The Wash

Navy Yard ANC calls for license revocation for apartment management over poor conditions

Residents of “luxury” apartments complain about pests, maintenance failures, floods, and bad management.

The Navy Yard Advisory Neighborhood Commission is continuing its campaign to get the District government to crack down on the company that manages the apartment building, Onyx on First.

At its most recent meeting in October, ANC 8F urged the Office of the Attorney General to follow up on the ANC’s earlier resolution to revoke management operations at Onyx on First apartments.

Residents of the apartments came to ANC 8F Chairman Edward Daniels last year with complaints about the property, including resistance to maintenance issues, security concerns, and hostility and derision from property managers. At residents’ request, the ANC passed a resolution in July to “alert, abate and revoke UIP Property Management at Onyx on First.”

Flooding in the Onyx had a lasting effect on residents.
Source: ANC resolution files & Onyx residents

The July resolution asked the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection to suspend the business license of Onyx’s parent company, UIP Property Management. It also asked that the D.C. Zoning Commission Board stay any requests to build new UIP properties in the city, that the Department of Buildings follow up on Onyx residents’ abatement requests, and that the D.C. Office of the Attorney General investigate UIP and its residents’ complaints.

James Simmons, who lived at the Onyx on First in 2021, confirmed many of the complaints brought forward by residents.

“I can confirm things are pretty bad there. I used to live there with my roommate, and our unit was across from the one that caught fire,” Simmons said. “The flooding damaged the whole floor, and we were unable to stay there for a while, given the blowers working all day to dry the place out.”

Residents also complained about a lack of security. Cars were stolen out of the Onyx’s garage, which had been left open, and people were found sleeping in the hallways. Simmons said he had personal experience with Onyx’s security failures.

“Early last year, we had a break-in where a woman got into my room through our balcony during some sort of mental episode. She fell or jumped from my balcony when running from the police,” Simmons said.

Another former resident, who wished to remain anonymous due to past incidents of hostility from UIP management, also spoke about the lack of communication between property management and residents.

“In January before I moved out, the sprinklers went off and the communication around that was terrible. They didn’t help people find hotel rooms or communicate when we could return,” the resident said.

One current Onyx resident, who also wishes to remain anonymous due to past UIP management hostility, said that she and her husband had also noticed the management’s failure to communicate.

Source: ANC resolution files & Onyx residents

“So we moved in this early summer after taking over a lease from a friend of mine,” the resident said. “There has been an estimate of three property managers that have abruptly left or been fired. No emails at all about the change or staff or who the staff is in general.”

Simmons said he was glad to have moved out of the Onyx.

“I didn’t have anything close to that with my other two apartments I’ve lived at here in D.C. It’s pretty shocking to think about in hindsight, but at the time, I think I was just telling myself that these are isolated incidents,” Simmons said.

A long-running problem

Onyx’s problems are not isolated incidents. Residents claim the issue stems from a central source: UIP Property Management, Inc.

The company represents the property management arm of the Urban Investment Partners group and owns several properties all across D.C. It describes itself as “providing exemplary, proactive, and responsive customer service.”

Its website offers various testimonials from its properties’ residents about the helpfulness of UIP property managers.

Justin Purvis, a resident of the Kiley apartment building, another UIP property on Fourth Street in the Navy Yard, said that while the management at his building had been very helpful, the management on the corporate level of UIP had not.

“[Kiley management] has been great. They’ve been responsive to everything, doing everything they can do, escalating it to the corporate side of things. And then after that, there hasn’t been anything that they’ve been able to really do,” Purvis said. “The managers have been fine. But the corporation has been crazy.”

Purvis said that he had looked into the Onyx when he was searching for a place to live, but he chose the Kiley because it was a newer building. This proved to be a good choice, and the building saw very few maintenance issues overall. However, earlier this year, Purvis noticed something strange in his bank records.

About six months ago, Purvis paid his rent in full through the UIP online rental portal, as he normally did, almost $4,000 total. Several days later, the system claimed that the payment did not go through and automatically pulled another $4,000 directly from Purvis’ bank account.

“They had some kind of payment glitch or something. And then they said that my bank didn’t send them the funds,” Purvis said. “They just did it automatically. They didn’t send me a notice. It was more like four grand because they took everything, they took the whole thing, the water that goes into it, and parking and everything.”

Purvis said he did not have automatic payments set up with the Onyx portal, so it was unusual for them to take the second payment again without notifying him directly.

Purvis said that other residents of the Kiley had also dealt with the rental portal issue.

“I’m not the only one in the building that has had this problem. It’s six or seven people in the building that it’s an issue with,” Purvis said.

Purvis said that the rent portal issue was where his troubles with the management at Kiley and UIP began.

“I’ve sent emails to the manager here, she escalated. I sent it to the district person and never got a response,” Purvis said. “I actually caught the district person here one day and got her to talk to me for a few seconds, and I just got the same runaround answer of, ‘There’s nothing we can do, I’m going to be on top of it, I’m new in this position.’”

Purvis said he had found a way to deal with the problem, but he knew others may not be so fortunate.

Street view of Onyx on First apartments
Photo by Madeleine Sherer

“For me, it wasn’t the biggest deal in the whole world. I had extra money in there. It didn’t ruin my weekend,” Purvis said. “But they took it out on a Thursday. If it had happened to somebody else, and they can’t live without that kind of money, or they have kids. That’s a whole weekend without that money. That’s a big deal.”

Purvis said the Kiley property manager eventually recognized their team’s mistake and apologized to him, which he appreciated. But he can no longer use the portal to pay his rent.

“[Kiley management] has been keeping on point of things and making sure not to charge me a late fee, because I can’t use the portal to pay anymore,” Purvis said.

What’s being done

ANC Chairman Daniels repeated his request that the D.C. attorney general investigate UIP at the most recent ANC meeting.

ANC members and the Office of the Attorney General have not responded to The Wash’s requests for comment.

Daniels said that when Onyx residents put up posters advertising a mental health support group, the property manager at the time tore them down, saying they, “didn’t apply to everyone in the building.”

“Ideally this agenda item would not be at an ANC meeting, but because we don’t have any other recourse and since it’s been months since I was brought into the discussion and have gotten nowhere with the regional property management, I wanted to introduce this resolution,” Daniels said.

One Onyx resident, who went by Brendon, said at the July ANC meeting that UIP had failed them on an “unconscionable” level.

“Any requests, questions, concerns or communication with the management about the ongoing issues in the building are met with either silence, hostility, closed office doors, physical and verbal assault, and threats of financial penalty against residents,” the resident said. “UIPPM must be held responsible for the rapid deterioration and unsafe living environment that they have knowingly allowed to continue. That’s it. It’s as simple as that.”

Onyx and UIP did not return The Wash’s requests for comment.

Madeleine Sherer

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