NEWPORT NEWS. Va. - The owner of Seaview Lofts, the building that was condemned due to the elevators not working in July, has not showed up for a single court appearance until today, August 5, 2022.
A judge ordered that Weinstein show up to court in person for the hearing today.
When asked what has taken Weinstein so long to show up to court in person his attorney said "he wasn't asked to come here in person until quite recently. He had a family situation.."
The owner was called to the stand during the court hearing. On the stand Weinstein blamed the city for the building not being fixed. He stated that they (the city) kept finding new things wrong with the building.
The attorney also claimed that Weinstein met with city officials yesterday, August 4, and they are making positive progress.
Weinstein asked for the condemnation to be lifted and the request was denied by the judge due to the judge and city saying the building is still unsafe for residents.
The judge ordered a $1,000 fine everyday until the building is fixed and up to code, stating that it is still the owner's responsibility to fix the building.
The apartment building was recently condemned by the city of Newport News in July, forcing residents out with only 48 hour notice. The city says the building was condemned because neither of the building’s elevators were up to code. As we have reported, the building failed inspection multiple times, most recently on July 29, 2022.
At the time of the last inspection, Harold Roach, Director of Codes Compliance, said there were seven main issues with the building. The issues include the hot water boiler, the boiler heat, stairwell lighting, the fire alarm system, the elevators, equipment in the mechanical room, and the electrical panel box. Some of them passed inspection on July 29, but the elevators and fire safety system did not.
Only one elevator needs to be working in order for the condemnation order on the building to be reversed by a judge.
The Virginia Poverty Law Center, Consumer Litigation Associates and Kelly Guzzo have filed federal and state lawsuits on behalf of tenants of the apartment building. 58 tenants are prosecuting their claims under the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act.
In a separate federal action, 19 plaintiffs say the building is in violation of the Fair Housing Act. They say they are in violation because they discrimated against disabled tenants including veterans and senior citizens with mobility issues, amputations, paralysis, heart problems, and other medical conditions.
“Ben Weinstein, hiding behind a corporate alias, meets the dictionary definition of slumlord," said Laura Dobbs, a housing attorney with Virginia Poverty Law Center, in a recent press release. “He uses various corporate shells to rent unsafe properties to poor people at apartment complexes around the East Coast.”