Tagged: property taxes

Behind on Your Water Bill or Property Taxes?

Don’t let your home go to auction — there is legal help available!

The Pro-Bono Resource Center of Maryland, along with MVLS, is holding three community workshops where lawyers will discuss both foreclosure and tax sales. If you’re behind on your water bill or property tax, don’t wait until it’s too late — find out what your rights are, and what options you have.  There are three sessions:

  • March 21, 2015, 9 AM to 3 PM
  • Poly-Western High School, 1400 W Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD 21209
  • April 9, 2015, 10 AM to 2 PM
  • Urban Business Center, 1200 W Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21223
  • April 15, 2015, 3 PM to 7 PM
  • Enoch Pratt Library, Southeast Anchor Branch, 3601 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224

For more information, and to register for the workshops, please call 443-703-3052.

Link Roundup

The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University recently issued a report on investor activity in Atlanta.  Not surprisingly, the study found that investors were buying up property in neighborhoods where poverty and vacancy rates were high, and median home values were low.

A group of Montgomery County legislators have introduced a bill that has the slumlord lobby up in arms — the bill proposes Maryland property owners who own four or more rental units should be subject to rent control.  It also mandates that landlords cannot force tenants to make them the beneficiary of renters’ insurance policies.  These two things are definitely worth supporting.  Unfortunately, the bill is a bit of a mishmash, with other landlord-tenant issues thrown in — not sure where it will end up.

Some New York City landlords have found a way to make money off the homeless, by operating for-profit SROs/rooming houses — and needless to say, the living conditions are less than acceptable.

I’ve always been fascinated with Centralia, PA — a mostly-abandoned town situated on top of a coal fire that’s been burning for decades.  WGAL has a “then and now” slideshow that’s worth a look.

How to be successful in Maryland politics:  Give your campaign contributors lucrative development contracts.  Just don’t get caught…

CBS Baltimore reports that a recent house fire, in which one woman was found dead in the basement, was more than just a simple house fire.

So now the Mayor wants you to pay for trash pickup?  I thought property taxes paid for that, but…perhaps I was wrong.  Oh, and the City is dicking around with the Fire Department again.  It’s all about solving the budget crisis, I guess so we’ll have more money to give to local developers.

Speaking of the budget, how would you balance our completely out of whack budget?  There’s a website for that.

 

Last Link Roundup of 2012!

A recap of all the newsworthy links in 2012.

January

Early in 2012, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was grilled by the MD Legislature about the status of the city’s lead paint judgements.  The city was refusing to pay, saying the judgement would bankrupt the city — a shame they didn’t think about that before allowing children to live in lead paint-filled homes.

A Federal judge sided with the City of Chicago in its fight to hold banks accountable for maintaining and securing vacant homes.

Business Insider had this to say about Baltimore’s neighborhoods — apparently some are just not worth saving.  Is your neighborhood worth more to you than it is to your elected officials?

February

Maryland property managers got their knickers in a bunch over being asked to pay what amounts to $4 a month for lead paint insurance.  Still seems cheaper than a multimillion dollar lawsuit.

March

Lots of articles have been written about squatters and takeovers of foreclosed and abandoned homes.  This one from the Chicago Tribune, wrtten in March, is particularly good.

Also in March, WBAL suggested development along Baltimore’s waterfront could suffer due to a loss of tax breaks for developers.  What were they thinking??

In Chicago, a young girl was raped at gunpoint between two vacant homes in the West Englewood neighborhood.  Neighbors say the vacants are more than just a threat to property values.

Instead of paying lead paint lawsuit judgments, the city’s Housing Authority was paying for take-home cars for its employees, according to WBAL’s Jayne Miller.

Metro Dream Homes owner and founder Andrew Hamilton Williams, Jr. was sentenced for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme that cost numerous people their homes, and bilked them out of $78 million.

Philadelphia rejoiced upon hearing that Robert Coyle, the “Millionaire Slumlord” was charged with defrauding banks of $10 million.

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten in the past year from people who have major problems with their “rehabbed” homes, due to the fact that the “contractors” never bothered to get permits.  Here’s a story from the Baltimore Sun about one such homeowner (he’s also my neighbor, and a stand-up guy.)

