Tagged: slumlords

Baltimore’s Worst Slumlord Speculators

Many cities, including San Francisco and New York have come up with lists of the worst landlords or property investors over the years, and the advocacy groups have gone after them in a big way. In Baltimore…not so much. The Community Law Center sued a slumlord once, but that’s been about the extent of the public consequences for Baltimore’s various property investors who have left properties to decay — some of them for decades.

The Top Five

Stanley Rochkind and Bud Runkles (tied, since they work together under various LLC shell companies.)
Between the lead paint lawsuits, vacant derelict properties, and a complete refusal to acknowledge their misdeeds, these two take the cake, especially Mr. Rochkind, who’s been in the slumlording business since at least the early 1980s.

John Reiff, along with his partners Anthony Delaurentis, and John Reid.
Mr. Reiff is the largest individual purchaser of homes at City tax sales (as of 2016), was disbarred for a time (along with Mr. Delaurentis and Mr. Reid) for bid-rigging at municipal auctions in Baltimore, and continues to purchase more vacant homes, despite owning dozens across the city. In fact, these three are the reason why Baltimore City needs to close its tax sale loophole and ban them from future auctions.

Scott Wizig
Mr. Wizig, even after being sued by the Community Law Center for his blight, is still the owner of multiple blighted vacants in Baltimore. He came to Baltimore after being tossed out of New York by the Attorney General there — perhaps that should have been a warning to Baltimore’s government that he was bad news.

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City
Yes, even the city can be a slumlord. Because of the number of blighted vacant homes, and most importantly — because of our city government’s refusal to enact anti-slumlord policies, they’ve easily earned a place on this list. Another reason for putting them on this list — allowing Paul Graziano, our former housing commissioner, to stay in his job for far too long (or perhaps for hiring him in the first place.)

Housing Authority of Baltimore City
Speaking of Paul Graziano, the Housing Authority isn’t immune from the “slumlord” tag, either, considering the number of blighted homes owned by HABC, the number of children who have been poisoned by lead paint while living in HABC-owned homes, and the housing authority’s refusal to pay its lead paint settlements. Not to mention the condition of our city’s low-income housing projects, the fact that women were sexually assaulted by maintenance men while living in public housing – the list just goes on and on.

Dishonorable Mention

City Homes
You wouldn’t think that an affordable housing nonprofit would be stoop to being a slumlord. However, given the number of lead paint poisoning lawsuits that were filed against their various entities, their subsequent bankruptcy filing (can’t pay settlements if you’re “broke”!), and continue to be filed (as recently as last week) — they need to be on the list. Poisoning children with lead paint is probably the easiest way to be classified as a slumlord. Renter beware.

Baltimore Churches
There’s something particularly troubling about churches that own blighted vacant property. The very idea that a nonprofit organization that doesn’t pay property taxes should also be allowed to further take resources from a community is mind-boggling. Of course not all churches in Baltimore act in this appalling manner, but quite a few do — to the detriment of the surrounding neighborhoods. WWJD, indeed?

 

 

1728 W North Avenue

Property Address: 1728 W North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217

Property Owner: Kibra Construction/American Investment Real Estate Corporation, 801 N Stiles Street, Baltimore, MD 21212 and 1121 Arlington Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22209 (Charter has been forfeited, company is not in good standing. Company was also found to have run a roofing scam on customers in Virginia.)

Resident Agent for Kibra Construction: None listed

City Council District and Contact:  District 7, Nick Mosby

State Senator:  Catherine Pugh

State Delegates:  Barbara Robinson, Frank Conaway, Jr., Antonio Hayes

1728 W North Avenue
1728 W North Avenue

Number 1000!

I figured that the 1000th post should be something a little nicer than a photo of a run-down vacant owned by a slumlord, so…what to write about?

A random slumlord-owned vacant, also the "cover model" for last year's holiday card.
A random slumlord-owned vacant, also the “cover model” for last year’s holiday card.

How about all the “successes” we’ve had over the past five years?  Or how about a “worst slumlord in Baltimore” post?  Ehh…how about all of the above, coupled with some folks we’re eternally grateful to for their support over the years?  Ding ding ding, we have a winner.

