City housing officials have filed criminal charges against 15 property owners accused of violating a law requiring absentee landlords to pay a $10-per-unit registration fee.
The 15 alleged violators face potential court fines as high as $10,000. The city enacted the registration law in 1981 as a way of locating absentee landlords who had been charged with housing code violations such as failing to provide tenants with heat or hot water.
Robert Dengler, acting director of housing inspection services, said the city's prosecution of a small number of recalcitrant landlords tends to bring forward others who haven't registered.
After the city prosecuted seven landlords last year, he said, "people who had not registered, registered. Publicity brings people in. This is a deterrent."
The owners charged yesterday were chosen as examples to the absentee landlords who had failed to register by February, Mr. Dengler said. According to the city, there are 2,830 such landlords, whose annual fees were due last September.
Mr. Dengler said that in fiscal year 1991, his department added 1,414 owners to its registration rolls who had not registered the previous year. They owned 2,114 properties.
This year, 12,700 property owners have registered. The registration fees are expected to bring $443,000 in revenue to the city this year.
The $10 fee has not changed since it was enacted 11 years ago. The Schmoke administration tried to double the fee in a City Council bill that died a year ago after the Property Owners Association opposed it.
The landlords charged yesterday are Walter I. Weber, Philip H. Collector, Leroy Baldwin (trustee for Dennis Baldwin), Theodore A. Cavacos, Philip P. Everson, Geraldine Rolfes, William J. Mosley, Leon Kuryk, Charles William Runkles, Robert J. Ferguson Jr., George R. Norris, Arnold Barr (attorney for Esther Barshop), Wendell L. Davis Sr., Orange Properties Inc. and Detrica Royster.