Landlords group targets high fees and vacancies


A group of 40 Havre de Grace landlords has formed an organization to share information, raise the quality of rental units and increase the pool of tenants in this historic waterfront city.

The Havre de Grace Rental Housing Coalition is spearheaded by Stanley S. Lewis, property manager of Tranquility Townhouses of Concord Fields, a 250-unit rental complex on the west side of the city a few blocks from Tydings Park.

"Everybody is extremely enthusiastic about our goals," he said.

"It just makes so much sense to do this. It has been my intention to unite the landlords since I arrived [from New York] 14 months ago," he said.

The landlords will work on common issues that affect their property.

For example, a committee has planned a seminar on tenant screening procedures and is working with city officials to control water, sewer and sanitation costs, and make its members' properties safer.

Allen Fair and Mary Lynn Snyder, partners in BCH Real Estate, own nearly 300 rental properties in Havre de Grace. They welcome the coalition because it gives landlords a chance to share information on similar problems, from property maintenance to disputes with tenants.

Mr. Fair has volunteered to lead a committee that seeks lower trash hauling rates for commercial users. "We pay nearly three times the rate paid by the private sector for trash removal," Ms. Snyder said. "The same is true for water and sewer charges. If the coalition gives [landlords] an opportunity to address important issues and doesn't become another form of bureaucracy or someone's personal agenda, we'll continue to take an active role."

Mr. Lewis has contracted with Baltimore radio station WQSR-FM to broadcast advertising spots this month for the coalition.

"We are attempting to promote the city and its rentals," he said.

He said another goal of the coalition is to improve the quality of the rented property on the market, noting that 20 percent of rental units in Havre de Grace are vacant.

As property manager for the Baltimore-based Concord Fields Ltd. Partnership, Mr. Lewis said that his goal when he arrived in Havre de Grace in November 1992 was to rid the residential complex of its long-standing reputation as a crime-infested area and run-down complex.

In a matter of months, Mr. Lewis said, he began restoration of 80 units, repaired sidewalks and alleys, and removed all underbrush. All the units were cleaned and painted.

More important, Mr. Lewis said, is that his tenants now have a sense of community.

"For the first time in many of their lives, our tenants feel their concerns are being heard . . . and met," he said. "I only hope the newly formed coalition can have a similar impact in other communities."

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