April

Another article on rehabs without permits appeared in the Baltimore Sun in April.  This time, the owner was threatened with jail time.  I guess since it happened in Canton, the city decided to get tough.

The Detroit Free Press did an excellent series on keeping schoolchildren safe on their route to school — something most people take for granted.  Unfortunately, in some major cities — kids have an unsafe walk, passing vacant homes that are a magnet for criminal activity.

Travers and Tremayne Johnson, two brothers who were accused of setting a dog on fire, were found not guilty by a Baltimore jury.

BCFD wasn’t meeting NFPA standards for response times, according to an article by Baltimore Brew — yet the mayor and Chief Clack continued with their plans to close three Baltimore fire companies.

Detroit experienced a rash of arsons back in April — 16 fires in all, on the city’s east side.

Baltimore experienced a few vacant fires in April, too.  Most notably the fire on Yale Avenue in the city’s Irvington neighborhood.

According to a Baltimore Sun article, Builders of Hope, a North Carolina-based nonprofit chosen by Ray Lewis, was supposed to be renovating hundreds of homes in Baltimore City, near Johns Hopkins University in East Baltimore. Since then, we’ve heard nothing about the project — or the organization, except news of their ongoing dispute with the City of New Orleans and two contractors, allegedly for nonpayment of invoices.

April and May brought the mayor’s proposed cuts to the fire department — including the removal of truck and engine companies that serve our city’s poorest neighborhoods.  Thankfully, one truck company was spared the axe.  Two were not so lucky.

May

Speaking of the fire department, May saw quite a few arson fires — including more than 12 in Youngstown, OH.

Firefighters in Huntington, WV let a vacant home burn after being called to the same address multiple times.

And a fire in the 1100 block of Barclay Street in Baltimore may have been arson, according to this Baltimore Sun article.

June

And in the “It’s not just you, Baltimore” category:  In June, DC City Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown was charged with mortgage fraud.

Also in June, Florida topped the list of states with the highest incidents of mortgage fraud and an Ohio State trooper was sentenced to 50 months in prison for fraud.

July

In July, the head of Baltimore’s housing authority continued to justify the agency’s refusal to pay court-ordered lead paint judgements.  While Paul Graziano was busy refusing to pay these judgements, a DC man was scamming the Housing Authority of almost $1.4 million.

American Banker discussed the pros and cons of using eminent domain as a way for municipalities to get vacant homes out of the hands of banks.

Two big storms hit Baltimore City, and the mayor and fire chief still wanted to cut our fire companies.  This didn’t sit will with the two IAFF Local presidents.

BCFD Chief Jim Clack received a hostile reception from IAFF members at July’s Firehouse Expo.

Habitat for Humanity and the Home Depot Foundation expanded a home renovation program for veterans.

August

WBAL asked if Baltimore City would pay for residents’ flooded basements, or will these residents once again get stuck with the city’s tab?

After being called to aid an injured man, a Baltimore City EMT and the patient fell through a hole in the front porch of a vacant home, into the basement.

Also in August, the Hip Hop Chicken on Hillen Road, a place where some swear you could get the best chicken ever — caught fire.

A fair housing case that dates back to 1995 was finally settled, giving some Baltimore families the right to move into safer housing.

September

Lots of housing-related crime happened in September. Kenneth Koehler of Baltimore pleaded guilty to wire fraud, in a scheme that left mortgage lenders holding the bag for over $1 million in debt.  Six Upper Fells Point homes went into foreclosure as a result of this scam.

Lorain, Ohio used an interesting method to move vacant homes to demolition — search warrants.

Los Angeles City attorney called US Bank and Deutsche Bank “slumlords”, accused the banks of neglecting foreclosed properties.

Detroit Crime Commission tackled crime by going after large-scale slumlords, vacants, and arson.

An Ellicott City woman pleaded guilty to stealing $1.5 million in a mortgage fraud scheme.

Also in September, a series of arson fires did some major widespread damage to Detroit’s east side.

October

I was in Baltimore Magazine in October.  Spending four days or more with a journalist is like therapy (only cheaper and more fun). I highly recommend it.  I also did a Q&A with Technically Baltimore — they appeal to my data nerd side, and who doesn’t like talking about data?

