In an attempt to clamp down on recalcitrant landlords, the city housing department has filed court charges against seven landlords accused of failing to register and pay an annual $10 fee for each of several properties they own.
If convicted, the landlords could be fined as much as $500 for each charge. All the landlords face multiple charges for failing to register several properties.
All the property owners named in criminal charges filed in District Court yesterday are repeat offenders, having previously failed to register with the city, said John Huppert, director of housing inspection services.
The annual registration law, passed by the City Council in 1981, requires all owners of rental residential property to register with the city. It also requires out-of-town owners to name representatives in Baltimore to make it easier for housing officials to serve court summonses for housing code violators.
The registration law was instituted after the city found it difficult to find and prosecute landlords who lived outside Baltimore and Maryland.
Yesterday's action was "the first time we've taken consolidated, unified approach to owners" who refuse to register, said Huppert.
In addition to charging the seven property owners, Huppert said, his department is sending letters to another 27 owners, warning that they, too, will be prosecuted if they don't register.
Owners of rental properties should have registered by last Sept. 1.
The landlords charged yesterday are only a fraction of those who failed to register.
Huppert said there are 3,202 owners of 8,100 properties who the city has sent delinquency notices to for failing to register.
Another 40,000 owners have registered their properties, enabling the city to collect $450,000 in registration fees.
One of the landlords charged yesterday, James Cann, arrived at the housing department and registered his properties only hours after charges were filed.
Nevertheless, Robert Dengler, assistant director of housing inspections, said Cann still will be prosecuted.
Asked why he waited five months after the deadline, Cann said, "I don't know. I thought it was paid. I was out sick. I've been out sick since November."
Cann and his corporation, Larry Inc., face 20 charges for failing to register.
The other landlords charged yesterday are:
* Jeffrey K. Sekulow of Towson and his two companies, 810 Investment and J K and Company, which face 27 charges.
* Charles Runkles of Owings Mills, who faces ten charges.
* Ronald Bell, owner of Panda Properties in Baltimore, who faces 10 charges.
* Charles and Cynthia Horn of Glen Burnie, who face 10 charges.
* Alfred and Lena Riley of Baltimore, who face 10 charges.
* Timothy Casey of Potomac, operator of Rehab Rentals Inc., who faces five charges.
A year ago, the Schmoke administration attempted unsuccessfully to raise the registration fee to $20 in hopes of increasing city revenues. The move was opposed by the Property Owners Association, which represents city landlords. The bill died in the Taxation and Finance Committee after failing to win enough votes to move before the full council.