As reported by Natalie Sherman in the Baltimore Sun:
A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has ordered an absentee Baltimore landlord to clean up about 50 blighted properties within 90 days, the first ruling since a state law was amended two years ago to make it easier for community groups to sue the owners of problem properties.
Judge Pamela J. White found that 49 properties owned by Scott Wizig and corporate affiliates represented legal nuisances, with “unsafe and uninhabitable” conditions that have not been fixed despite requests by community groups and notices of violations of the building code. Community groups are “entitled” to a judgement, she wrote in the July 31 order.
We’ve written about Scott Wizig many times before, along with his blighted homes in Baltimore. It’s nice to see that other people have taken notice of his neglect in our communities and took action — kudos to the Community Law Center for this win! Considering he was tossed out of Buffalo, NY by a judge — perhaps he’ll leave Baltimore as well.
You can read the full text of the Baltimore Sun article here.
Home ownership rates fell to an 18-year low, according to a report issued by the US Census Bureau on Thursday.
Banks are retreating from low-income neighborhoods, especially those hit hard by predatory lending.
Should landlords be allowed to discriminate against Section 8 voucher holders? (Or conversely, should landlords be able to run “Section 8 Only” ads, thereby discriminating against those who work?)
To buy, or not to buy…the renter’s dilemma.
A two-alarm fire wiped out two homes in Baltimore — there have been lots of fires on the west side recently, hopefully BCFD Chief Clack is paying attention and realizes his plan to move a company to the east side would be unwise.
The Community Law Center is suing Scott Wizig, a large-scale slumlord who owns many of our city’s blighted homes. Nice to see other people are finally getting on board with running some of these folks out of town.
Should we continue to pour our tax dollars into the Inner Harbor and Harbor East? This letter-writer to the Sun says no.
Five years after a Philly woman lost her home to deed thieves, she finally gets the house back.
Can a neighborhood overcome its past? One neighborhood in Chicago has, despite its chilling origins.
As you’re contemplating the many deserving charities for your end of the year giving, here are some of our favorites — they’re all local, and they all work hard to make Baltimore a better city, despite the odds. Give often, and give generously!
A few new additions to the list for 2012, some of the same great groups from 2011:
- Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning
- Baltimore Heritage
- Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake
- Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service
- Community Law Center
- Public Justice Center
- 1000 Friends of Maryland
- Homeless Persons Representation Project
- Healthcare for the Homeless
- Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc.
- Lauren’s Luggage (This one is not yet a 501(c)(3) but they have applied. Consider donating anyway — there’s a compelling story behind this one.)
- Maryland Legal Aid
Why these charities and not others that might be equally as deserving? I have experience with all of them in some way. I know the executive directors, or I’ve watched them carefully over the years. These organizations have a few qualities in common:
- They spend more on programs and/or direct services than they do on swank office space or fundraising/admin costs.
- They’re organizations that work on the ground, directly making a difference — they “do” more than they “talk”.
So please — be generous. Without these organizations, Baltimore would surely suffer even more than it already suffers now. We can’t build a better city without them.
From the Community Law Center:
Owners of abandoned properties in Baltimore City should start bringing their properties up to code, or the local community association might sue them to do just that. Today, the revised law known as the Community Bill of Rights, goes into effect. This amended legislation makes it easier for community organizations to use the law that has been unused but on the books for 15 years.
The revised law allows for community organizations to pursue code enforcement violations to reduce nuisances in their own neighborhoods. Community associations are empowered to address problem properties by filing a private legal action against the property owner. Owners could be forced by a Circuit Court order to correct the problems with their properties that are causing a nuisance in the neighborhood.
You can download a copy of the amended law here. Link opens a PDF.
Why this is important: Some property owners will not act, unless forced to by a court — this gives community members the ability to be proactive and take action against these property owners, hopefully ridding neighborhoods of blighted properties.
The only sticking point for me — some neighborhoods don’t have community associations — not official 501(c)(3) organizations. And while the process to become a (c)(3) organization is not difficult, it is time consuming. Some communities may be left out. We’d like to see the Community Bill of Rights eventually expanded to include non-(c)(3) organizations, so neighbors can band together and take their communities back from slumlords, regardless of whether they have “official” status or not.
The Community Law Center is holding a workshop for people who are concerned about liquor licenses (and license owners) in their neighborhood.
The workshop will be held Thursday, February 23rd at 6:30-8 PM.
Key topics will be:
- Relevant liquor laws and tools needed to negotiate with a liquor licensee
- Baltimore City Liquor Board logistics
- How to protest a liquor license renewal or transfer
Call 410-366-0922 for more information, or you can register online. The workshop fee is $25, and includes all materials.
Earlier this monrh, we put out a call to people who had been the victim of a real estate scam. The Huffington Post Investigative Fund wants to hear from you, if you’ve fallen prey to shady lenders and others who target people in need. Their current video is called Signs of Deception, and features Robert Strupp, Director of Housing Policy from the Community Law Center. Robert talks about the “WE BUY HOUSES FAST” people who post signs in our communities, in the hopes of finding scores of new victims. Don’t fall for the scam — watch the video and see what’s being done.
A few ways you can protect yourself:
- Use a licensed broker to handle your real estate transactions. You can check to see if a realtor or broker has a valid Maryland license here.
- You can also search to see if the realtor or broker has been the subject of a disciplinary action by the Maryland DLLR’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing. Unfortunately, the website hasn’t been updated since 2008 — hopefully in the wake of the real estate bust, they’ll bring it up to date soon.
- Ask for references, and do your homework before trusting anyone with the largest financial decision of your life. Don’t believe in grandiose claims such as “I can guarantee you’ll be able to keep your home.” and “Pay me $5000 and I’ll not only save your home, but fix all of your credit problems.”
- Remeber the old saying — if sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.