The Maryland Law Keeping Property Owners a Secret
Updated: Monday, April 28 2014, 08:31 PM EDT
Eight-year-old Troy Douglas was killed in February when the wall of a rowhome collapsed on top of him as he walked home from school. The owner of the property remains a mystery.
The building is owned by a Limited Liability Company (LLC) which, unlike corporations, are allowed to keep personal information secret.
FOX45 went to the address listed for the LLC that owns the row home on 447 Lakewood and found a UPS store. According to a store employee the LLC more than likely has a mailbox, but nothing else. As far as calling the LLC, no number is listed.
It's a thorny legal problem that veils ownership of thousands of properties throughout the city, making it difficult for residents and city housing department to enforce building codes.
The Housing Authority says they conducted 5,000 searches for LLC owners in 2013, spending manpower and money the mayor says could be better spent redeveloping blight through her 'Vacants to Value' program.
The home where the wall collapsed was deemed vacant by the city. But properties shielded by LLCs aren't always vacant
In Towson, community leaders say they too have a hard time tracking down property owners when things go wrong, especially single family homes that house students
"It's very difficult to contact the owners of the properties," Towson Community Association President Paul Harding said.
It's why Jennifer Bevan-Dangel from advocacy group Common Cause teamed up with housing advocates to push a law that would require LLCs to publish the name of an owner along with contact information. So far efforts to pass the law in Annapolis have been unsuccessful.
In written testimony submitted to legislators special interests pushed back, arguing the law would prompt businesses to leave the state. Still, advocates say they won't give up fighting.
As for the LLC that owns the home that collapsed, it was issued a citation for not cleaning up after the fire. The housing department says the owners have responded.