Landlords under fire

— Fed up with rot­ten ten­ants and their land­lords? So is City Coun­cil, which is tack­ling the is­sue.

(left to right) Land­lords Ed­win Bass, Dav­id Dai, Jean Paul Galle, and Dav­id Della Croce wit with Deputy Man­aging Dir­ect­or Tom Con­way (right), in front of a City Coun­cil hear­ing on bad land­lords at St. Bern­ard’s School Hall on Tues­day, Novem­ber 27, 2012. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

 For the second time, City Coun­cil­man Bobby Hen­on summoned land­lords who have had mul­tiple vi­ol­a­tions on their prop­er­ties to a pub­lic hear­ing and put them on the hot seat. This time, four of the 10 he sub­poenaed showed up to an­swer ques­tions from City Coun­cil mem­bers and res­id­ents about how they man­age their prop­er­ties

Holmes­burg res­id­ent Bob Flade was one of the res­id­ents who let the land­lords have it, in plain lan­guage.

  “Half of them don’t give a s—- about the prop­erty,” he said.

Hen­on and his fel­low Coun­cil mem­bers have been on a cam­paign to stop the qual­ity-of-life vi­ol­a­tions — trash, high grass, noise com­plaints — as­so­ci­ated with these prop­er­ties, many of them in North­east Phil­adelphia. One of the reas­ons, they say, is that such prob­lems de­value all the prop­er­ties in a neigh­bor­hood, de­creas­ing sale prices by 20 per­cent.

Flade, testi­fy­ing at the hear­ing, puts much of the blame on land­lords.

“All they’re wor­ried about is mak­ing a buck,” he said.

Flade be­lieves Sec­tion 8 hous­ing has crippled one neigh­bor­hood and threatens the vi­ab­il­ity of oth­ers.

“Frank­ford’s done,” he said, adding that he hopes Wissi­nom­ing, Ta­cony, May­fair, Holmes­burg and Tor­res­dale don’t meet the same fate.

Hen­on (D-6th dist.) ar­ranged the two-hour joint hear­ing of the Li­censes and In­spec­tions and Pub­lic Safety com­mit­tees for Nov. 27 in the St. Bern­ard Par­ish gym at 4427 Aldine St.

“We mean busi­ness. The status quo is no longer ac­cept­able,” Hen­on said at the start of the hear­ing.

As part of his over­all “Bad Neigh­bor Ini­ti­at­ive,” he sub­poenaed the 10 land­lords to at­tend. As for the six who did not at­tend, Hen­on will ask Coun­cil­wo­man  Maria Quinones Sanc­hez, chair­wo­man of the Li­censes and In­spec­tions Com­mit­tee, and Coun­cil­man Curtis Jones, chair­man of the Pub­lic Safety Com­mit­tee, to take them to court. A judge would likely, at the very least, or­der them to ap­pear in front of Coun­cil.

The pre­vi­ous Coun­cil hear­ing took place in June.

Mem­bers of Hen­on’s Prob­lem Prop­er­ties Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil were in at­tend­ance last week. He wants to tackle prob­lem prop­er­ties house by house, block by block and neigh­bor­hood by neigh­bor­hood.

In gen­er­al, the coun­cil­man is go­ing after land­lords whose prop­er­ties have a his­tory of main­ten­ance vi­ol­a­tions, are tax de­lin­quent or don’t have act­ive hous­ing in­spec­tion li­censes.

Join­ing Hen­on at the hear­ing table were Quinones-Sanc­hez, Jones and Coun­cil­men Bill Green­lee, Dav­id Oh, Kenyatta John­son and Mark Squilla.

Dur­ing the ses­sion, a slide show pic­tured prob­lem prop­er­ties in the 6th Coun­cil­man­ic Dis­trict neigh­bor­hoods of Port Rich­mond, Brides­burg, Wissi­nom­ing, Ta­cony, May­fair and Holmes­burg.