A few success stories:

  • We’ve heard from five residents since June of this year who were living in conditions that I wouldn’t allow my worst enemy to live in.  No heat (or intermittent heat), bad wiring, roaches, rats, mold, water leaks — you name it, they’ve experienced it.  I am very happy to say that all five residents are now living in better conditions, and their previous residences were either condemned or the owners were forced to make repairs (and fined!)  We’re still working with two residents who are trying to get their landlords to fix their slum properties — stay tuned…
  • Many of the homes that have been featured on this blog have either gone through the receivership process or are going through it now — my guess is about 50, give or take.  This means they’ll either be fixed up by their current owners, or the city will take them and sell them.  While I’m not 100% sold on the idea of the Vacants to Value program — it’s a start, and with better vetting of potential buyers and tighter monitoring, it has the potential to be a good thing for Baltimore.
  • We’ve brought national attention to a problem that was long ignored by our local government — attention, I believe, that has sparked more efforts on the part of said government to clean up our city.  We still have a long way to go, but this is a start — and since we’re not going anywhere, the attention won’t go away.  Our marginalized neighborhoods deserve better!
  • Working with community groups on their vacant issues, and trash issues — it’s an ongoing process, but small victories pop up from time to time.  I’ll take ’em where I can get ’em.

So…who really is the worst slumlord?

Some might say “The City”, some might say Stanley Rochkind…John Reiff…Scott Wizig…  My feeling is that it’s all of the above, plus a few we haven’t found yet.  Baltimore is chockablock full of slumlord-owned housing.  Some with tenants, but most are vacant and causing untold grief to the surrounding community members.  What’s interesting about our slumlords — they truly come from all walks of life.  Rich, poor, white, black…Christian, Jew, Muslim…politicians, police officers, teachers…conservative, liberal…there’s no one group that stands out as being “the worst” — which goes to show that evil really does come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

And a big thank you…

Some of you might be reading the blog for the first time (thanks!) and some may have been around since the beginning.  But…I do want to take the opportunity to thank you, in no particular order:

  • Reader Rusty, S, and Bill
  • Pete from Highlandtown
  • Dennis T C, Evan, Casey, and Elaine from CTB
  • Shammy
  • Shannon F
  • Tanya L
  • Sheila Kast
  • Laura A
  • Mike B
  • Corey S
  • Robert G
  • Robert BE
  • Salvatore S
  • NPR
  • WEAA
  • Marc Steiner
  • Rob C
  • Robert W
  • Ron C and the folks at Baltimore Magazine
  • Julia, Tarek, and Nether
  • Linda R
  • Sebastian and Brooke
  • Mair
  • Fern and Baltimore Brew
  • Edward E, Baynard W, and the City Paper
  • Jamie SH
  • Christina B
  • Rob S & BNI
  • Matt H & PJC
  • Paul G
  • Beth H
  • David W & Olga M
  • Lois J
  • Andrew Z
  • Andrew H
  • Anyone else named Andrew
  • Claire from Detroit
  • Columbus, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta folks who started their own slumlord-watch groups
  • Voice of Russia
  • WJZ
  • The folks at Shelterforce
  • Jeff P from the CBS Evening News
  • Katherine from The Atlantic Monthly
  • Atlantic Cities
  • PAAAAAAULAAAAAAA
  • WYPR
  • Edweena
  • Beth H
  • Bill C
  • Ed R
  • The folks at Bohemian Coffeehouse
  • Brian B
  • Fred R
  • Ryan D
  • Tommy F
  • Travis
  • My two children, M and M, who put up with their mother’s obsession with vacants
  • the Baltimore Sun
  • …and probably a million other people I’m leaving off accidentally — thank you!

A Block of Blight: 2418-2404 W Lombard Street

The entire block is owned by property “investors” — some individuals, some shell LLC corporations, and what a shame. See below for property owner information.  All of these homes are in District 9, under the not-so-watchful eye of Councilman “Pistol” Pete Welch.

2418-2404 W Lombard Street

Owner of 2418: 1100 Investors, Inc., 1749 E North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21213 (Resident Agent:  George Dangerfield, Jr., one of the city’s most notorious drug lords.  Corporate charter has been forfeited.)

Owner of 2416: Surdus Corporation, 1307 West Virginia Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002 (Resident Agent:  Elijah Gold, same address.  DC Corporate charter was revoked.)

Owner of 2414:  Camden Investments, LLC, 4725 Dorsey Hall Drive, #A204, Ellicott City, MD 21042 (Resident Agent: David Dagirmanjian, same address.)

Owner of 2412:  Leroy Baldwin, Trustee, 93 Warrington Place, East Orange, NJ 07017

Owner of 2410:  Meredith M. Smith, same address.

