NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The owner of a now-condemned Newport News apartment building may avoid more time in court.
The former tenants of the Seaview Lofts are working with building owner Ben Weinstein to try and settle two lawsuits outside of a courtroom, according to court documents.
Former Hampton Mayor Molly Ward is overseeing the mediation between the tenants and the landlord, according to a status update filed in court on Sept. 19.
Tenants were forced to evacuate the Seaview Lofts with 48 hours notice last June.
Since then, tenants have filed two lawsuits against Weinstein, as well as Blue Rise Group, LLC and Seaview Apartments, LLC. One is a state lawsuit filed on behalf of at least 55 tenants of the building and details claims of sexual harassment, a dangerous mold problem and a resident’s suicide attempt, among other problems.
The suit was filed in August by Newport News law firm Consumer Litigation Associates, along with the Virginia Poverty Law Center and Kelly Guzzo.
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.
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.
“We have agreed to mediate the claims and are hopeful that a settlement can be reached. As we are at the beginning stages of the process, we are unable to provide any further comment at this time,” an attorney for Weinstein tells 10 On Your Side.
A 10 On Your Side investigation previously found that Weinstein was made aware of safety issues at the apartments shortly after he first purchased the property in 2020.
Attorneys representing the tenants did not respond to our request for comment.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.