In the wake of a judge’s order that Houston property owner Scott Wizig must clean up 49 dilapidated properties in Baltimore, his local attorney says a settlement conference has been scheduled for Monday.
“We will try to come to some agreement that is in the best interest of everyone involved,” said Dana Petersen Moore, attorney for the nine companies controlled by Wizig that technically own the properties targeted in the suit.
Robin Jacobs, staff attorney for the Community Law Center that represents six community associations that brought the action, confirmed a court-ordered settlement conference is scheduled to take place.
Jacobs noted that, as part of their $8 million suit against the Wizig entities, there are still 57 alleged nuisance properties and a number of other claims about business practices pending.
A September 30 trial date has been set in the lawsuit, filed under a state “Community Bill of Rights” statue recently strengthened to affirm the right of neighborhood associations to sue nuisance landlords.
Wizig as a Verb
In Houston, news of the latest legal action against Wizig prompted a re-cap of all the troubles surrounding his multi-state real estate empire.
“As we detailed in a 2004 story, [Wizig] has built a lucrative business of buying dilapidated homes on the cheap and enticing unsophisticated first-time home buyers with ‘option to buy’ agreements that seem to set occupants up for failure,” wrote the weekly Houston Press. “We like to call it ‘Wiziging’.”
The author promised to update a lengthy 2004 piece on Wizig, “The Specialist,” but said he first needed to take “a bleach bath” because the last time the newspaper wrote about him, “We didn’t feel truly clean until we scrubbed off the first two layers of skin.”
Planned to do the Repairs: Attorney
Moore was asked about the portrayal of Wizig as the archetypal slum property owner at the center of the pernicious problem of vacant blighted rowhouses plaguing Baltimore.
Moore said the problem extends beyond her clients and attributed it to the U.S. housing market collapse.
“These were properties that were purchased off the tax rolls and this owner, like may others, planned to do the necessary repairs,” she said. “They were purchased at a time there was a lot of hope that would be done.”
A newly named member of the Baltimore Liquor Board who will be considering regulatory issues brought by Community Law Center lawyers there, Moore said she took the case because she is well-placed to help settle it.
As a previous president of the Charles Village Civic Association, “I know, or at least I think I know, what communities want” and “having represented corporate clients, I understand their needs as well,” she said.