At least five children have developed lead poisoning since 2019 while living in apartments owned by a major Rhode Island landlord, the state attorney general said in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Pioneer Investments LLC, and its president, Anurag Sureka, have failed to comply with state rental, lead hazard, and consumer protection laws, putting their tenants’ health and safety at risk, Attorney General Peter Neronha said in the complaint filed in Providence County Superior Court.
Pioneer Investments, which owns and operates more than 175 residential rental units across the state, routinely ignores lead hazard laws, landlord-tenant laws, housing code regulations, and regularly engages in unfair and deceptive trade practices, Neronha said.
Tenants in sworn affidavits have also complained of rodent infestations, deterioration of the building structure, cracking walls and broken windows, and intermittent loss of water and heat, the suit said.
“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. Let’s cut right to it — as alleged, profits are being placed over basic human dignity and that cannot stand,” Neronha said in a statement.
A listed phone number for Pioneer was not in service. When reached at his office, Pioneer’s attorney Samuel Joseph Grossack said he was still reading the lawsuit and did not have an immediate comment.
The five children who developed lead poisoning since 2019 while living in Pioneer properties are among 11 who have detectable levels of lead in their blood, according to the state Department of Health.
The suit seeks a court order requiring Pioneer to remediate all lead hazards at its properties, end its unlawful and dangerous housing practices, and the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee and report on Pioneer’s compliance.
Reclaim RI, a volunteer social and economic justice organization, last year organized Pioneer’s tenants and has held rallies at some properties to highlight the poor conditions.
“Tenants, suffering from atrocious conditions amid skyrocketing rents, organized together and fought back,” Reclaim RI tenant organizer Shana Crandell said in a statement. “Today is a great victory for Pioneer tenants, and for all poor and working-class tenants across Rhode Island.”