Owner of 2408:  Tracy Bolds Deck, 5809 Barnwood Place, Columbia, MD 21044

Owner of 2406:  Alisa C. Tyson, 2313 Chelsea Terrace, Baltimore, MD 21216

Owner of 2404:  Alisa C. Tyson, 625 Glynita Circle, Reisterstown, MD 21136

 

Link Roundup

It will be interesting to see how much money is earned on the auction of Baltimore Housing Authority property.  Glad to see someone is fighting to make the agency pay its lead paint settlements.

It’s always fun to read posts or letters in the Baltimore Sun from bad property owners who feel the laws and regulations are unfair.  Perhaps doing the right thing would make things more fair?  Just a suggestion.  And for the record, no, we don’t think the City should be using funds for affordable housing to demolish…housing.

A man in Cleveland decided to shoot a documentary about abandoned homes in that city, as a way to create awareness about the problem.

Apparently, people in Monterey County, California can’t agree on what “homeless” means. I didn’t know there were any grey areas.

The town council of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is smarter than the Baltimore City government.  “A significant relationship exists between vacant buildings and increased calls for service for police services, higher incidence of fires …”  Wish someone in our City Council would publicly say that, and do something about it.

An Ohio Senator wants banks to stop walking away from foreclosures.  Do any Maryland senators want the same?

Breaking a Rule

When I started this blog, I had a mental “rule” that I’ve stuck with thus far.  I said I wasn’t going to write about homes that people live in.  Especially if children lived there.  Imagine the shame you’d feel if you read about your dilapidated home on the internet — or worse yet, you’re at school, and another kid walks in and says something awful about your living conditions.

However, rules are meant to be bent sometimes, and I think this is one of those times.  We have a fairly active Facebook page, and someone posted some photos, along with a heartbreaking story — and I think it needs further investigation, and perhaps some public scrutiny of the slumlord who owns the home.

Without revealing too many details, such as the tenant’s name and address — here’s the story:

An elderly woman is living in a row house — she’s not only elderly, but she’s in poor health, and quite frail.  The house has been overrun by junkies, and there doesn’t seem to be any working toilets/sinks in the house.  According to a neighbor who reported the story, the stench is incredible — you can smell it from next door.  There is also a little girl who stays there from time to time — she’s the daughter of one of the junkies.  Not only have the junkies overtaken this woman’s home, they’ve abused her — and the landlord has allowed it to continue, charging each person $400 a month to stay in the house (despite the conditions).

Here are just a few photos, supplied by a neighbor who’s called Baltimore Housing, Child Protective Services, Elder Services, and the police — to no avail:

Destroyed moldy ceiling
Missing tile in the kitchen
Non-working sink
The tub with the burgundy lid -- it's full of human waste. There are no working toilets in this home.

Folks, I don’t know about you — but this bothers me on so many levels.  The City, despite being told many times about the situation in this house — a situation that involves an elderly frail woman and a small child — has done nothing.  The landlord has done nothing except collect his $400 a month from everyone staying there (despite only the elderly woman being on the lease).  It’s time to push the issue, and make sure the City not only gets rid of the abusive tenants, but they need to hold the landlord responsible for allowing this woman to live in unsafe, unsanitary conditions.  Continuing to take money from the interlopers who have abused this woman (in front of the little girl, no less) is beyond despicable.

As always, I’ll keep you posted on the story.  I’m hoping there’s a happy ending for the woman and the little girl.

MDE Issues Enforcement Actions Against 16 City Property Owners and 1 Lead Inspector

From the Maryland Department of the Environment:

MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program serves as the coordinating agency of statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. Under the 1994 “Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law,” MDE assures compliance with mandatory requirements for lead risk reduction in rental units built before 1950, maintains a statewide listing of registered and inspected units, and provides blood lead surveillance through a registry of test results of all children tested in Maryland. The following actions were for properties alleged to be out of compliance with lead risk reduction standards:

  • Jerome Kobernick – 24 affected properties, $20,000 for alleged violations.
  • Walter & Robin Price – 18 affected properties, The defendant agreed to a penalty of $8,000.
  • Charles Schelts, et al – 9 affected properties, The defendant agreed to a penalty of $7,000. The penalty has been paid in full.
  • William Hazlehurst, Jr. – 2 affected properties, The defendant agreed to a penalty of $8,000.
  • Amapola, LLC – 1 affected property, $23,500 for alleged violations.
  • Double Eagle Properties, LLC and Benjamin Stauffer – 41 affected properties, $30,000 for alleged violations.
  • Elaine C. G. Parker – 8 affected properties, $60,000 for alleged violations.
  • Levon Evans – 2 affected properties, 27,500 for alleged violations.
  • Kenyatta Kerr – 2 affected properties, $23,000 for alleged violations.
  • Nicholas G. Lodowski – 13 affected properties, 40,000 for alleged violations.
  • Nicole Amos – 2 affected properties, $35,000 for alleged violations.
  • Lashon D. Jones-Warren – 1 affected property, $31,500 for alleged violations.
  • Gail Blaze – 2 affected properties, $45,000 for alleged violations.
  • Joyce Stevens – 4 affected properties, $35,000 for alleged violations.
  • Salvatore P. Sabatino and Thomas L. Sabatino – 2 affected properties, $24,000 for alleged violations.
  • Michael Brown – 6 affected properties, $22,000 for alleged violations.

