Fellow landlords move to rescue owner facing scrutiny over neglected rentals

July 29, 1992|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

In an attempt to polish the image of inner city landlords, some members of a property owners group pledged yesterday to help an embattled colleague repair numerous housing code violations.

As city officials continued a special inspection yesterday of R. William Connolly's low-income rental properties under orders from Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, six members of the Property Owners Association said they would lend workers to Mr. Connolly to repair roofs and other structural defects.

The landlords also said they would meet Mr. Connolly next week to discuss "upgrading tenant selection" and pre-rental maintenance.

"He has been classified as a bad landlord, and one bad landlord does not make a bad industry," said Lawrence Polakoff, the owner of Chase Real Estate, who said he will replace a roof on a Dallas Street property owned by Mr. Connolly but at Mr. Connolly's expense.

Mr. Connolly is under scrutiny for ignoring tenant complaints of unsafe living conditions. Most of his tenants are welfare recipients who are on a waiting list of 30,000 people for city public housing.

Many of Mr. Connolly's tenants have charged that he has not closed rat holes or repaired collapsed ceilings and floors and peeling plaster and paint. They allege that he fails to clean up piles of trash in the backyards of his properties and ignores their requests for repairs.

Mr. Connolly sought help from the Property Owners Association Friday after Mr. Schmoke held a news conference and denounced the shoddy and unsafe conditions at many of Mr. Connolly's rental properties in East and West Baltimore.

The 35-year-old association represents owners of about 70,000 rental units in Baltimore. It agreed to help Mr. Connolly because some members believe that if he goes bankrupt due to costly repairs at many of his 517 rowhouses, the city will be stuck with a new crop of vacant houses, and some desperately poor families will be left homeless, Mr. Polakoff said.

Mr. Connolly had no comment yesterday, said Ira C. Cooke, his attorney.

Mr. Polakoff said Mr. Connolly's plea for help grew out of the realization that he "is in over his head." Mr. Connolly has 25 employees -- not enough to repair violations both outstanding and anticipated during the special inspection, Mr. Polakoff said.

"Bill wants to do the right thing," Mr. Polakoff said. "He is not angry, not blaming anyone and not feeling vindictive. He wants to get the job done and get it resolved."

It is the second time in seven years that Mr. Connolly asked the association for help, Mr. Polakoff said. In 1985, the association made repairs at some of Mr. Connolly's properties after the Maryland attorney general's office -- in conjunction with Legal Aid and on behalf of five tenants -- filed an unprecedented suit against Mr. Connolly under the state Consumer Protection Act. It was the first time the statute was used against a landlord.

Last week, Mr. Schmoke ordered two city housing inspectors to inspect 417 of Mr. Connolly's properties for housing code violations. On Monday, when the inspections started on Wirton Street in East Baltimore, an average of 20 violations per house were found, an inspector said. Some of the properties also had outstanding violations.

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