There’s no evidence HGTV star spent money on blighted Detroit home


Detroit – A judge will next month decide whether to file a lawsuit against the Detroit Land Bank Authority to recoup their investment in a rundown property.

A trial on Monday marked the latest development in a long battle between Curtis and the Landbank for a 1908 square at 451 E. Grand Blvd.

Wayne Supreme District Court judge Timothy Kenny said after listening to arguments from attorneys on both sides for nearly an hour, he would make a statement on April 15.

The land bank filed its urgency motion a week after the Lake Orion-born and Rehab Rescue Addict star’s lawsuit, arguing that it should be reimbursed $ 60,000 invested in the ruined home since it did it in 2017 bought for $ 17,000 from a private seller. Curtis was notified a year later that the land bank actually owned the property.

In her March 12 lawsuit, Curtis alleges the land bank took advantage of her by taking the deed to the house that it paid tax on, that was insured, and that had stabilized and secured. Curtis told The News that she plans to invest $ 500,000 in restoring the home, including $ 10,000 on architectural renderings alone.

On Monday, land bank lawyers told Kenny that there was no evidence Curtis’ firm invested in Detroit Renovations on site.

“I don’t think Detroit Renovations ever spent a dime on this property,” said Michael Donovan, legal advisor to the land bank. “Certainly you can prove me wrong by presenting some kind of invoice. But I’ve never seen an invoice. It’s been almost four years.”

Donovan said claims that Curtis’ firm tried to reach an agreement with the land bank to renovate the house were “demonstratively false”.

“We have cited six different times that Detroit Land Bank has offered to reach an agreement, the last time without any response,” he said. “We have done everything the Landbank Act requires.”

Curtis attorney Jim Rasor noted on Monday that Curtis was “very belittled” but their goal from the start was to reach an agreement.

“I feel like we’re building a nuclear submarine and it shouldn’t be that difficult,” he said. “She paid the fees for the illness to the Detroit Land Bank Authority, she paid the taxes, she insured the property.”

Rasor told Kenny the only reason Curtis couldn’t finish the house was “because the land bank inconsistently told her one thing and then the other.”

“She knew the land bank had made an interest and was trying to resolve it,” he said.

The hearing on Monday will take place days after Rasor accused the Landbank of “misrepresenting material facts” in a court case. In a Friday motion, Rasor is asking the court to overturn an August ruling that gave the house to the land bank and made Curtis the owner.

A judge ruled in favor of the land bank on Aug. 17, 2020, but Rasor said if a party to a lawsuit learns that a case is fraud or misrepresentation within a year of an order, the court may be asked to rule aside.

The Friday filing came the day after Curtis met with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to discuss their ongoing struggles with the land bank over the Islandview home.

Duggan told reporters last week that he is hopeful that Curtis will bid on the house, which the land bank put on the market for $ 40,000 in late February. Duggan spokesman John Roach said Monday the mayor is not commenting on his meeting with Curtis.

Rasor said Friday that Curtis was able to “explain firsthand to the mayor the challenges of working with the land bank and real estate redevelopment issues in the city of Detroit”.

Alyssa Strickland, a spokeswoman for the landbank, said Monday that the landbank is awaiting the court’s decision and will not come forward on any pending litigation.

Strickland previously noted that the landbank had already won two separate legal actions related to the property, including the action Rasor is now attempting to overthrow.

The land bank originally filed a lawsuit in 2015 against owners Jerome and Joyce Cauley forcing them to renovate the ruined home.

The Cauleys did not occupy the property at this point, the land bank found, and did not fulfill their obligations. In January 2017 the ownership was transferred back to the land bank.

Joyce Cauley then sold the house to Curtis’ Detroit Renovations.

Once the problem was discovered, Curtis and the land bank worked towards an agreement that would allow Curtis to rehabilitate the house once the land bank claimed the title, but officials said those talks had failed.

The Landbank filed a lawsuit in July to resolve the title issue, and the court ruled in favor of the Landbank the following month.

In January, the land bank asked the court to set a date for Curtis’ company to vacate the property. The court set a deadline of February 12.

In his Friday filing, Rasor argued the land bank failed on many fronts, including waiting two years after the property was granted to file the property claim with the Register of Deeds.

“Detroit Renovations put (the land bank) on the Register of Deeds for 476 days,” Rasor told Kenny Monday, adding that Curtis’ company was “an innocent third party.”

In addition, Rasor claims that the land bank had no ownership rights in 2015 when it originally filed suit against the Cauleys, just to lessen a nuisance. As a result of Cauleys’ failure to comply with the harassment lawsuit, the land bank received the property in compensation for the cost of harassment mitigation, court fees, and attorney fees.

But Rasor claims the land bank has taken no action to secure or repair it in the five years since the house was classified as disruptive.

Rasor said the removal of the land bank’s claim to the title, as requested in Friday’s motion, “will end this once and for all”.

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Dusty Kennedy