Landlord who neglected houses must sell

January 29, 1991|By Ginger Thompson

An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun gave an incorrect first name for a landlord convicted of housing violations. The landlord's name is Wayne Garrity.

The Sun regrets the errors.

A year ago, Christine and Robert King believed they had finally found the ideal home -- an affordable East Baltimore row house with seven bedrooms and two bathrooms to accommodate their large family.

It needed some minor plumbing and electrical repairs, but the Kings said the landlord promised the work would be completed before they moved in.


So, they rented it and loaded their belongings and their eight children and five grandchildren into a tractor-trailer to move in.

But when they walked into the foyer, they realized that the landlord had lied.

None of the promised repairs had been made. Furniture from the previous tenant was still sitting in the living room. The walls were coated with drab green paint. The floors were filthy. The furnace was not working, and the roof leaked in several places.

Since then the problems have gotten worse, and one of their grandchildren was recently diagnosed with lead poisoning. Their landlord, Walter Garrity of All State Properties, has never responded to their complaints.

But Mr. Garrity, who also runs a plumbing company, did respond to the 144 criminal charges brought against him by the Baltimore Housing Department.

And now, he's going to have to sell the 90 properties he owns in Baltimore under an unusual agreement that was reached in District Court after he pleaded guilty to 77 of 144 housing code violations brought against him.

City housing officials said yesterday that Mr. Garrity had ignored housing codes for the past few years. They say the bulk of his properties are vacant eyesores -- surrounded by trash, inhabited by rats and frequented by drug addicts and homeless people. The houses that are inhabited are plagued with heating and -- ironically -- with plumbing problems.

In reaching the agreement, approved last week by District Court Judge Theodore B. Oshrine, Mr. Garrity agreed to sell all his properties -- most of which have been vacant and dilapidated since he bought them. Mr. Garrity also agreed to pay a $3,000 fine and perform 200 hours of community service to rehabilitate other homes in Baltimore.

Mr. Garrity's attorney, Stanley Miller, said his client was "unfortunately paying for the sins of others" because the properties were already in a serious state of disrepair when he purchased them. He said Mr. Garrity didn't have enough time to make all the necessary repairs.

"That's fictional," said Michael Braverman, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case. "All these buildings were not in bad shape when Mr. Garrity bought them. They deteriorated under his stewardship because of mismanagement."

And, Mr. Braverman added, Mr. Garrity had been convicted previously of housing violations during the past few years. Many of his tenants also took him to court to force him to make repairs.

Mrs. King was one of those tenants. She said that she had refused to pay Mr. Garrity any rent for the past few months until he repaired her house, in the 1400 block of E. Eager St. They had set a court date, hoping to win an order that would force Mr. Garrity to make the repairs, but he never appeared, she said.

Meanwhile, her family suffers through cold winter days with only the oven for heat and has a collection of pails to catch the water that gushes through the roof on rainy days.

"We can't move because I got laid off," said Mr. King, a truck driver. "And we just can't get enough money together to get another place."

His wife added, "I don't really want to move because we have so much stuff in this house and it's not easy to move."

Across town, on a secluded street in West Baltimore, Patricia Jones also feels attached to the two houses she bought for her mother and sister a year ago at an auction.

She spent a lot of time and work fixing up the row houses located in the 1500 block of Leslie Street. And Ms. Jones, 35, was assured by representatives of Mr. Garrity's company that he intended to fix up the abandoned building next to hers.

But the promises were never fulfilled. The house remains vacant, she said, and until it was sealed last week, addicts congregated inside to use drugs.

"I have a lot of nieces and nephews on this street, and it's not safe to have houses like that," she said.

"There's so much trash, and it's full of rats so it's very unhealthy."

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