Edward Ericson, Jr. from the Baltimore City Paper wrote about the debacle with the Prisoner’s Aid Association-owned properties that have been condemned, foreclosed on, or are in foreclosure.  It’s definitely worth reading both articles:  First Article  Second Article.

The Baltimore Sun reported that former District 2 councilman Nick D’Adamo was given a cushy job as a “Special Assistant” to BCFD Chief James Clack.  Hey…wasn’t Squad 11 in D’Adamo’s former district?

Speaking of dumb moves by government — Wayne County, MI (yeah that’s Detroit) is apparently got rid of its ability to investigate and prosecute arson cases.  In Detroit.  A city with probably more arson than any other city in the world.

Just as BCFD Chief Clack finished crowing about his impressive fire statistics in front of the City Council — five people, a grandmother and four children, were killed in a house fire. As much as people like to bandy about impressive stats and data — actions still speak louder than words.

November

ProPublica published their “Living Apart” series in November.  The series is about fair housing in the US, and how things went terribly wrong, despite the best intentions of lawmakers on both sides of the fence.  You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Baltimore City demolished a block of vacants in West Baltimore — I hope it turns into something that benefits residents.   You can see how the block looked before demolition here.

Baltimore Brew was quick to report on the community impact grant money our city gave the casino developers — money that was earmarked for poor communities like Pigtown, Sharp-Leadenhall, and Westport.

In Milwaukee, WI, foreclosed and abandoned homes continued to be a problem — yet Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker used settlement money received from a federal mortgage abuse lawsuit to balance the budget.

Want to buy that vacant foreclosure next door before it becomes a neighborhood nuisance?  That may be harder than you think.

Louisville, KY created a registry of vacant homes, and a plan for what to do when owners don’t maintain them.

Foreclosed home caretakers sued a Bank of America affiliate in California, claiming the company cheated them out of overtime and wages.

December

As you can imagine, folks in Cleveland are tired of slumlords, too.  And they had some words for an absentee slumlord who lives in Florida.

In New York, an attorney was convicted on multiple counts of mortgage fraud, but the NY Attorney General lost a few counts, despite testimony from the attorney’s employees.

An office building in downtown Baltimore will be converted to apartments — however, it looks like no affordable units are planned.

ABC2 News reports that an Owings Mills Man will be spending the next 25 years in prison for his role in a mortgage fraud scheme.

Even more apartments coming to downtown Baltimore, according to Steve Kilar at the Baltimore Sun.  It’s unclear whether any of the buildings will include workforce housing.

A rather bizarre interview with the CEO of Wells Fargo about the economy, mortgage fraud, and board conflicts.

DSNews and CoreLogic report that mortgage fraud is on the rise again, with increased short sale fraud expected.

Howard Park is still waiting for their ShopRite Supermarket — what’s the holdup?

Interesting to see that Johns Hopkins is pledging millions of dollars to fix up the neighborhoods surrounding its Homewood campus — what about all of the lead paint-filled blighted homes owned by the Bloomberg School of Public Health near Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore?

Speaking of mortgage fraud, three people were indicted for their role in a fraud scheme that concentrated around houses in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood.

PG County has seen its fair share of mortgage fraud, too.

Brighter days ahead for one Detroit neighborhood — thanks to the residents who live there.

While steel shutters might be great for keeping vagrants out of vacants, they pose a challenge to firefighters and might result in greater property loss, according to Chicago Fire Department Chief of Special Operations Michael Fox.

TODAY, December 31, is the last day you can file your Maryland Homestead Tax Credit application.  If your application is not postmarked by today, you will not receive the credit — file now!

Maryland home values fell 7% in 2012, according to this article in the Baltimore Sun.

Link Roundup

So if you haven’t had a chance to wander down to Articulate:Baltimore and check out the artwork, you should.  I love this part of Baltimore — of course the thought of overpriced condo developments on Howard Street makes me nauseous…but hopefully the neighborhood will stay true to its roots, despite the recent attention and designation as an arts district.