In addition, the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program accredits and enforces performance standards for inspectors and contractors working in lead hazard reduction. The following actions are for contractors and inspectors alleged to be out of compliance with state regulations:

  • Leatrice Cooper – MDE issued an Administrative Complaint, Order and Penalty seeking $15,000 for alleged violations.

You can read the full press release here.

Link Roundup

Three conspirators were convicted in a $78 million mortgage scam, according to the FBI Baltimore Office.

Information for victims of morgtage scams from the Maryland Mortgage Fraud Task Force and the US DOJ.

Philadelphia’s City Paper details the decline of once-wealthy slumlord Robert Coyle, and how his “empire” of slummy homes were foreclosed on.

Did you know you can search Baltimore’s zoning board docket by address, neighborhood, or hearing date?  You can also find relevant documents, including plans, permit applications, and more.

Seven percent of the homes in one of Baltimore’s “most dangerous neighborhoods” are vacant, according to a report from ABC2 News.

MDE Issues Enforcement Actions Against 7 Baltimore City Property Owners

From the Maryland Department of the Environment:

MDE’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program serves as the coordinating agency of statewide efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning. Under the 1994 “Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Law,” MDE assures compliance with mandatory requirements for lead risk reduction in rental units built before 1950, maintains a statewide listing of registered and inspected units, and provides blood lead surveillance through a registry of test results of all children tested in Maryland. The following actions were for properties alleged to be out of compliance with lead risk reduction standards:

  • Mulugeta Y. Misiel & Nile Management, LLC – Baltimore City:  2 affected properties, $14,500 for alleged violations.  (Resident Agent for Nile Management, LLC:  Felix Rodriguez, 2960 Halston Drive, Manchester, MD 21102 — corporation is not in good standing.)
  • Efrem Wyatt – Baltimore City: 1 affected property, $11,000 for alleged violations.
  • Mohammad Munir Khan – Baltimore City: 2 affected properties, $16,500 for alleged violations.
  • Marlborough Revitalization Limited Partnership – Baltimore City: 1 affected property, $60,000 for alleged violations.  (No resident agent, corporate charter forfeited.  c/o William Hazlehurst, Jr., 230 Wilson Street, Baltimore, MD 21217)
  • Moses G. Parker – Baltimore City: 11 affected properties, $22,000 for alleged violations.
  • Kay Lane & Chad Lane – Baltimore City & Glen Burnie, Anne Arundel County: 6 affected properties, $66,750 for alleged violations.
  • King of Brooklyn, LLC – Baltimore City: 5 affected properties, $13,000 for alleged violations.  (Resident Agent for King of Brooklyn:  Robert C. Brendel, Esq., 1919 York Road, Timonium, MD 21093).

Baltimore Jury Awards Record Lead Paint Damages Against HABC

From Dolan Media:

A Baltimore City jury has awarded a 23-year-old woman nearly $21 million in a lead paint verdict, finding the victim suffered the poisoning while living in an apartment owned and maintained by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

The jury’s Wednesday verdict — about $825,000 in economic damages and $20 million in non-economic damages — is one of the largest the victim’s attorney said he has ever seen. It will likely be reduced because of the state’s $350,000 cap on non-economic damages.

Attorney Brian Brown, who represented plaintiff Marie Carter, said this case shows that the state’s cap, recently upheld by the Court of Appeals, is unfair.

“The jury thought they were awarding my client a certain amount, and she won’t get it,” said Brown, an attorney with Saul E. Kerpelman & Associates PA.

According to a source, Marie Carter’s father was told by HABC they would not paint the home or give the family any paint to do it themselves until they had lived in the home for a period of three years.  The home, located in Cherry Hill, has since been demolished. You can read the full text of the article here.

We think the plaintiff in this case should receive the full award — especially when you consider the agency responsible is the same agency that is tasked with making sure our city’s housing stock is safe, and they failed miserably.