Detroit Sues the City's Three Most Notorious Slumlords

February 07, 2020, 8:15 AM by  Allan Lengel

Peeling paint (File photo)

The city of Detroit is suing three of the city's most notorious slumlords who collectively own more than 1,000 neglected properties. 

The Wayne County Circuit Court suits ask for the court to declare their business models illegal and compel the owners to properly maintain their properties and prohibit them from directly or indirectly purchasing or controlling additional properties until they come into compliance.

Thursday's suits are part of a battle against slumlords who purchase and rent dilapidated homes and fail to address peeling lead paint and other hazards that endanger tenants' health and safety, the city said in a press release.

“When a child is exposed to lead, irreversible damage is done. Their ability to learn, talk, hear and grow is at risk,” said Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair in a statement. “At the Detroit Health Department, we are an advocate for reducing lead in homes. It is so important that the City of Detroit continues to hold landlords accountable to ensure that a family’s basic right to safe and secure housing is not violated."

The suits name Steve and Stephen Hagerman, father and son of West Bloomfield, Michael Kelly of Grosse Pointe and Salameh Jaser of Dearborn. The group has collectively amassed thousands of tickets from city building safety inspectors.

In a statement, the city said slumlords rent properties in deplorable conditions, without obeying the laws on renting, especially when it comes to  lead clearance and putting children at risk of lead poisoning.  In many instances, these slum landlords create sham land contracts in an attempt to avoid the regulations on rental property.  The lawsuit is designed to put an end to that practice.

“Our lawsuits mark the beginning of a new effort to address the grave danger of lead in Detroit, among other housing related issues,” said Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia in a statement. “They have demonstrated no respect for the safety of the persons living on their land, and their business model presents an unreasonable danger to the renting public in Detroit. Detroit’s citizens deserve better.” 

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