You may remember the Baltimore Sun’s Ground Rent Series from 2006, in which Sun reporters chronicled the evictions of Baltimore residents from their homes for their failure to pay their ground rent payments. If you’re not familiar with ground rent, and you’re a Baltimore homeowner — beware. You might own your home, but not the “ground” it sits upon. For a more detailed explanation, visit this link.
We went back to the Baltimore Sun’s series, wondering if we’d find any links to some of the slumlords we’ve been researching. We did indeed, and we’ve found that some of the investors and others involved in the ground rent game haven’t fared very well.
One Baltimore realtor who was quoted as saying “You can make a very good living doing this” (Lawrence Polakoff) has been the defendant in at least 23 lawsuits filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court, most involving lead paint and foreclosure. In a twist of irony, one lawsuit involving Polakoff as a defendant was a Complaint for Ejectment. Polakoff also has ties to Stanley Rochkind, whose activities as a Baltimore slumlord have been well documented by the City Paper, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the Circuit Court for Baltimore City (cases too numerous to list here).
Baltimore attorney R. Marc Goldberg was quoted in the article twice — “Business is business” and “I can’t deny an economic incentive to make a windfall profit.” We hope he invested those profits wisely, because he’s been sued five times since the article appeared — four foreclosures and one Complaint for Ejectment.
Fred Nochumowitz, of Boca Raton, Florida was the trustee of a family trust that held several ground rents in Baltimore City. The Nochumowitz Trust filed several Compaint for Ejection suits in Baltimore, resulting in homeowners being thrown out of their homes so that the homes could be sold at a hefty profit.According to a 2008 notice in the Maryland Daily Record Fred Nochumowitz and several of his relatives filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as a result of 1 $1.53 million settlement over lead paint violations in the family-owned rental properties.
One of the “investors” that purchased property from the Nochumowitz family was Lauren Montillo. In 2007, according to court records, she was sentenced to a year’s probabtion for maintaining property in a manner that was unfit for human habitation. Another “investor”, Petar Pecovic, was quoted in the article, “The ground rent business is a great business.You just have to be ruthless.” The corporate charter to Pecovic’s business, Touch of Class Properties, LLC, was forfeited in 2007 for failure to file a property tax return.
We also wondered about Heidi Kenny, the lawyer who was the focus of one of the articles in the Sun. She was tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, and the Clerk of Court for Baltimore City, Frank M. Conaway called for the “immediate suspension” of Heidi Kenny’s law license. After some searching, it would seem that Ms. Kenny’s license has not been suspended or revoked, as she is currently the plaintiff’s attorney in several ongoing lawsuits.
We’ll keep tabs on these people, and others mentioned in the series, and see just how well they fare now that the real estate market has plummeted. So far it doesn’t look like most are doing as well as they’d hoped.