Tenants of downtown Baltimore apartment tower allege poor conditions, including mold and no heat

Residential and commercial tenants of a downtown Baltimore apartment tower filed a class action lawsuit Friday against the owners that alleges poor living conditions such as flooding, mold and no heat during recent freezing temperatures.

Tenants of the 18-story Munsey building overlooking the Baltimore Circuit Court Courthouse where the lawsuit was filed alleged that the heating system has repeatedly failed and that air conditioning units have not functioned properly for the past three summers.

The building’s owners and management company “knowingly placed [tenants] in residential dwelling units that are tantamount to an icebox in the winter and a sauna in the summer,” the lawsuit states.

The building at 7 N. Calvert St. contains 146 residential and two commercial spaces, one occupied by the Argosy Cafe. The owners of the property, L3C Investors Baltimore US LLC and a Michigan-based property management company, could not be reached for comment.

An attorney listed in the suit as representing the landlord also did not respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

The aging office tower was converted into apartments in 2002. L3C Investors of Cedarhurst, N.Y., acquired it in 2013 for $18.35 million, according to state property records.

The lawsuit alleges the building has experienced raw sewage back-ups, mice and bug infestations, and mold and mildew caused by frequent flooding. It alleges repairs and maintenance efforts “caused physical illness to residents.”

Jay Shaffer, an owner and chef who opened the Argosy Café in August 2015, said he has visited Mercy Hospital frequently for tests for physical symptoms that he said are caused by mold discovered when workers opened floors and walls in the building after floods.

His business has suffered significantly due to frequent closings caused by floods, heating and air conditioning failures and repairs to broken pipes.

“I stopped paying rent Oct. 1,” Shaffer said. “My business has been destroyed because of this.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the owners of the Munsey “intentionally misled prospective tenants into believing they were moving into a luxury apartment building that did not suffer from these problems,” according to a statement issued by Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, the law firm representing the tenants.

“The owners and operators didn’t keep the promises they made to the tenants of the Munsey building,” said Nick Szokoly, an attorney representing the tenants, in a statement. “The landlords knew when they advertised these units as luxury apartments that the building’s heat and air conditioning broke every year for months at a time but they also knew that once you sign the lease and move in, you’re stuck.”

The lawsuit seeks damages of $75,000 for each of the 15 counts of negligence, contract breaches, misrepresentation and violations of consumer protection rules per each class member.

ddonovan@baltsun.com

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