by Stacy LaPoint See related story: “Landlord Brophy Fined $15,000+ — City Action Against Absentee Landlord Results In Forfeitures Of More Than $15,000”
In recent years Riverwest has become a hotbed for real estate investors due to its relatively low property assessments and ideal location near downtown, UWM, and the Riverworks industrial and retail areas. Development of new construction homes has taken off, and residential investment property is selling quickly with ownership ranging from single owner-occupied duplexes to individuals or companies owning over 100 units in and around the neighborhood. Most residents are keenly aware that landlords who live in or near their investment property are more likely to care about the condition of their units and the tenants to whom they rent. But some Riverwest landlords rarely visit their properties, seemingly collecting rent without any concern for deteriorating housing conditions, dilapidated exteriors, and tenants with problem behavior. Last October Milwaukee Magazine did a story on the city’s five worst residential landlords. One of the subjects of that piece, Timothy Brophy, Jr. owns many Riverwest properties in various states of disrepair. According to Todd Weiler, Public Information and Training Coordinator for the Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS), poor property management is typical of Brophy. “He will buy a property already in bad shape and continue to rent it without addressing the code violations,” said Weiler. One seemingly typical example of a Brophy property is 601-603 East Burleigh Street. According to neighbors the building has been deteriorating for years and has several code violations. “When Brophy purchased it last year he did nothing to improve the units. There has been an endless turnover of tenants with poor garbage management, loud music, domestic disputes, improperly cared for pets, loud cars, panhandling and suspected drug dealing,” said one neighbor who wishes to remain anonymous. Another neighbor noted that several police squads have been seen regularly at the house, including most recently a couple police visits in one night culminating in an arrest of a woman on March 26 after a large group of people had been arguing loudly on a porch most of the evening, an eyewitness said. At the time this article was written Brophy had been given five days to install smoke detectors in both units. If he had not complied, the inspector could write an order for the building to be placarded, which means tenants would be evicted and the doors and windows boarded. Melanie Peterson, a neighbor to two of . Brophy’s properties at 924 and 915 East Meinecke Street, said last July she called DNS to report overflowing garbage that was spilling rotten food and waste into the ally behind her home. Her children couldn’t play in the back yard due swarms of flies, rats, and a terrible stench. “The city told me they get complaints on this guy all the time and they gave me his name so I called him myself,” she noted. “He was extremely rude, defensive, and insulting. He asked me if I was educated, as if to insinuate I was an idiot for calling him directly to complain,” said Peterson. A general complaint about Brophy’s properties was made to the DNS last year, which prompted inspections and the subsequent addition of his name to the Nuisance Abatement Program (NAP) in an effort to curtail his inappropriate business practices (see sidebar, page 19). Brophy’s fees are adding up. According to the DNS, 35 of his approximately 72 properties are currently incurring reinspection fees. If reinspection fees don’t inspire a landlord to make repairs or deal with problem tenants, the problem goes to court. “Reinspection fees usually add up enough to prompt a property owner to get the work done, but in cases like this where the owner ignores the fees, a court-ordered receivership action is used to force the owner to relinquish control,” Weiler says. The city then appoints a management company to screen tenants and rehab the property and that cost is then added to the property tax bill so it becomes the responsibility of the new owner. The city can also condemn a property, and further inaction from the owner can result in property demolition. “We had a meeting with Mr. Brophy around the first of the year and told him he had 60 days to get us a list of all his properties and tenant names. Our goal is to track progress on the repairs, but we have not received the list. The next step is for the city attorney to take the case to court,” Weiler said. According to DNS records, two homes and a garage belonging to Mr. Brophy have already been demolished. He appealed one demolition case on Booth Street where he had failed to restore a small cottage, which was condemnable and two years beyond the compliance date. “Brophy stated it was worth $80,000, since Riverwest property is so hot on the market, but it assessed at only $6,000. The judge considered the city’s report of all the missed opportunities on Brophy’s part to begin rehabilitation on the property, so it was condemned and destroyed,” reported Weiler. Milwaukee police officer Robert Garcia is working with the NAP team on Brophy’s properties along with building inspectors. “I have been to at least 25 of his properties, and not one tenant ever said they have seen or met Mr. Brophy,” Garcia said. “In our efforts with the chronic nuisance situation we have shut down several drug operations, prostitution and a lot of other nuisance behavior [at Brophy’s properties],” he said. The following local properties are publicly recorded at the Register of Deeds office as being owned by Timothy Brophy, Jr. the list may not be complete. 515 U2 N. Marshall St. 2000-06 N. MLK Jr. Dr. 1805 N. 2nd St.2010 N. 2nd St. 2052 U3 N. 1st St.2106-08 N. 1st St.2106-06A N. 1st St. 2626 N. Palmer St. 3448-50 N. Richards. St. 2955 N. Buffum St. 2001 N. Holton St.2358 N. Holton St.2370 N. Holton St.2601 N. Holton St.2637 N. Holton St.2657 N. Holton St. 2623 N. Pierce St.2927 N. Pierce St.3008 N. Pierce St. 2423-25 N. Booth St.2431 N. Booth St.2444-46 N. Booth St.2600-04 N. Booth St.2777-79 N. Booth St.2949 N. Booth St. 2713-15 N. Fratney St. 2220 N. Bremen St.2565 N. Bremen St.2649-51 N. Bremen St. 2230 N. Weil St.2636-38 N. Weil St.2646 N. Weil St.2929 N. Weil St. (on 3/26/04 the city issued a service request to inspect dwelling as a candidate for condemnation) 2211 N. Humboldt Ave.2410 N. Humboldt Blvd.3220-22 N. Humboldt Blvd.3813 N. Humboldt Blvd. 1508 E. Irving Pl. 1020 E. Kewaunee St. 912-14 E. North Ave.1118-20 E. North Ave. 633-35 E. Wright St. 513 E. Meinecke Ave.606-08 E. Meinecke Ave.613-15 E. Meinecke Ave.700 E. Meinecke Ave.814 E. Meinecke Ave.915 E. Meinecke Ave.924 E. Meinecke Ave. 812-14 E. Clarke St. 909-11 E. Center St.925 E. Center St. 216-18 E. Locust St. 401-03 E. Burleigh St.601-03 E. Burleigh St.