Vacant properties are a serious source of problems in Baltimore. Studies have shown that blocks with vacants have significantly higher reports of violence, theft, and drug crimes; abandoned houses lower nearby property values while at the same time draining already-strained municipal services. In Baltimore, the fight against vacant properties is complicated by landlords who live out of town. But Baltimore’s absentee landlords–slumlords, if you’re not feeling polite–are hopefully feeling a bit more uneasy this week, after a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge handed down a ruling against absentee landlord Scott Wizig. Wizig, a Texas-based real estate investor, was notorious around town for buying up around 140 properties with unpaid back taxes. Instead of developing them, Wizig would let them deteriorate. He did the same thing in Buffalo and was basically run out of town for it. Here’s hoping that this latest suit against him, which was bought by six community associations, will have the same effect in Baltimore.
The ruling was the first to take advantage of the recently enacted Community Bill of Rights, which allows community organizations to pursue claims against owners whose blighted properties pose a danger to the surrounding neighborhood.
The plaintiffs requested $8 million in damages; the exact amount of monetary damages will be determined in further proceedings scheduled for this fall. It’s cases like this that make us grateful for the Community Law Center, which spearheaded the fight against Wizig–consider throwing a small donation their way to help them keep doing the good work they do every day.
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