Severn landlord ordered to sell property by Feb.

Va. man wants to buy units for $40,000 each

January 11, 2003|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

A Severn landlord who has battled health inspectors and other landlords over housing code violations on one of Anne Arundel County's most dangerous streets will have to sell his property by next month, a federal judge ordered yesterday.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge E. Stephen Derby approved a contract for Mohammad Zuberi to sell his 30 properties on Arwell Court for $40,000 each to a Virginia Army officer.

If the sale doesn't close by Feb. 10, the homeowners association, Warfield Condominium Association No. 3, will move forward with a Feb. 12 foreclosure auction that was first slated for 1998 but was delayed five years because Zuberi filed for bankruptcy protection.

"They've got a contract that's not as pure as it might be, but the purchaser has waived his contingencies," the judge told Warfield attorney Carolyn G. Krohn. "Either you set a closing date, and you get your money, or you go to foreclosure and get your money."

Under the sale contract, Zuberi must pay the homeowners association the $80,000 in condo fees he owes. Still, Krohn questioned the contract's soundness, pointing out that the properties were appraised for about $20,000 and several homes have recently sold for even less.

But, she added, "Zuberi owns the properties. We don't get to choose who gets to buy them."

The 30 homes have more than 1,000 housing code violations, ranging from rotting wood and peeling paint to plumbing and electrical problems. Nearly all are vacant, the result of an Anne Arundel County Health Department order that forbids Zuberi from renting until he makes repairs.

Lt. Col. James Dickey said he is prepared to purchase the properties, repair them, and rent them out again. He plans to borrow $1.6 million to purchase the three-bedroom units "as is" and to cover additional costs. Yesterday he waived the termite inspection and the settlement survey.

Dickey said he learned about Zuberi's properties from relatives in Anne Arundel County. He met Zuberi in Arwell Court last year and made an offer.

"I'm paying that price because I'm serious about it," Dickey said in an interview yesterday. "I know how to increase the value of the property, and there will be drastic improvement."

Dickey, whose business card proclaims "we buy houses -- cash -- any area, any condition" in capital letters, said he kept an "open mind" about Zuberi despite the property's condition.

"It's not his fault," Dickey said. "It's more a combination of the owner, the tenants and the homeowners association."

Zuberi, who lives in Columbia, has blamed the association and his tenants for many of his problems. He declined to comment yesterday.

County health officials attended the bankruptcy hearing -- a rare step in an unusual county crusade to clean up a street known for drug activity and daytime shootings. Two years ago, at Warfield's request, the county surveyed all the street's properties and cited nearly every owner, the first time in at least seven years the county has conducted such an inventory.

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