Among the on­look­ers were City Con­trol­ler Alan Butkovitz; com­mis­sion­ers Carlton Wil­li­ams and Brid­get Gre­en­wald of the de­part­ments of Li­censes and In­spec­tions and Pub­lic Prop­erty, re­spect­ively; and rep­res­ent­at­ives of the Po­lice De­part­ment, Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice and De­part­ment of Streets. 

The four land­lords who ap­peared were Dav­id Della Croce, Jean Paul Gulle, Dav­id Dai and Ed­win Bass. None of the four live in Phil­adelphia.

“Their houses are prob­ably pristine,” said Bill Gil­len, a 16-year res­id­ent of the 4300 block of Lor­ing St., which he said in­cludes a num­ber of rent­al prop­er­ties.

Della Croce, an in­vestor since 1995, has 58 units, mostly rowhomes. Three-quar­ters of them are in May­fair. The rest are in Frank­ford. He and an­oth­er in­di­vidu­al man­age the prop­er­ties week­days from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In re­sponse to a ques­tion, he said he’d have no prob­lem liv­ing next to one of his prop­er­ties.

“I do care,” he said.

When Hen­on noted the high num­ber of vi­ol­a­tions for pla­cing trash out early, Della Croce prom­ised to push his ten­ants to abide by the law. He also in­dic­ated that he and his fel­low man­ager would place trash curb­side at the ap­pro­pri­ate hour for the multi-unit prop­er­ties they handle.

Res­id­ents can place trash out­side at 7 p.m. the night be­fore col­lec­tion. At present, a pi­lot pro­gram al­lows res­id­ents of the 1st, 6th and 10th coun­cil­man­ic dis­tricts to put trash out at 5 p.m.

“I’m just not feel­ing your sin­cer­ity,” Hen­on said after Della Croce ac­know­ledged not know­ing those time lim­its.

Dai, a dent­ist, has 20 prop­er­ties and said he screens his ten­ants “very care­fully.” Still, ten­ants in one house on the 3000 block of Brighton St. have irked neigh­bors with sus­pec­ted drug sales, cock­roaches, loud mu­sic, oth­er noises and late-night activ­ity. The ten­ants, as many as 13 of them in the same house, have moved out.

Gulle owns about 150 prop­er­ties and works with a man­age­ment com­pany of 10 people. He in­sisted that he screens his ten­ants care­fully and warns them that they will pay for any vi­ol­a­tions.

“It’s clear as day in the lease,” said Gulle, adding that he’ll is­sue a more strongly worded let­ter after a vi­ol­a­tion.

Oth­er com­plaints came from res­id­ents of the 3500 block of Shelmire Ave., the 4200 block of Long­shore Ave. and the 6600 block of Tulip St., along with Joe Cas­cer­ceri, pres­id­ent of the Prin­ceton Av­en­ue De­vel­op­ment Cor­por­a­tion.

Tom Con­way, a deputy city man­aging dir­ect­or who heads the Com­munity Life Im­prove­ment Pro­gram (CLIP), ex­plained that he re­ceives calls of com­plaints from Coun­cil of­fices and the city’s 311 non-emer­gency sys­tem. An in­spect­or will is­sue warn­ings for high grass and trash prob­lems. If there is no re­sponse, the city will clean the ex­ter­i­or of a prop­erty and bill the own­er.

Grass must be at least 10 inches high be­fore a warn­ing is is­sued.

“That’s close to a foot of high grass,” Con­way noted.

Hen­on is cer­tain he is mak­ing pro­gress with his fo­cus on prob­lem prop­er­ties. The hear­ing was re­cessed, not ad­journed. An­oth­er hear­ing will prob­ably take place in the spring.

Mean­while, the coun­cil­man is con­sid­er­ing le­gis­la­tion on the mat­ter.

“We will change be­ha­vi­or,” he said. “Enough is ab­so­lutely enough.”

Any­one who wants to re­port a prob­lem prop­erty can call Hen­on’s of­fice at 215-686-3444. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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