Landlord files for bankruptcy Properties often cited for violations

June 18, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

Baltimore landlord R. William Connolly Jr., the owner of hundreds of rental properties cited for health and housing code violations, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. District Court.

Mr. Connolly and his wife, Marcia, filed Wednesday listing 259 creditors on a 23-page document that include Nock Supply Co., Copy Cat printing, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., The Baltimore Sun, Peterson Lumber Co., People's Electric and the state Workers' Compensation Commission. According to the court papers, the Connollys owe $114,700 to their 20 largest creditors. A more detailed list of the Connollys' liabilities had not been filed with the court.

Mr. Connolly's real estate companies, B & M Associates and M & J Joint Venture, are named as the companies seeking to reorganize under Chapter 11. Mr. Connolly owns 512 properties in Baltimore. During interviews with The Sun last year, a substantial number of his tenants complained about intolerable conditions that included leaking roofs, broken windows, trash-strewn yards, rats, collapsed ceilings and water heaters that leak carbon monoxide.

Most tenants rent from Mr. Connolly because they have no alternative. They are often recipients of public assistance and food stamps and are on the waiting list for public housing and cannot afford more than the $300 per month Mr. Connolly typically charges.

His companies are frequently cited for housing code and health violation by city officials.

A Department of Housing and Community Development spokesman said yesterday that 187 Connolly-owned properties currently have violation notices pending, while 185 are vacant. In the past, Mr. Connolly has corrected most code violations before the city moved to prosecute.

In addition to the housing violations, Mr. Connolly has been given 99 lead paint violation notices in recent years, a city Health Department spokesman said. Those violations are the result of children of tenants being diagnosed with elevated lead levels in their blood, which could lead to brain damage.

Mr. Connolly has abated 40 lead paint violations, but 59 remain outstanding, the official said.

The Chapter 11 petition is the latest in a string of woes for Mr. Connolly.

Last summer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke denounced Mr. Connolly's rental and maintenance practices and ordered an inspection blitz of all of his properties by city housing inspectors. Mr. Connolly was hit with numerous violation notices after the inspections.

Since then, Mr. Connolly has corrected many of those violations with financial help from the city Property Owner's Association, .. which is listed as a creditor with an outstanding $3,000 debt.

Some of Mr. Connolly's tenants last summer formed an advocacy group, Citizens for Decent Housing, which petitioned the landlord for better maintenance of their residences.

Between 1980 and 1986, Mr. Connolly was convicted 13 times for housing code violations. In 1985, the Maryland attorney general's office sued him, which resulted in the establishment of a $250,000 escrow account for repairs and court monitoring of his properties for two years.

In an interview last July, Mr. Connolly, 54, said he was close to bankruptcy then because he could not keep up with the cost of repairing his properties after they were damaged by tenants and vandals. He said last year his move to enter low-end real estate in the 1970s was "the worst decision I ever made in my life."

Attorneys C. Christopher Brown and Joseph B. Espo yesterday charged that Mr. Connolly filed for bankruptcy in order to avoid a lead-poisoning lawsuit that was scheduled to go to court this week. The suit stemmed from the alleged poisoning of the 8-year-old son of a tenant of Mr. Connolly, Mr. Espo said.

Mr. Connolly's attorney, Ira C. Cooke, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

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