Tagged: 2013

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.

Charity Begins at Home: The 2013 Edition

It’s that time of year again — the recommended charities post.  Listen — I understand housing isn’t on the top of everyone’s list, and I totally respect that.  If you’d like to donate to Housing Policy Watch, great.  If housing just isn’t your thing — here’s a list of charities we know and love.  There’s something for everyone on this year’s list!  (List is in no particular order.)

  • Public Justice Center does a lot of work on fair wage issues, workplace justice, immigration, and civil right to counsel.
  • 1000 Friends of Maryland works for smarter development across Maryland, and environmental issues.
  • Healthcare for the Homeless — that’s pretty self-explanatory.
  • Roberta’s House is a safe place for people, particularly children, who are mourning the loss of a loved one.  They offer counseling and a summer camp for families in need.
  • BARCS and the Maryland SPCA help abandoned animals find new homes and promote responsible pet ownership.  The SPCA also advocates for stricter penalties for those who are found guilty of animal cruelty.
  • Baltimore Heritage works hard to preserve and promote Baltimore’s many historic structures.  They also offer walking tours, happy hours, and other events to get communities involved in historic preservation.
  • Maryland Legal Aid is a nonprofit legal services provider that works with people who are primarily low-income.  Contrary to what I’ve heard people say — Legal Aid is not the same as the Public Defender’s Office, nor is it a state agency.  They’re one of the few resources for people who are in need of representation in a civil matter.
  • Another nonprofit legal resource to those with limited means, the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service assists people statewide in a variety of legal areas — all attorneys are volunteers who work for other law firms.

Thank you for your generosity!

 

#GivingTuesday 2013

In case you haven’t heard — our “business side” of things, Housing Policy Watch, is participating in this year’s #GivingTuesday campaign, run by the awesome folks at GiveCorps.

Please help to reach the goal of $5000 by donating tomorrow!  Your generous support will go a long way towards making Baltimore a safe and healthy city for all!

 

Legislative Action: Your Help is Needed!

There are several bills before the Maryland Legislature that would substantially weaken protection for children who have been exposed to lead paint, and offer loopholes for negligent property owners who ignore the law — please lend your voice to the many who oppose these bills!

Every year in Maryland there are 3200 children poisoned by lead, the overwhelming majority are poisoned right in their own homes.  You can help to put a stop to this, and ensure that every child in our state has a healthy start!

Action you can take:

  • Attend a hearing in Annapolis on Friday, February 22, at 1PM, House Environmental Matters (Room 250), Lowe House Office Building, Annapolis, MD.
  • Contact the members of the House Environmental Matters Committee, especially if one of the members is your delegate, and let them know you oppose the following bills.
  • Call, email, or write to your delegate and let him or her know you’re watching, and you expect Maryland’s children to be their priority.  Children, especially children faced with adversity, typically do not have the tools to advocate for themselves — we need to be their advocates, and ensure they have the safe and healthy housing most of us take for granted.

If you don’t know who your delegates are, please click here and enter your address. 

From the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning:

HB754 will bring back the Qualified Offer that was struck down by Court of Special Appeals. It allows property owners of rental units to:

  • Require that new tenants get their child blood lead tested for any child that spends more than 24 hours a week in that property;
  • Receive a copy of a blood lead test for any new persons at risk occupying the property;
  • Receive evidence of residence history;
  • Limits a person from brining an action for lead poisoning unless the elevated blood lead level is above 15, 20, or 25 µg/dl;
  • Prevent a person from bringing suit for lead poisoning, unless a Qualified Offer has been made, should the property owner be in compliance with the law;
  • Make an Qualified Offer of only up to $100,000 in benefits for a lifetime of damages; including medical and educational expenses that are NOT already provided by the medical insurance or the public school system;
  • Provide only $11,000 for each IQ point that a child loses as a result of being poisoned;
  • Limit economic and noneconomic damages to $100,000.

The Coalition believes that this Bill fails to adequately address the constitutional issues expressed in the Dackman v. Jackson decision striking down the Qualified Offer. It puts a price tag on the value of a child and creates a legal precedent that is in violation of current medical privacy laws. Additionally, there is no requirement that landlords prove or have adequate resources to cover a Qualified Offer. In effect a family can be prevented from filing suit simply because a landlord does not have the assets to make a Qualified Offer.

HB924 REMOVES properties built from 1950-1978 from the classification of “affected property”. This Bill will also remove the requirement to dust-test properties built from 1950-1978 to be registered, yearly, in order to be in compliance with the current Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing laws.

The Coalition STRONGLY OPPOSES this Bill as it undoes what was fought so hard for in the 2012 legislative session, the inclusion of properties built from 1950-1978 in the category of “affected property”. Children are at an 80% greater risk of being poisoned in houses built from 1950-1960. There are 18% more children poisoned in houses built from 1950-1978. The Coalition also OPPOSES this Bill as the bill incorporating houses built from 1950-1978 has yet to go into effect.

These specific houses are not scheduled to be incorporated into existing law until 2015. There is no data yet on the positive impact the inclusion of 1950-1978 properties have on the reduction of childhood lead poisoning and we should not be removing them from the law until we know how great an advancement we can make. In conjunction with HB754 passing, HB 924 would allow rental property owners of properties built from 1950-1978 to make Qualified Offers to their tenants, without requiring any form of risk reduction.

HB1299 will allow rental property owners to ONLY preform risk reduction dust inspections every FIVE years if there have been windows installed on the property after 1978, there is a pregnant woman or child that will occupy the property and/or there is notification given that a pregnant woman is occupying the property.

The Coalition feels that this Bill does nothing to protect families. There is no requirement in the Bill that the windows be lead free or that there be any work done to the exterior (window sills, wells, frame) to remove or abate existing lead hazards. Thus, families are still at risk from the number 1 cause of lead poisoning in home, old wooden windows. Under this Bill, rental property owners would be required to test less often with greater risk to the family.

HB923 will require the court to dismiss a lead paint tort claim filed in Circuit Court or a United States District Court for injury caused by the ingestion of lead-based paint or lead-contaminated dust if the claimant does not file a certificate of a qualified expert for each defendant specifying the contents of the certificate and stating when, where and how the claimant was poisoned.

The Coalition feels that this Bill should be reassigned to the Judiciary Committee as it involves significant changes to the tort system in Maryland. This Bill is not an issue for Environmental Matters. However, if reassigned The Coalition opposes the Bill as it puts an unnecessary burden on the claimant to prove their case before trial. We also feel that the current Qualified Expert law is Maryland is sufficient and this change is not necessary and singles out lead paint victims and claimants.

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The property owners have their lobbyists and advocates — please contact your delegates today, and be an advocate for Maryland’s children!

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.