Six Baltimore neighborhood associations will share an $85,000 settlement from a notorious slumlord, according to the Community Law Center.
A bankruptcy judge agreed to a deal in which Scott Wizig of Houston will pay the community groups compensation for the harm they suffered because of his neglect of about 140 houses his companies own or owned in Baltimore City. Under the settlement, Wizig also promises to demolish some of the houses, which are said to be unsalvageable, and fix up others. It was not immediately clear how many of his houses would be demolished and how many renovated.
"The agreement's most vital provisions require the Defendants to invest in rehabilitating some properties and in demolishing the properties that were beyond repair and endangering community residents," Robin Jacobs, a Community Law Center lawyer in the case, said in a press release.
The plaintiff neighborhood associations are Coldstream-Homestead-Montebello Community Corporation, Alliance of Rosemont Community Organizations, Inc., Mount Clare Community Council, Inc., Carrollton Ridge Community Association, Inc., Operation ReachOut SouthWest, Inc., and Greater Greenmount Community Association, Inc. They originally demanded $8 million.
Wizig is known nationwide as a bad landlord. He started in Buffalo, New York, bought in Baltimore, and now owns property in Houston. In the past, Wizig would buy dilapidated houses for a few thousand dollars at tax sales and rent them out for several hundred per month, often getting tenants to sign rent-to-own deals that required them to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the properties. City Paper first wrote about him in 2004.
The neighborhood associations, with help from the Community Law Center and Venable, LLP, which worked pro-bono, sued Wizig and several of his companies under the Community Bill of Rights, which allows residents to claim damages for public nuisances.
"We want to stress today to all other neighborhoods here and around the country struggling with vacant properties to never give up on your neighborhood," Joyce Smith, of Operation ReachOut SouthWest, Inc., said in the CLC press release. "You can come together, and you can win this fight."