Charges against landlord dropped

September 12, 1995|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

County prosecutors agreed yesterday to drop charges against a Pioneer City landlord accused of running a nuisance property, provided he does more to screen potential tenants and evicts those police find are involved in criminal activities.

In an agreement reached before trial in District Court, Assistant State's Attorney Trevor A. Kiessling Jr., landlord Mohammad Zuberi, and Anne Arundel County police decided to dismiss the case. The conditions are that Mr. Zuberi use an addendum on his leases that will allow him to evict tenants involved in drug activity when the police supply witnesses to the activity.

Mr. Zuberi also must ask police for criminal histories of potential renters and use the information in deciding whether to let them rent one of his homes.

The agreement further states that Mr. Zuberi had no personal knowledge or involvement in the illegal activities at his properties in the 1800 and 1900 blocks of Arwell Court and the 8300, 8400 and 8500 blocks of Pioneer Drive. Mr. Zuberi owns 62 of 284 units there.

Mr. Kiessling told Judge Michael E. Loney he thought the agreement should resolve the problems in Pioneer City, but frustrated residents said it was not enough.

"I'm not satisfied with what the state's attorney's office did, and I'm not satisfied with what the representatives for this area have done," said Alphonso Matthews, a Pioneer City homeowner.

He said elected officials would have been more concerned if the area were not a minority neighborhood.

"I take exception to that," said County Councilman Bert Rice. "When I call over to the county administration on any community, whether it be Severn or Maryland City or Meade Village, they've been very responsive, whether the citizens are black or white or whatever."

Victoria Davis, vice president of the Warfield III condominium association, called the agreement "terrible."

"We've had that FIST (Families Insisting on Safe Tenancies) addendum instituted for the last two years now, and none of his tenants, that we know of, has signed it," she said.

"These things that they told him to do are things that normal landlords can do anyway. They just made him do his job."

Mr. Kiessling agreed.

"I don't look at this as a victory for the state or a victory for Zuberi," he said, adding that if each party sticks to the agreement, the community should be able to solve the neighborhood's drug problem.

"Now we've developed a method of mutual cooperation, a method of quick convictions, and these will be followed up," he said. "When we find a rotten apple, we're going to work together to get that person out."

Initially, the state wanted the properties handed over to a receiver or conservator, but State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said he would rather have the landlord agree to manage the property properly.

"All we really wanted to do is make landlords manage their property in a responsible way so that drug dealing does not flourish in the community," Mr. Weathersbee said. "Mr. Zuberi would not correct the problem until we filed suit. This agreement is sufficient if it is complied with. If it's not, we'll be back in court."

Targeting a landlord is the latest tactic in Mr. Weathersbee's strategy to eliminate nuisance drug houses. Three homes designated as crack houses were bulldozed last year. Another home in Annapolis was boarded up and sold.

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