The Prince George's Circuit Court has been asked to intervene in a dispute between two county housing agencies over whether controversial landlord-professor Shao Ti Hsu should retain his license to rent his Hyattsville apartments.
At the heart of the argument is a May 12 decision by the Landlord Tenant Commission to reinstate Hsu's license. The license had been suspended in January by the Department of Licenses and Permits after housing inspectors said they found numerous violations at the Emerson Gardens apartment complex.
With the support of County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan, the Division of Licenses and Permits asked the court last week to overturn the decision of the Landlord Tenant Commission. The case is expected to come up for a ruling this week. Wilbert Wilson, senior assistant to Hogan, said the county executive favored the court action.
The Landlord Tenant Commission reinstated Hsu's license despite housing inspectors' reports that health and safety violations in his buildings stand uncorrected. The decision was accompanied by a bitter argument between officials of the two agencies over reinspection procedures.
The Landlord Tenant Commission said it made its decision in favor of Hsu because the housing inspectors failed to refute testimony from a dozen tenants who told a March hearing that they were pleased with conditions at Emerson Gardens. Hsu had escorted most of the tenants to the hearing.
Robert Stokes, an assistant county attorney handling the appeal, said he will argue that Hsu's license should be suspended again. Stokes said the commissioners ignored evidence against Hsu, including fresh testimony that "life safety" hazards still exist.
Some commission members were apparently angered because housing inspectors had not followed their instructions to reinspect every one of Hsu's Emerson Gardens apartments.
"We gave them another shot," to prove their case, said M. Manning Clagget, commission spokesman. "They messed it up."
Officials at the county licensing and permits department said they were shocked to learn of the landlord-tenant commission ruling.
"I've never heard of a decision so ludicrous," said Joseph Healy, chief inspections supervisor for the licensing department. "It seems like they have an axe to grind, but I don't know why."
Meanwhile, Hsu, a millionaire University of Maryland engineering professor, said this week he will rent all his vacant apartments that are not condemned.
Hsu's Emerson Gardens' license was suspended after a January hearing at which inspectors testified to 34 outstanding infractions, including broken walls, missing ceilings, faulty plumbing and electrical and fire hazards.
At Hsu's first appeal hearing on March 19 at the Landlord Tenant Commission, commissioners told licensing officials to reinspect Hsu's apartments to settle the conflict between testimony from Hsu's tenants and previous inspection reports.
Commission members voiced dissatisfaction at the next session one week later when they learned inspectors had not followed their instructions.
George Beldon, one of the two agents who went to check Hsu's apartments, testified that he was unable to inspect all the apartments in the company of Hsu -- as the commissioners had asked -- because the 6o-year-old landlord "intimidated" residents of the apartments they checked.
Beldon also testified Hsu brought along a man with a camera who blocked their way, taking pictures as they toured the buildings.
But Beldon's testimony apparently didn't satisfy the commissioners.
"We ordered everything to be inspected," shouted Larry Simmons, one of the landlord members of the commission, pounding his fist on the table.
Inspections supervisor Healy said last week the commissioners' order was irrelevant.
"They have no right to order us to make an inspection," Healy said. "We did it to go along with them. Their interpretation is completely wrong."