Because of the loophole allowed to tax-sale purchasers, many of these liens are purchased without the owner ever taking responsibility for, or maintaining the properties. If you said to yourself “Wait, that sounds like people have the ability to purchase the lien, foreclose on the property and then just walk away.” — you would be correct. And you would also be correct if you assumed the loophole allows for many more properties to become vacant eyesores.
Because of an article written by Carrie Wells of the Baltimore Sun, and an ensuing conversation with another Sun writer and a resident, I thought it would be a good idea to go over the tax sale list and pluck out some interesting examples, as I did in 2015.
In total, there are 1247 corporations on the list, 70 government entities, 15,385 individuals (many of whom own more than one property), 87 limited partnerships, 4,555 LLCs, 151 trusts, and 30 entities that could not be verified.
Many slumlords in Baltimore purchase their properties through the city’s municipal auctions — whether via tax sales or surplus property sales, they’re buying property that should be back on the city’s tax rolls. Sadly, many are not. In fact, these tax sale purchasers owe the city money. A lot of money.:
Scott Wizig, a Houston-based slumlord, owes the city over $1,098,492 in taxes and other liens, on properties purchased by his various shell LLCs.
- Baltimore Return Fund, LLC owes the city $166,032 on 22 properties
- Harbor Pier Homes, LLC owes $77,130 on 9 properties
- Wiz Homes, LLC owes $33,360 on 4 properties
- Port Homes, LLC owes $67,004 on 7 properties
- Compound Yield Play, LLC owes $508,804 on 26 properties
- Chesapeake Row Homes, LLC owes $110,499 on 8 properties
- Inbrook Homes owes $10,261 on 4 properties
- Nicky’s Row Homes owes $108,893 on 2 properties
- Willard Avenue, LLC owes $16,509 on 2 properties
The formerly disbarred attorneys John Reiff, John Reid, and Anthony Delaurentis owe $633,997 on properties purchased under their shell companies:
- 2008 DRR-ETS, LLC owes $337,739 on 62 properties
- 2009 DRR-ETS, LLC owes $11,278 on 3 properties
- Kona Properties, LLC owes $165,172 on 21 properties
- Montego Bay Properties, LLC owes $35,712 on 4 properties
- Land Research Associates, LLC owes $84,096 on 7 properties
Other noteworthy names on the city’s tax sale list:
A former “model landlord”, City Homes, lost a lead paint lawsuit and had to file for bankruptcy back in 2013. As a result, they haven’t been paying city fees on various properties. They currently owe the city $118,282 via 19 different entities and 113 properties.
Patrick Curran, under his 504 South Broadway, LLC shell, owes the city $25,286 on five different properties. You might remember him as the owner of a property in Fells Point that collapsed a few years ago and caused all sorts of traffic mayhem.
Ephraim Weingarten, through his CE Realty company, owes the city $68,740 on 3 properties.
Stanley Rochkind, through his various LLCs and trusts owes $698,012.
The Mayor and City Council owes $515,467 on 9 different properties. (I wonder how you collect money from yourself?) By the way, I’d also like to take this opportunity to dispel the myth that the city is the biggest owner of vacant property — they’re not. Individuals and LLCs own far more blighted property in the city than the Mayor and City Council.
Some other random facts:
The largest lien is for $1,187,511 on what appears to be a blighted vacant home on W. Pratt Street. Having walked down that block many times recently, I can’t imagine why anyone would owe that much money on a home that’s maybe worth $10,000.
There are many small liens. 431 are for less than $300, 1415 for amounts between $300 and $500, 3,462 for amounts between $500 and $1000, and 11,959 (half the properties on the list) that are in arrears for amounts over $1000 and less than $5000.
Removing the entries that are simply plots of land, lots, and easements, we’re left with a total of 21,526 properties that have municipal liens attached to them, and have the potential to be foreclosed on by tax sale purchasers. The map above illustrates how much of the city is in arrears, and how tenuous our grasp is, even at middle- and upper- income levels, on housing.