NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A lawsuit filed on behalf of 58 tenants of a now-condemned Newport News apartment building details claims of sexual harassment, a dangerous mold problem and a resident’s suicide attempt, among other problems.

The suit was filed last week by Newport News law firm Consumer Litigation Associates, along with the Virginia Poverty Law Center and Kelly Guzzo.

“It’s a terrible situation,” said Virginia Poverty Law Center Executive Director Jay Speer.

The lawsuit alleges that landlord Ben Weinstein knew about the safety violations and code issues at the apartment building, but opted not to fix them in order to pocket more money for himself. It asks for up to $250,000 in damages for each tenant.

“Some people are homeless, some people are living with family. It’s all about trying to force the landlord to do what’s right — to take some of the rent money he’s getting, and make some repairs,” Speer said.

According to the lawsuit paperwork, Weinstein purchased the 15-story building for 9.3 million dollars in 2020 – and since then has “invested almost nothing into the building.” It goes on to say, “they have gone through overtaxed and hardly paid ‘property managers’ and have rejected maintenance proposals because they were too costly” after the latest court status hearing on the case.

“The Seaview tenants suffered from illness and disease because of mold and extreme temperatures in the building. The Seaview Tenants had to withstand the elements from outside through storms because of faulty doors, windows, and walls. The disabled residents were imprisoned and prevented from leaving their apartments when the elevators were inoperable,” the lawsuit states.

One tenant claims she was sexually harassed by a maintenance worker who was fired, but then rehired — and she’s worried about moving back into the building if he still works there.

It goes on to say, “vacant apartments are left unlocked. Homeless persons and drug abusers would be inside the building squatting in vacant spots, urinating and defecating in the stairwells.”

A 55-year-old disabled veteran who is a double-leg amputee alleges that the elevators were out of service for an extended period of time in mid-2021 and early 2022, so he had to crawl up seven flights of stairs on his stomach and back to reach his apartment and get his insulin.

A disabled 75-year-old widow living at the Seaview Lofts says that she suffered a fall and health complications because of a water leak in her unit.

“Shortly after the fall, Ms. Parker started having difficulty breathing and ultimately was admitted to the hospital in November 2021 and stayed hospitalized with a variety of health issues until April 2022,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also says that at least one person attempted suicide while living in the apartments under unsafe conditions.

In a separate federal action, 19 tenants allege the residential facility is in violation of the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against disabled tenants — including veterans and senior citizens with mobility issues, amputations, paralysis, heart problems, and other medical conditions.

In response to the lawsuits, Weinstein’s attorney released the following statement to 10 On Your Side:

“Seaview Apartments, LLC, Blue Rise Group, LLC, and Mr. Weinstein take all allegations of this type seriously.  However, they have yet to be served with these actions and accordingly have not had a chance to properly evaluate and respond to the claims made.  Additionally, they remain focused on making repairs and renovations to the building so that tenants will be allowed to return.  Due to the intricacies of the litigation process, Seaview, Blue Rise, and Mr. Weinstein will address the claims in the proper judicial venues as they arise.”

Ben Weinstein

The next status hearing for this case is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 11.