Landlord placed on probation BALTIMORE CITY

July 01, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

Morris Garbis, a Baltimore landlord who for decades has been described as one of the city's most flagrant and frequent violators of the housing code, was placed on probation yesterday for operating as a real estate broker without a license.

Mr. Garbis, 77, was ordered to refund more than $7,000 in sales deposits he collected on houses he showed to potential buyers -- sometimes without the homeowner's knowledge.

The six houses, located throughout the city, were advertised for sale by Mr. Garbis' Preston Mortgage Service Co., said Gary Honick, a prosecutor in the economic crimes unit of the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office.

Mr. Honick said Mr. Garbis pleaded guilty to six counts of operating as an unlicensed real estate broker -- each count carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison -- and was ordered to pay restitution totaling more than $7,000 to six aspiring homebuyers.

Baltimore Circuit Judge David Ross sentenced Mr. Garbis to six, one-year terms but suspended the sentences and placed the landlord on two years of supervised probation, Mr. Honick said.

Mr. Garbis' license to sell real estate was revoked in 1961 after the state real estate commission found that he and his agents permitted deposits by four clients to become "mingled" with other funds and that he failed to return the money. By then, his battles with city Housing Court judges were well-documented, earning newspaper headlines such as, "Garbis gets fined again," " 'Slumlord' is Fined $75" and "Landlord Called 'Sore on City.' "

Those legal problems have continued to plague him over the years, earning him a $44,000 fine and 18 months of probation in 1983 for failing to register his properties with the city. Prosecutors said yesterday that Mr. Garbis owes more than $100,000 in fines for housing code violations.

Baltimore prosecutors began to receive the latest complaints about Mr. Garbis' handling of deposits a couple of years ago, Mr. Honick said.

In some cases the homeowner hired Mr. Garbis as a broker but in others he advertised and tried to sell rental properties on the assumption that the owner would be willing to accept a buyer's offer, Mr. Honick said.

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