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Havre de Grace landlords fined for lead violations in rental units

Three Havre de Grace property owners are among 39 entities throughout the state fined by the Maryland Department of the Environment for allegedly violating state and federal environmental laws.

The Havre de Grace property owners, Leonard Ferguson Jr. and Vicki Ferguson, Marquis Investments LLC and James B. Owen Jr., were fined for alleged violations of lead laws, MDE officials announced earlier this month. The violations involved residential rental units.

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Owen, whose address is listed in the first block of Earlton Road in Havre de Grace, was initially assessed a fine of $40,000 by the MDE's Land Management Administration. He has since settled with the department, having sold three of his five "affected properties," and agreed to pay a $6,000 fine, according to a copy of a settlement agreement provided by MDE.

The agency also provided copies of administrative complaints against all three defendants, who own rental properties that were built before 1950, and are classified by the MDE as "affected properties."

The Fergusons, whose address is listed in the 600 block of Water Street in Havre de Grace, were fined $36,200. They are contesting the administrative complaint issued by the department April 21 regarding their three properties.

Jay Apperson, a spokesman for the MDE, said via email Wednesday a pre-hearing conference took place June 25, "and the parties are working toward a settlement in the case."

Marquis Investments, which is in the 800 block of South Union Avenue and represented by resident agent Chad Tate, has been fined $55,000 regarding 17 properties, according to the April 21 administrative complaint.

Marquis has also contested the complaint, according to Apperson, who said a pre-hearing conference has been scheduled for July 30.

According to the complaint against Marquis, the firm owns 17 rental properties in Havre de Grace that were built before 1950.

MDE received complaints from tenants of units at 152 and 154 Bloomsbury Ave. about "defective paint" in their dwellings, according to the case files.

Officials allege that Marquis did not register the two properties with MDE, which is required for affected properties. The owners also have not obtained "full risk reduction certificates" for those Bloomsbury Avenue properties, according to the MDE documents.

State law requires rental property owners to obtain those certificates whenever a tenant moves out. The owners must ensure the property is tested and inspected to ensure it is free of any contamination.

Owners must also have those certificates for 100 percent of their affected properties, which MDE officials allege Marquis had not done.

The Fergusons own properties in the 600 block of Pearl Street and the 700 block of Broad Street, according to MDE documents.

Officials allege they did not bring an apartment unit in their property at 701 Broad St. "into compliance with the full risk reduction standard upon a change in tenant occupancy," and they do not have 100 percent of their affected properties in compliance with that standard.

Regarding Owen's properties, officials learned through in-person interviews with tenants at 139 Bloomsbury Ave., 141 Bloomsbury and Apartment 4 in 401 S. Union Ave. that there was "visible chipping, peeling or flaking paint" in those residences.

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MDE officials allege that the apartment at South Union Avenue was not in compliance with the full risk reduction standard, and that Owen did not have risk reduction certificates for 100 percent of his properties, according to MDE.

Attempts to reach Owen at business and residential phone numbers were unsuccessful Wednesday. A phone number for the Fergusons at the address listed by MDE could not be found.

Marquis officials declined to comment Thursday.

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