Detroit Mayor Says HGTV's Nicole Curtis Was 'Scammed' into Buying Home Seller Didn't Own
Mayor Mike Duggan told WDIV-TV/ClickOnDetroit that he "feel(s) bad" for the HGTV host, as "it appears she was scammed" into buying the property from someone who did not legally own it when they sold it to her.
"It appears she paid somebody who didn't own the house and paid them to buy it. But the Land Bank cannot legally give her the property," Duggan said, adding, "She can have 100 critical stories, the Land Bank is not going to break the law. They can't turn the property over without getting values."
In legal documents obtained by PEOPLE last week, Curtis claimed she purchased the property from the late homeowner's widow for $17,000 via "Quick Claim deed." A representative for Curtis's company, Detroit Renovations, told PEOPLE that the home had been vacant for more than 30 years and she purchased it in a "private, legal sale in 2017, sight unseen."
The City of Detroit Land Bank (DLBA) — a public organization whose "mission is to return the city's blighted and vacant properties to productive use," according to their website — says they rightfully own the home and are attempting to sell it.
As of August, the organization has "obtained Title" for the property, Curtis's suit states, and real-estate listings show that the 2,641-square-foot, 5-bedroom house was put up for sale at the beginning of March for $40,000.
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Curtis responded to Duggan's statement via an Instagram post on Tuesday, slamming the mayor for speaking to the press about the dispute and claiming he refused a meeting with her about it.
She shared an update on her Instagram Story on Wednesday saying that Duggan has since agreed to meet with her about the issue on Thursday.
According to the lawsuit Curtis filed in March, her company has spent "approximately $60,000 including a significant amount of time and labor costs on the property" to date, including the purchase price. Other costs involved include "renovating, safeguarding, insuring, paying taxes and maintaining" the property, the filing states.
The suit also notes that Curtis's belief that she legally held the title to the property was "a mistake" but claims she was "put off" by the DLBA repeatedly, "including extended periods of non-response."
She repeated that claim in her Instagram post on Tuesday, writing she "pushed [the DLBA] for resolution in 2018" regarding the property and "asked for resolve as we were heavily investing time & money into the property," but said that she was "blown off and ignored" at the time.
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A representative for the DLBA told PEOPLE last week that they refute this claim.
"Ms. Curtis has never been the legal owner of 451 E Grand, however she was offered multiple opportunities to sign an agreement with the DLBA to rehab the house, which she refused," they said in a statement. "We've already won two separate legal actions about this property. The property is currently for sale and Ms. Curtis is welcome to make an offer and follow the same process to which we hold all of our buyers.
Curtis, who has purchased, renovated and sold numerous old houses in the Detroit area for her shows, DIY Network's Rehab Addict and the recently launched Rehab Addict Rescue on HGTV, went on to write about her commitment to restoring the city's homes.
"Profit should never be the goal of a responsible land bank — but the positive impact resulting from said disposition," she said. "I use my platform as a benefit to the city I love and have supported. My goal is preservation, home-ownership and neighborhood improvement. Those I hope are shared by the City of Detroit and the Land Bank. I only hope that the Mayor and the Land Bank will work with me on a positive resolution to a situation that will be mutually beneficial and where ego and financial gain plays no role."