Duggan: Nicole Curtis 'scammed' in fight over Detroit home

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan addressed HGTV star Nicole Curtis' lawsuit against the city's land bank Monday saying, "it appears she was scammed" and expressing hope she'll offer a bid for a home she wants to rehab.

Curtis is suing the Detroit Land Bank Authority arguing it took advantage of her when it took the deed to a house she'd sunk $60,000 into rehabbing.

Curtis, a Lake Orion native featured in the show "Rehab Addict Rescue," filed the suit earlier this month in Wayne County Circuit Court. She claims she's entitled to ownership of the property — based on her substantial investment and belief that she'd owned it — or the land bank should compensate her. 

Curtis' Detroit Renovations LLC purchased the 1921 foursquare at 451 E. Grand Boulevard from a private owner for $17,000 in 2017. The next year, Curtis was notified that the Detroit Land Bank Authority actually held the property title.

Duggan said during a COVID-19 press briefing Monday that he's a huge fan of Curtis and loves her show, but the city has to follow the law.

"You would think she's the only person in the city who has renovated a house. We've had 8,000 people renovate abandoned houses in this city in the last eight years," Duggan said. "We're appreciative of all of them. In this case though, and I feel bad for Nicole. It appears she was scammed. It appears she paid somebody who didn't own the house and paid them to buy it. But the land bank can't legally just give her the property."

This house on East Grand Boulevard was purchased by HGTV star Nicole Curtis, but she got it from a seller who fraudulently sold it to her, city officials say.

► More: See inside the Detroit house that Nicole Curtis is suing to save

Despite efforts over the past month by Curtis' legal team to reach an agreement on the property, the land bank put the house on the market on Feb. 26 for $40,000.

Curtis told The Detroit News earlier this month that she invested the money into the house in good faith and wants it back. She said she was told by the land bank that she'd have to bid on the house. She then reached out to the Realtor to receive the offer package. 

On Saturday, Curtis posted on Instagram saying she won't chase cities that don't want her and that she would be working in nearby Flint.

Following Duggan's statement Monday, Curtis returned to social media.

“The Mayor is mistaken in his interpretation of land banking laws and rules, and land bank property is considered 'zero-value.' Thus, the Land Bank is able to negotiate disposition in a fair and responsible manner,” Curtis wrote in a post on her Instagram page late Monday. “Profit should never be the goal of a responsible land bank - but the positive impact resulting from said disposition. 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. @mayormikeduggan you have my cell -let’s find resolve."

Duggan said the land bank can't legally just give Curtis the property.

"The law in Michigan is that government can't turn over property to a private citizen without getting value, so you can't come in and say, ‘I made a mistake I paid somebody who didn't own the property so the city of Detroit, give it to me for free,'" he said.

In August, a judge ruled the home belonged to the land bank.

"The land bank can't do it, and the courts have already ruled twice as it's clearly (the) land bank's property and I suspect they will a third time next week," Duggan said. 

"So I'm hopeful that Nicole Curtis will come forward and offer value."

Duggan said he'd like Curtis to renovate the house.

"They can't turn the property over without getting value. I'm hopeful that she'll come in, offer a reasonable amount and the land bank and work it out, but that's the only way they can do that transaction."

srahal@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @SarahRahal_