Louis Singer, 82, helped to establish Baltimore property owners association

December 09, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Louis Singer, owner and operator of Singer Realty Inc., who helped establish the Property Owners Association of Greater Baltimore Inc., died Tuesday of cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was 82 and lived in Lutherville.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, Mr. Singer practiced law with Benson Gross and Morton Perry in Baltimore, representing many real estate developers and builders.

He began buying and managing properties in 1945, concentrating his real estate interests in the Edmondson Village, Northwood, Homestead and Lake Montebello neighborhoods in the city.

In 1952, he established Singer Realty Inc., and in 1960 gave up the practice of law to devote himself full time to his real estate business.

He was still active at his death in the business that is now operated by his son, Albert Singer of Mount Washington.

"Despite his prognosis, he continued to come into the office until 12 days before his death," his son said.

Mr. Singer and his friend, Anthony Piccinini, who died this year, had at one time been partners in Leader Realty until Mr. Singer established his own firm.

In 1956, they founded the Property Owners Association of Greater Baltimore Inc. to represent owners and managers of rental housing in Baltimore.

"It was also a school for wayward landlords. Landlords who were brought before Housing Court were sentenced to attend their workshops," said Stanley E. Sugarman, owner of Sugarcorn Realty and Homewood Realty Inc., and a friend for nearly 50 years.

The POA workshops taught owners how to stay out of trouble.

"We are landlords the same as you are," Mr. Singer told a workshop in an article in The Evening Sun in 1972.

"We're on your side. We have the same worries, the same concerns. We want to keep out of trouble, and we want to make a profit," he said.

"This is a unique school. Nowhere else in the country is there a class which tries to teach landlords, from a landlord's viewpoint, by other landlords, how to stay out of trouble," Mr. Piccinini told the newspaper.

"The point was that they were to abide by the housing code," said former POA executive director Don Walls.

"He tried to elevate the business and industry. He showed integrity in solving housing problems. Rotten apples were taken right out of the Property Owners Association. He did not want them there," said Mr. Walls, now a functional analyst for Baltimore public schools.

"Lou was a good force. He was very methodical, and if he had a fault, he was extremely methodical. He ran a good shop," Mr. Sugarman said.

When it came to renting housing to minorities, Mr. Singer did not balk at the notion when many landlords did.

"We all painted people the same color. No one was denied. Quality housing was paramount," Mr. Sugarman said.

Mr. Singer eschewed the term "landlord," preferring to describe himself as an "investment property owner," Mr. Walls said.

"He was a very refined man who did not enter a room in a great show of flamboyance. He never raised his voice. He was very erudite and a great fan of theater and the symphony," he said.

David B. Abramoff, a partner in the Baltimore law firm of Abramoff, Neuberger & Linder, said, "He was responsive and took good care of his properties. His tenants had great respect for him. People wanted to rent from him. He was at the top and one of the very best."

Mr. Singer was born in Philadelphia and raised in Bayonne, N.J., and Baltimore. He graduated from City College when he was 16 and earned his law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1938. He passed the Maryland Bar exam at 19, but was too young to admitted to practice.

He entered the Army in 1941 and later served as a warrant officer as a member of the Judge Advocate's Corps at Fort Meade. He was discharged in 1945.

Mr. Singer was married in 1945 to the Florence S. Levin, who died in 1993.

He was a member of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

He enjoyed golfing and stone sculpting. He was a founding member of Chestnut Ridge Country Club and a member of the Suburban Club.

Services were held Thursday.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of seven years, the former Bunny Weis; another son, Martin M. Singer of McLean, Va.; a sister, Marion Orman of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.

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