Category: General

Happy Holidays!

From all of us here at Baltimore Slumlord Watch, we wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.

slummy_holiday_card_2013And to further the holiday cheer, we offer this little ditty — to be sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  Many thanks to reader LR for the idea.  Because really, what’s a holiday season without a song to go with it?

On the first day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me…a house that was very slummy.

On the second day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me…two violations and a house that was very slummy.

On the third day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me…three faulty outlets, two violations, and a house that was very slummy.

On the fourth day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me…four holes in the roof, three faulty outlets, two violations, and a house that was very slummy.

On the fifth day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me…FIVE LEAD PAINT LAWSUITS…four holes in the roof, three faulty outlets, two violations, and a house that was very slummy.

On the sixth day of Christmas the slumlords gave to me…six mice and roaches…and FIVE LEAD PAINT LAWSUITS…four holes in the roof, three faulty outlets, two violations, and a house that was very slummy.

On the seventh day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me, seven rats a-running, six mice and roaches, and FIVE LEAD PAINT LAWSUITS…four holes in the roof, three faulty outlets, two voilations…and a house that was very slummy…

On the eighth day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me..eight broken windows, seven rats a-running, six mice and roaches, and FIVE LEAD PAINT LAWSUITS…four holes in the roof, three faulty outlets, two violations…and a house that was very slummy.

On the ninth day of christmas, the slumlords gave to me…nine injunctions filed, eight broken windows, seven rats a-running, six mice and roaches,and FIVE LEAD PAINT LAWSUITS…four holes in the roof, three faulty outlets, two violations…and a house that was very slummy.

On the tenth day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me…ten threatening letters, nine injunctions filed, eight broken windows, seven rats a-running, six mice and roaches, and FIVE LEAD PAINT LAWSUITS…four holes in the roof, three faulty outlets, two violations…and a house that was very slummy.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me…eleven vacants toppling, ten threatening letters, nine injunctions filed, eight broken windows, seven rats a-running, six mice and roaches, and FIVE LEAD PAINT LAWSUITS…four holes in the roof, three faulty outlets, two violations…and a house that was very slummy.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the slumlords gave to me…twelve blocks a-burning, eleven vacants toppling, ten threatening letters, nine injunctions filed, eight broken windows, seven rats a-running, six mice and roaches, and FIVE LEAD PAINT LAWSUITS….four holes in the roof, three faulty outlets, two violations…and a house that was very slummy.

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!

Renters: Please Take the Survey!

If you’re a renter, and you live in Baltimore City, please take a moment to fill take the city-wide rental survey.  While not entirely scientific, I’m trying to get a snapshot of rental conditions, rent rates, and resident concerns.

Your responses are anonymous, unless you choose to leave your contact information in the comments box.

There will be a similar survey for property owners/landlords in late September.

If you’ve already taken the survey — thanks!  It’s getting some great responses, and your feedback is invaluable!

 

Four Years and Counting

Today is the four-year anniversary of this project — I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for FOUR years.  That seems crazy to me, especially when you consider I never thought I’d have more than a handful of readers, Twitter followers, or Facebook friends.

However, with each year that goes by, it’s become apparent that Baltimore needed this, and continues to need it.  Negligent property owners are still running amok in our communities — mainly in communities where they thought nobody would ever go, nobody would ever pay attention.  Little did they know, those are the neighborhoods I never knew existed until I started this project — and little did they know, those are the neighborhoods where I find the greatest support.  There’s nothing like hearing stories from an 86 year old woman who’s lived in her home since the 1960s — hearing about how hard it was “back then” for her and her husband to buy a home in a white neighborhood.  I get to hear about the struggles and the triumphs, the disappointments and the fear — and I get to hear about the never-ending hope and determination that someday things will change.

I look forward to seeing what the next few years bring — more stories, more changes, and most important — more hope and determination.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

I woke up this morning, excited to be with both of my children on Christmas Eve, along with my future son-in-law.  I’m sitting on a couch right now, in a beautiful old stone home in a lovely suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, back from the local coffeehouse, a large cup of dark roast by my side — happy as a clam.

The past year has been a rough one, for many people, including me.  But as I sit here sipping my coffee, writing this post, I am reminded of all the good in the world.  I am reminded of how things, no matter how bleak they may seem on the outside, always seem to work out for the best.

I am so very lucky to have been able to start this project, and have it continue for four years — with no sign of stopping.  Things are about to get bigger and better, and my goal is to be able to help more people and make sustainable changes in Baltimore, a city I have finally started to call “home”.  Without you, my wonderful readers, this would not be possible — and for you, I am incredibly grateful.  Your support has seen  me through many a dark day.

Starting with this holiday season, a time of hope and joy, I wish you all the best — and it is my sincere hope that in 2013, the world treats you with nothing but kindness.

xoxoxoxo,

Carol Ott, Founder, Baltimore Slumlord Watch

Rent Court Workshops

Recent changes have been made to Maryland law regarding lead paint certificates, and landlord licensing and evictions.  Two workshops will be held in order to tenants and other interested parties to learn more about the changes, and also general landlord-tenant law.  Representatives from Baltimore Housing, the Public Justice Center, and the Maryland Multi-Housing Association will be on hand to answer questions.

The workshops will be held on November 14 and December 10, both at 12:15 PM at the District Court building, 500 Fayette Street, First Floor.

Both workshops are free.