With tenants facing deplorable conditions, AG's office sues Pioneer Investments and its landlord

Tenants of Pioneer Investments, who have long faced neglect and unlivable conditions, now have the state’s most powerful advocate on their side: Attorney General Peter Neronha.

On Tuesday morning, Neronha and Rhode Island Department of Health Interim Director Utpala Bandy filed a complaint in Superior Court against Pioneer and its landlord, Anurag Sureka.

Neronha’s office alleges that Pioneer and Sureka “own and operate more than 175 residential rental units across Rhode Island, and routinely ignore lead hazard laws, landlord-tenant laws, housing code regulations, and regularly engage in unfair and deceptive trade practices throughout the state.”

More: Tenants band together against RI landlord as they face deplorable conditions

“Today’s action signals that enough is enough when it comes to the alleged misconduct of a major landlord who is placing the health and safety of Rhode Islanders at risk,” Neronha said. “Let’s cut right to it – as alleged, profits are being placed over basic human dignity and that cannot stand.”

What led to this suit?

Reclaim RI, a progressive group that champions tenant complaints, organized the renters last year, periodically holding rallies and press conferences condemning Pioneer and Sureka. At one point, tenants even marched to the front door of Sureka’s brick mansion in East Walpole, Massachusetts to demand better conditions.

“Roughly two dozen Pioneer tenants bravely came forward to tell their stories to the AG,” said Reclaim tenant organizer Shana Crandell. “Pioneer tenants also told their stories at rallies and State House hearings, bringing unprecedented awareness to the fact that slumlord abuse is a critical part of this state’s dire housing crisis.”

An old couch and other trash that tenants say has been sitting out in front of the apartment house at 306 Washington St. in West Warwick for almost four months.

More: Pioneer tenants organized against their landlord. Now they say they’re being pushed out

Complaints ranged from leaks to vermin and structural issues. In one case, two small children were lead poisoned in one of Pioneer’s Central Falls apartments. Their parents learned of their diagnoses by the time they turned two years old, and will likely not know if the extent of any damage until they turn seven and can be tested by a neuropsychologist.

More: A Central Falls couple’s twins were struggling. Then a blood test showed high lead levels

This is a breaking story. More to come.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Pioneer Investments sued by RI AG over code, lead paint, law violations