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HGTV star Nicole Curtis sues over property ownership dispute in Detroit

Posted at 3:25 PM, Mar 12, 2021

HGTV "Rehab Addict" star Nicole Curtis is suing the Detroit Land Bank after a lengthy dispute over property ownership.

The Detroit Land Bank is the largest property owner in the city of Detroit with tens of thousands of homes to demolish or try to sell.

The Land Bank has overseen programs to remove thousands of blighted homes as well as programs to help Detroiters in danger of foreclosure stay in their homes, but over the years there has been a lot of controversy over how the Land Bank has used its authority.

Curtis says she doesn’t understand why the Land Bank spent so much time and money disputing a vacant property she thought she owned.

The Detroit Land Bank says Curtis was never the legal owner of the house, they became the owners before she did.

“They never paid the taxes, I did. They never insured it, I did. They never mowed the lawn, I did,” says Curtis.

The native Michigander has made a career of saving and renovating historic homes. Many of those homes in and around Detroit.

Back in 2017, she bought a home from Jerome and Joyce Cauley for $17,000.

“We did a title search and there were liens for back taxes and water, all the normal things,” says Curtis. She says the title company did not find any other claims to ownership at that time.

But, the Detroit Land Bank says in 2017 they sued the Cauleys for legal ownership under a nuisance abatement program because the home was in disrepair. The DLBA says they won the lawsuit, thereby assuming ownership before Curtis completed the purchase from the Cauleys.

In a statement, the Detroit Land Bank says they discovered the invalid deed in 2018 and “tried to reach a resolution that would allow Detroit renovations to move forward with renovation.”

“Ms. Curtis was offered multiple opportunities to sign an agreement with the DLBA to rehab and take possession of the property, however she declined. Ultimately, the matter was resolved when the DLBA filed a lawsuit to quiet title.”

Curtis says she presented counter offers they didn’t accept and that their resolution would require her to renovate the home in six months, which is unreasonable considering the scope of the project and the speed at which certain services in the city move.

“I really do want to see the land bank work, but it’s not working. They are throwing these contracts out to people that they have to restore a house like this in 6 months. I can’t get a water meter appointment in under 3 months,” says Curtis, adding that she’s been on a waitlist for an appointment since December.

The land bank sued Curtis’s company for possession of the home and then put it on the market for $40,000.

Saying in a statement:

“The DLBA’s goal is to sell the property to someone committed to renovating it, removing this blight from the neighborhood.”

Curtis says she wanted to renovate this home and still wants to renovate it, but she doesn’t want to spend another $40k to buy a home she already bought.

“We own a lot of properties here, we’ve supported the land bank for years,” says Curtis. She renovated another home just a few doors down the street.

This week, she filed a lawsuit against the Detroit Land Bank, to get the money back she invested.

The Detroit Land Bank says she should have been more careful before she made the purchase from someone who no longer owned the home. The Detroit Land Bank also says she could have signed their contract and kept the house.

Curtis says many of their homes sit on the market waiting to be bought for so long, they have to be demolished. She says she doesn’t understand why they would spend so much time and money fighting with her when she has a track record of saving homes in Detroit.

“The land bank wants to make it like I’m making them a villain. And the truth is … they are villains. They bully people. They bullied me and I’ve been in this business a long time,” says Curtis.

The Detroit Land Bank says they currently have 17,000 homes in their inventory to demolish or put on the market to sell.

This article was written by Jennifer Ann Wilson for WXYZ.