoped the association could reach an agreement with Pepco. The utilities have said they had worked with the complex for years, but said they had no choice after failed payment plans couldn't get accounts caught up.
Tuesday, residents were given a new deadline: Three days to leave. Pepco shut off power to the complex; Washington Gas quickly shut off gas service as well. Now, the buildings are unfit for occupancy.
And the residents -- many low-income, and many renting from condo owners -- are trying to navigate dark hallways to get their belongings moved out before someone else beats them to it.
"My house has been broken into three times, from being around here," said tenant Jessica Rollins. "I guess all hell is going to break loose here tonight."
Rollins has five children, and she had just filled up her refrigerator with food when the power was cut.
"I have been paying my rent on time for the last two years, I've never had any issues or anything," Rollins said. "And for them to tell me they can't do anything is unacceptable."