Detroit landlord jailed for code violations, including apparent black mold, raw sewage at home

Stephen Hagerman sent to jail for 60 days due to code violations

By Karen Drew - Reporter/Anchor, Derick Hutchinson

DETROIT - Detroit officials said they were going to crack down on landlords, and there's new proof that they weren't kidding.

A landlord was hauled off to jail Wednesday for 60 days because he didn't follow a judge's order.

At first, blight tickets were handed down. Then, certain areas of the city were targeted, making landlords register. Now, a landlord who chose not to follow a court's order has been put behind bars.

Stephen Alexander Hagerman was charged with failure to maintain a property in a safe and sanitary condition. His property at 13116 Kilbourne Avenue in Detroit was cited earlier this year with numerous violations and emergency orders.

"There were open walls with heavy black mold, or what appeared to be black mold," said Wesley Bush, a Detroit Safety Department inspector and enforcement officer. "City records indicated that there was raw sewage still in the basement. There was also trash and debris in the rear. It was very difficult to get out of the back door. As a matter of fact, I couldn't even open it."

"He just told me to appear to court," tenant Armanda Stanton said. "He said, 'I just need you to appear to court to let them know that we're basically not a slumlord, that I've been helping you.'"

Stanton is a Detroit mother of two who rents from the Hagermans, a father-son team that runs Motown Rentals out of their home in West Bloomfield.

"It's not our responsibility to make those corrections," Stevie Hagerman said. "She's buying the property as is. It's her responsibility to make those."

"Did you ever file an affidavit with the city that said she knew of these problems before she took this home?" the prosecutor asked.

"I did not," he said. 

"Did he say why he wanted you at court?" the prosecutor asked.

"His exact words were that the city of Detroit was going after all of their homes," Stanton said.

Stephen Hagerman was busted for not keeping his rental up to code, and he was also told by the court to find other housing for his tenant. But he put her in a questionable hotel with known issues, officials said.

"They are prostitutes and drug users," Stanton said. "My oldest son that's 10 years old, he was, like, 'Mom, I'm not staying here.'"

"I don't understand how a person who manages 600 properties doesn't know how to protect themselves," the judge said. "I never rented property before a day in my life, but I certainly understand common sense. So again, all I can find is a willful disregard of the judge's orders, and yes, there will be consequences.

"You didn't follow up. It did not happen, and the court finds you in contempt. The court will give you 60 days in the Wayne County Jail."

Officials said the push isn't stopping anytime soon. Starting Aug. 1, compliance enforcement will focus on the 48125 ZIP code on the far east side near the Grosse Pointe Park border. Landlords in the area will be given tickets every other week if their properties aren't up to code.

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