Case Against Vacant Slumlord Now In Federal Court
A Houston man who was ordered to fix up his derelict city properties by a Maryland judge last year has filed for bankruptcy, leaving the future of dozens of blighted properties up in the air.
Six community associations sued Scott Wizig and the nine Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) he controls in April 2013 to force him to clean up 49 properties. Baltimore Circuit Judge Pamela Brown ordered Wizig to make the repairs by the end of October last year. But he requested a reconsideration of that order, then his LLCs filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws the day before the hearing on that request.
That put state court actions on hold temporarily.
Lawyers for Wizig and the community associations have been working on a settlement and are due to report back to a judge Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Linda Johnson, president of the Greater Greenmount Community Association, said she was shocked when she heard about Wizig’s bankruptcy filing. Her association covers the Barclay and East Baltimore Midway neighborhoods where Wizig or one of his companies owns 15 properties named in the suit.
Demolition has begun on one of the properties in the 1900-block of Boone Street. But that appears to threaten adjoining houses. Only the back-half of the house remains and a bathtub sits in open view on the second level. A couple of joists prop up houses on opposite sides of Wizig’s property.
And that worries Lewis Mitchell, whose home is one of the propped up buildings.
“When they take them joists out, our wall will subsequently collapse,” he said, “We’re in danger of the house caving in.”
Mitchell said Wizig’s house has been a nuisance for ten years and that he offered to buy the property. But he balked at the $30,000 price tag.
The six community associations, with help from the Community Law Center, used a state law called the Community Bill of Rights which allows community associations to sue property owners who do not respond to city repair orders, provided they give 60 days’ notice.
In addition to the Greater Greenmount association, the Mont Claire Community Council, Carrollton Ridge Community Association, Operation Reachout Southwest, the Alliance of Rosemont Community Associations and the Coldstream Homestead Montebello Community Corporation are parties to the suit.
Wizig has been in hot water over housing code violations in the past. City Paper reported a decade ago that he narrowly avoided jail time in Buffalo in 2000 by pleading guilty to about 200 violations on properties he owned there and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for repairs.
Around the time he filed for bankruptcy, he was the subject of a Houston Press story.
In an affidavit filed in September, Wizig said he does not run the “day-to-day” affairs of his LLCs and that management companies do the work through multiple employees.
“I did not personally commit, participate in, or inspire any nuisances that may have been caused by the LLCs,” he said.
A phone call to Lawrence Yumkas, Wizig's bankruptcy lawyer based in Columbia, Md., was not returned.