If you’re a homeowner, you may be eligible for the Maryland Homestead Tax Credit.  You only have until December to apply, so act fast.  Please note, this tax credit is for owner occupied homes only — no rentals or second homes are eligible.

If you haven’t read it already, I was in Baltimore Magazine this month.  Kind of scary, but fun at the same time.  I also did a Q&A with Technically Baltimore — they appeal to my data nerd side, and I’m putty in their hands.

Edward Ericson, Jr. from the Baltimore City Paper has been writing about the debacle with the Prisoner’s Aid Association-owned properties that have been condemned, foreclosed on, or are in foreclosure.  It’s definitely worth reading both articles:  First Article  Second Article.

The Baltimore Sun reports that former District 2 councilman Nick D’Adamo was given a cushy job as a “Special Assistant” to BCFD Chief James Clack.  Hey…wasn’t recently-closed Squad 11 in District 2?

Speaking of dumb moves by government — Wayne County, MI (yeah that’s Detroit) is apparently getting rid of its ability to investigate and prosecute arson cases.  In Detroit.  A city with probably more arson than any other city in the world.

Just as BCFD Chief Clack finished crowing about his impressive fire statistics in front of the City Council — five people, a grandmother and four children, were killed in a house fire. As much as people like to bandy about impressive stats and data — isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?

Support House Bill 1081

Bill Information: House Bill 1081 would ensure that property owners who have elected to take the Homestead Property Tax, and have later been found ineligible, would not only owe the back taxes — there would also be a financial penalty for claiming a tax credit they’re not entitled to.

Why This Is Important:  Municipalities can ill afford to allow residents to claim tax credits they’re not entitled to — the loss of tax revenue is too great.  Baltimore City loses roughly $1 million annually due to owners of rental, secondary, or vacant property taking the Homestead Property Tax Credit fraudulently…or “by accident”.  This would not only ensure the municipality would have legal recourse to claim the back taxes, but the added penalty would serve as a deterrent against further abuse by property owners.

What You Should Do:  Contact your Maryland legislators and ask them to support this important bill.

Support Senate Bill 123

Bill Information:  SB 123 would require banks to provide SDAT with a court order ratifying the sale of real property within 30 days of the sale, effectively removing all tax credits applied to a former owner-occupied home.

Why This Is Important:  Municipalities can ill afford to allow banks to receive homestead tax credits and other tax credits given to homeowners, especially given the role of banks in the foreclosure crisis.  This could mean the loss of millions of dollars in the hardest-hit areas, such as Baltimore City and Prince George’s County.  This is especially important, since banks have thus far sat on properties, putting little to no effort in selling these vacant homes — presumably because they’re waiting for the market to hit an upturn.  In the years it will take for property values to increase, the banks will receive tax credits they shouldn’t receive.

What You Should Do:  Contact your Maryland legislators and ask them to support this important bill.

Link Roundup

New Chief of Administration at Baltimore Housing: The Daily Record reports that Margaret (Peggy) Webster has joined Baltimore Housing as chief of administration for project finance.  Hopefully she will be a strong voice in favor of paying the City’s lead paint settlements.

Why is the city a mess?  It’s not a lack of money or opportunities, according to one former teacher. — it’s the parents.

The Maryland Department of Planning, after reviewing 120 days of public comment on its initial draft of PlanMaryland, today released a revised draft of the State’s first strategic smart growth plan.

Totally not planning, housing, or city related…but hey, I assume you eat?  And if you eat, you should thank a farmer.  Attend this amazing fundraising event, and help Maryland’s farmers.

There’s a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Detroit! Who knew? (Link via Detroit Moxie).

And speaking of Detroit… From @stephencearley — a great article on Detroit in GQ.  Again, a refreshing perspective on urban renewal — one that Baltimore refuses to implement in a comprehensive way.

Yet another property tax scandal in Baltimore — some vacant property owners have been illegally receiving the homestead tax credit.

The Sun’s editorial staff thinks the mayor should be developing a plan to renew the city.  To that, I say “Well…duh.”

A note from me:  Don’t forget to vote on September 13th.  we need new leadership in this city…and staying home on primary and general election days won’t help.  Get off your duff and vote!