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Problems abound for vacant homes' neighbors

Especially for residents sharing walls with abandoned properties, issues can mount quickly

November 15, 2010|By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun

The Malaneys' problems began in February 2009 when a windstorm ripped off roofing material from the rowhome next door, leaving only exposed plywood, which let in rain. Then in January, they said, the pipes next door burst, breaking a hole in the shared wall and submerging the Malaneys' basement in three-and-a-half feet of water.

Shonny S. Ogunfiditimi, who is listed in property records as owner of the neighboring home, could not be reached for comment. She filed for bankruptcy protection in December.

JPMorgan Chase, the mortgage servicer that started foreclosure proceedings on the home in June, sent an inspector to gauge the extent of the problems, the Malaneys said. Afterward Chase dismissed the foreclosure case, leaving the home in Ogunfiditimi's hands.

Tom Kelly, a Chase spokesman, said the bank was servicing the loan and followed the lender's instructions to dismiss the case.

The Malaneys' own insurer paid $1,300 after the initial problem with the roof but declined further claims, they said. A claims representative suggested in a letter that they seek city help to get the neighboring property fixed.

City officials tried citations, fines and legal action against the real estate investor. According to court records, Ogunfiditimi received probation before judgment on a charge of failing to properly register the property.

But the property wasn't fixed. So the city agreed to send a work crew.

"We had to do it ourselves," said Braverman, with the housing department. "The fact is, you're not going to get blood from a turnip."

Wendy Malaney said she's grateful the city stepped in. The work that was done should cut down on additional water damage, she said. But it doesn't solve her family's problem.

"The bottom line is, who's going to fix my house?" she said.

jamie.smith.hopkins@baltsun.com

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