I-Team: Mayor supports city suing delinquent property owners

Posted at 11:26 PM, Nov 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-18 00:27:23-05
Earlier this month, the I-TEAM exposed a landlord who failed to pay taxes and fix serious code violations on dozens of homes he purchased at sheriff's auction sales. 
Since that report, we learned there are a handful of other property owners who owe the city more than $1 million combined for failing to keep their properties up to code. 
Mohammad Choudry is one of those property owners. The City says he owes more than $400,000 in unpaid property taxes along with a handful of fines from code violations. 
"Mr. Choudry has cost taxpayers of Milwaukee a lot of money because he takes in cash revenue for rent and doesn't pay his property taxes," Assistant City Attorney Kail Decker said. 
Choudry didn't have anything to say to the I-TEAM after a judge issued a temporary order this month banning him from purchasing new properties until he pays taxes and fines on the ones he already owns.
We also wanted to give Choudry another opportunity to talk and went to his last known address. We left a business card on his door but haven't heard back. 
One of Choudry's neighbors, who didn't want to be identified, wasn't too happy to learn Choudry is wanted for not paying property taxes. 
"It's not bringing in the money the city needs," Choudry's neighbor said. "I mean our streets have really taken a beating and if we don't pay our property taxes, nothing is going to get done." 
The City of Milwaukee is suing Choudry for $1.25 million in unpaid taxes, fines and damages. 
Decker says Choudry also failed to register deeds into his name in more than three dozen home purchases he made at auctions. Decker believes Choudry did this to purposely try to avoid being held accountable for paying property taxes. 
We also learned Choudry racked up more than 3,000 code violations in the last decade for properties he rents out to tenants, but he's not the only one racking up fines and failing to pay!
The following 20 property owners owe the City more than $1 million in fines from building code violations only: 
  • James  G. Miicke: $361,095
  • Todd A. Brunner: $161,019.55
  • Gary L. Kuhn: $93,473
  • Mohammad Choudry: $66,434
  • Larry M. Hopson: $56,895
  • Rita M. Willis: $53,153
  • Quentin Ferguson Sr.: $27,323
  • Miguel Saldivarquezada: $25,050
  • Connell Adams: $23,264.44
  • Jeffrey O. Brown: $21,618
  • James L. Ramsey: $21,373
  • William A. Montoto: $20,915
  • VW Chambers: $19,578
  • Stella L. Leflore: $19,256
  • Mark A. Fritz: $19,157
  • Dorothy Chambers: $17,185
  • Lester Buckley: $16,366
  • Sanford B. Parson: $16,170
  • Bernadine Benson: $15,343
  • Tamairo A. Moutry: $15,025
Building code officials say while most property owners comply with orders to fix safety issues, they admit they can't do much to force homeowners to make repairs. 
"If no work has been completed, we're not having good communication, we'll then forward that order to our municipal court system," said Erica Lewandowski with the Department of Neighborhood Services. 
Fines can build up over time unless the city decides to sue the property owner. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett believes this may be the only alternative in some of these cases.
"If you've got outstanding violations, they are there because there is something wrong with the property," Barrett said. "The message for the landlords who are trying to get by the system is you've seen it, we're coming after you!" 
Choudry's neighbors support any effort to get landlords to fix their properties and pay their fair share of taxes. 
"I want people to upkeep their homes," one neighbor said. "It's fine if you're a landlord, but at least fix up the houses because my property values go down because of the way your house looks." 
Decker says the reason his office is pursuing Choudry's case and not others is because they believe not only did he not care to fix safety violations with his properties, but he allegedly tried to defraud the city. 
The fight to stop delinquent landlords from purchasing new properties: 
  • Prior to 2016, if you had the cash, you can buy a property at any sheriff's auction sale in Wisconsin. This allowed the buyer the ability to acquire as many homes as they wanted and there was no requirement on how quickly the deed had to be changed. 
  • A new state law now in effect requires all deeds to be transferred to the new buyer's name immediately following an auction. This is meant to hold property owners more accountable should they fall behind on taxes. 
Mayor Barrett also told TODAY'S TMJ4 that an employee with the Department of Neighborhood Services also attends sheriff's auction sales to ensure new buyers know the current policies and procedures. 
The City is also keeping tabs on property owners who owe taxes. You can view that list here.