When plumber Wayne Garrity began amassing Baltimore slum houses in the mid 1980s, he thought he could keep up with the necessary repairs.
He couldn't. Now he'll do 200 hours of community plumbing work for free after being convicted of 150 criminal charges of violating the housing code.
"I thought I could get them back in shape," Garrity said yesterday of the 360 houses he accumulated over the years.
Among his properties were several obtained from Joel Hirschman, a landlord well known to housing inspectors for the poor condition of the inner city homes he owned or managed for out-of-town speculators.
"I just couldn't correct his problems. I just inherited some bad properties," Garrity said.
He added that when he found he could not keep up with repairs, he began selling his houses. He said he owns only 85 now.
The criminal charges in Baltimore City District Court concerned 18 of Garrity's buildings, 14 of which are vacant. Housing Department spokesman Bill Toohey said the violations include sagging porches, broken doors, flaking paint, trash-strewn yards and loose stair treads.
Although he's a master plumber, Garrity also was charged with plumbing violations, Toohey said.
Garrity's agreement requires him to work as a volunteer plumber for the People's Homesteading Group, a non-profit organization that uses labor from volunteer families to renovate houses, which the families then own.
Michael Mazepink, People's Homesteading director, said his group welcomes the plumbing work from Garrity, although the details have not been worked out.
Another $3,000 in fines is to go to an emergency fund for housing repairs at the Housing Department's Housing Inspection Division.
Garrity has promised to try to sell the rest of his properties, Toohey said. If he fails to live up to the agreement, Garrity could be fined $10,000.
Garrity refused to comment about the agreement to divest himself of his properties and work for the People's Homesteading group.