Prince George’s County government officials are investigating the allegations, and a preliminary probe by a county auditor found evidence that residents paid nearly $300,000 in excessive charges in one year.
Village Green attorney Bernard A. Cook has said that the water bills are accurate and the billing system was approved by the co-op membership.
Up to 15 residents are facing eviction cases, but county attorneys have asked the court to halt those proceedings until investigators have completed their probe.
At a Feb. 17 hearing, Powell said there were no grounds for a finding of “breach of lease,” the most extreme action a landlord can take against a tenant in district court.
Landlords who file these actions typically do so if a tenant is a danger or nuisance to the property or has substantially violated the lease by committing a crime or something similar, experts say. Tenants have few options for fighting “breach of lease” charges and, if the charges are upheld, they face near-immediate eviction.
A “failure to pay rent” action, however, would allow Fletcher to explain her reasons for not paying her water bills and give Village Green a chance to argue that she should be forced to leave. It could also make Village Green vulnerable to demands to release records it has been reluctant to give up.
Cook did not respond to requests for comment this week.
Josephia Rouse, Fletcher’s attorney, said they are prepared to offer a “strong defense” if Village Green continues to pursue the ouster of Fletcher or her neighbors.
“People were living in fear that they would be put out,” said Fletcher, who has lived in the complex for decades. “But now me and others feel vindicated.”