Millionaire slum landlord Shoa Ti Hsu of Potomac was arrested yesterday by the Prince George's County sheriff's department and charged with three counts of violating the county housing code at a Seat Pleasant apartment complex he owns, a sheriff's department spokeswoman said.
Housing officials said yesterday that the 61-year-old Hsu, who owns the Town and Country Apartments in the 6800 blocks of Central Avenue is accused of renting apartments that had housing code violations to several families after the license to operate these apartments in the county expired.
Housing inspection supervisor Joseph Healey said Hsu was warned prior to his arrest that it would be illegal for him to rent apartments in his license expired. Healey added that the apartments where the housing violations occured were "unfit for human habitation."
"These people should be put out, but there's no place for them to go." said Healey, who added that "I wish I had a judge with me" when he was the apartments.
Healey said the housing code violations at the Town and Country apartments were such that in at least one case when thte family moved in there was no toilet and no trap under the bathroom sink; there were holes in the walls and ceilings, and exposed electrical wires dangled from the walls. Healey also said that children had to live in the apartment where a back bedroom was flooded with wanter, and where flooring was damaged throughout the apartment.
According to the housing inspector, the mother of the family is one case was using a gas stove to heat the apartment because the heating system was not working.
Hsu, who yesterday cold not be reached for comment, was released on his own recognizance.
Hsu, the controversial owner of as many as 512 apartment units in Prince George's County and in the low-income areas of southeast Washington, gained notoriety among area housing officials because of what they have called "flagrant" violations of housing and fire-safety regulations in many of his units.
Hsu is self-trained in the law and frequently has represented himself in legal dificulties stemming from his ownership of the apartment units because he says he distrusts lawyers. He has been named by D.C. officials in the past as the landlord most often in violation of city housing regulations. Despite numerous court appearances, he remains a mysterioous an intriguing character to those who have had to deal with him.
Housing to Hsu is "just a hobby," he said in one interview. A tenured professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park, Hsu said his main interests are scientific.
Charges that he treats tenants poorly upset Hsu, who claimed that he was a benevolent landlord who took into his apartments "poor people who would have no place to live" because of his compassion.
Nonetheless, Hsu, whose Potomac residence contrasted sharply with the squalor of some of the apartments Prince George's County building officials say are his, has been fined and jailed on at least one occasion stemming from his battles with building inspectors and tenants.
"They (tenants) live in such conditions and expect somebody else to do all the work," he said in the interview. "People are spoiled."
"We have had contact with him (Hsu) at least 150 times in the last two years, an he is aware of what the law requires," said Charles Bennett, chief of the housing inspection section on licensing. He said his agency has a process by which landlords who are given notices of violations can appeal them.
Bennett said that Hsu was charged with failing to correct housing violations that included poor drainage and failure to get rid of excess garbage on the property.