Tim Brophy, Slumlord
Tim Brophy, Slumlord
Tim Brophy, Slumlord
Tim Brophy, Slumlord

Lawsuit Claim Deadline Extended to September 14

Two years ago, landlord Tim Brophy hid under one of his tenant’s beds, hoping the police wouldn’t find him. They did. The city was after him then — and still — because of unpaid property taxes and outstanding fines relating to code violations on his vast collection of rental units in Riverwest, Harambee, Brewers Hill, and the East Side, which during its peak included more than 100 properties.

According to his lawyer, Thomas Nitschke, Brophy now owns less than half that amount, perhaps much less. Nitschke told the Journal-Sentinel in mid-August that Brophy now owns “more than 10, less than 50” properties.

That recent liquidation of his dilapidated assets has been brought about not just by the city’s punitive actions, but also by a civil lawsuit from his tenants. Jessica Wineberg, who initiated the class-action proceedings in March 2006, signed a lease with Brophy back in November 2004 for an apartment at 2563 N. Bremen Street. Less than a month into her year-long lease, however, she was forced to move because the city declared the building “unfit for habitation.”

Brophy Courts Trouble

Evidently many others have had similar experiences. Earlier this summer, Wineberg’s case met with unprecedented success, as Brophy paid $300,000 in a settlement – the first such class-action legal victory for tenants in the country. Under the terms of the settlement, Brophy is prohibited from renting out any properties with outstanding building code violations, and anyone who paid rent or security deposits to him between March 20, 2000 and May 15, 2005 has until September 14 to file a claim.

Map of Brophy Properties in the Riverwest Area.
Map of Brophy Properties in the Riverwest Area.

So far, over 100 former tenants have done so.

The $300,000 – minus lawyers’ fees – will be divided up among them. The $300,000 class action settlement has already been put aside in cash, but other creditors – like banks, the city, and WE Energies – may not be so lucky. That’s because on August 16, Brophy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to the filing, he owes less than $700,000 to his top 20 creditors, but he is still claiming debts in the same range as his assets: between $1 million and $100 million.

This is the latest in a series of maneuvers Brophy has made over the years. His debts and properties have frequently changed hands in off-market deed and mortgage transactions, often in the name of holding companies. As of this May, City property records for Brophy and Troy Jahnke (both doing business under the auspices of Prospect Holding Group LLC) showed they owned, in and around Riverwest, all of the properties listed in the sidebar accompanying this article. (See below.)

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]As the Riverwest Currents was surveying the exterior of these properties, Todd Bray, Brophy’s property manager and cousin, threatened to break our camera.[/quote]As the Riverwest Currents was surveying the exterior of these properties, Todd Bray, Brophy’s property manager and cousin, threatened to break our camera. When asked how many properties Brophy now owns, Bray indicated it was still nearly 50. “Why are you guys always after him?” Bray wanted to know. “He takes over properties nobody else wants, and he rents to people nobody else will rent to. That’s a good thing for the neighborhood.” As an example of this, Bray pointed to a man named Ray, who was riding along with Bray in a van full of furniture and tools. “A year ago this guy was living in a van,” said Bray, “and now he’s got an apartment.” Ray did not want his last name used in the paper, but said this about his landlord: “He gave me a place to live. I had to do some fixing, yeah, but I didn’t have to put any money down. I think he’s a pretty fair guy.”

When Wineberg first rented from Brophy three years ago, she was similarly excited that he was making low-rent apartments available. The “good deal” that she found on Bremen Street, however, turned out not to have window locks or working kitchen appliances, and smoke damage from a previous fire was not yet repaired. The idea of a fire especially concerned her, because the only way to unlock the front door from the inside was with the aid of a pliers. “It’s definitely important,” she said, “to have affordable housing available to people who need it. But even people of low-income and questionable credit deserve code compliant, secure, and safe housing. There has to be a balance.”

Brophy Rental
This Brophy property looks less than move-in ready.

Karen Jacobs, a court enforcement administrator with the Department of Neighborhood Services, does not expect any bankruptcy proceedings or deed transfers to confound her office. “He still has ownership and liability for the properties,” she said. “We will continue with our enforcement as long he controls the properties, and we know the names of his partners and holding companies. We treat them all the same.”

According to the city’s website, Brophy owes more than $114,000 for code violations. 3rd District Alderman Mike D’Amato called Brophy the worst slumlord he’s seen during his 12 years in office. “He endangered tenants by not fixing code violations, and in some cases, renting out homes that should’ve been boarded up,” said D’Amato. “This is no small matter – irresponsible landlords can truly ruin a neighborhood.”


The Brophy Slumlord Empire


Brophy’s Properties:

  1. 2052 N. 1st
  2. 219 E. Lloyd
  3. 2237 N. Hubbard
  4. 2315-17 N. Booth
  5. 2600-04 N. Booth
  6. 3463 N. Booth
  7. 106 W. Center
  8. 504 E. Center
  9. 925 E. Center
  10. 2626 N. Weil
  11. 2646 N. Weil
  12. 2929 N. Weil
  13. 3813 N. Humboldt
  14. 1906-12 E. Bradford
  15. 2120-22 N. Oakland
  16. 2536-38 N. Oakland
  17. 2312 E. Linwood
  18. 1115 E. Knapp
  19. 1519-25 N. Farwell
  20. 1325-27 E. Albion
  21. 2021 E. Park
  22. 1708 E. Geneva
  23. 1616 E. Kenmore
  24. 1756 N. Arlington

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Troy Jahnke Properties / Brophy Claims Ownership:

  1. 2210 N. Booth
  2. 603 S. 5th
  3. 529-31 E. Clarke
  4. 1513-15 N. Farwell
  5. 2452 N. Lake
  6. 1001-07 E. North
  7. 1805-15 E. Newberry
  8. 1544-46 N. Jackson

Dennis Miskowski Properties / Brophy Claims An Interest:

  1. 2706 N. Frederick
  2. 2767 N. Holton
  3. 1819 N. Cambridge
  4. 2931 N. 2nd

Brophy Claims a 50% Ownership with East Winds LLC:

  1.  2319-27 W. Michigan