Letters to the Editor: March 19, 2014

Slum­lords in Phil­adelphia

If politi­cians truly cared about the health and safety of res­id­ents they would have cre­ated an elite in­vest­ig­a­tions unit and pub­licly named a dir­ect­or to rein in the grow­ing slum­lord epi­dem­ic. If you’re cur­rently a renter, there is no justice for you. Philly is home to the Wild West of rent­ing and in this town, just about any­thing goes. 

What is needed is a com­pletely in­de­pend­ent unit from Li­censes & In­spec­tions that has a mis­sion of tak­ing a pro­act­ive ap­proach in re­du­cing the num­ber of slum­lords that op­er­ate ‘prop­erty mono­pol­ies’ across the city. On a quarterly basis this “czar” would have a meet­ing and present their find­ings in a form­al face-to-face dis­cus­sion with the may­or and the Dir­ect­or of L & I. Once a year, dur­ing an open-ac­cess City Coun­cil meet­ing, the czar would testi­fy about the sub­stan­ti­ated slum­lord find­ings.

I have learned the hard way that a thick coat of fresh paint can hide sev­er­al health and safety is­sues. Some­times it can take sev­er­al months after you have moved in an apart­ment for the cracks/leaks or black mold to re-sur­face through the paint mean­while you are stuck in an iron­clad lease for sev­er­al more months. Many renters also have to cope with severely out­dated elec­tric­al wir­ing that, in most in­stances, have too much elec­tric run­ning on one line.

When most renters re­port a dan­ger­ous liv­ing con­di­tion is­sue that has been ig­nored by their slum­lord, they end up get­ting caught in the web of the city’s gov­ern­ment bur­eau­cracy. You call the 311 ser­vice hot­line and nine-out-of-ten-times they tell you it will take at least 30 days for an L & I in­vest­ig­at­or to even re­spond. 

On Dec. 4, I sent a cer­ti­fied let­ter to Coun­cil­wo­man Maria D. Quinones-Sanc­hez, the Chair of the Com­mit­tee that over­sees Li­censes & In­spec­tions, de­tail­ing my slum­lord ex­per­i­ences over the years while liv­ing in Phil­adelphia. I in­cluded sev­er­al pic­tures and my con­tact in­form­a­tion in the let­ter but the only re­sponse back I got from her of­fice was a note that my let­ter was re­ceived.

In the af­ter­math of a 22-year-old plum­met­ing to his death from a fire es­cape/bal­cony col­lapse in Ritten­house Square, Re­becca Swan­son, spokes­wo­man for the Dept. of L & I, said, “The city’s prop­erty main­ten­ance code is meant to serve as a manu­al in­form­ing prop­erty own­ers of their re­spons­ib­il­it­ies.”

Slum­lords know the rules and right from wrong, but they choose to con­tinu­ally put ten­ants’ health and safety in harm’s way be­cause city agents don’t en­force the laws that are already on the books.

Jason Kaye


Clean­ing up Ta­cony

I went for a walk on Sunday morn­ing on Knorr Street. I was very up­set and angry about all the trash in the street and on the side­walks. It was filthy! 

Many people try to keep their houses and fronts look­ing nice, and then the dirty slobs walk by and throw their trash wherever. It looks ter­rible, and sends the wrong mes­sage to any­one think­ing of buy­ing here. Un­til this prob­lem, and the end­less bark­ing dogs and blar­ing car ra­di­os, are re­solved it’s not go­ing to mat­ter about oth­er im­prove­ments we make. And there are many! 

This neigh­bor­hood has so much go­ing for it. It’s one of the last great neigh­bor­hoods in the city that is worth pre­serving. All it takes is a little pride and ef­fort from the people who live here. Most people do care about their qual­ity of life here and are buy­ing their homes or already own the homes they live in. It is the non-caring, non-res­id­ent prop­erty own­ers here, who are not care­ful about whom they let live in their rent­als. It is a very real prob­lem to not care about the qual­ity of life in their neigh­bor­hoods.

Joan Dahl­berg


Thanks for car­toon

Thank you for the ap­pro­pri­ate car­toon in the March 5 is­sue about Rus­si­an in­ter­ven­tion in Ukraine. Rus­si­an im­per­i­al­ism re­as­serts it­self peri­od­ic­ally. Just think back to Hun­gary in 1956, Czechoslov­akia in 1968, Afgh­anistan in 1979, Geor­gia in 2008.

In­cid­ent­ally, in 1994, per the Bud­apest Memor­andum, the United States, United King­dom and Rus­sia agreed to guar­an­tee the se­cur­ity and ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity of Ukraine in ex­change for Ukraine giv­ing up its nuc­le­ar weapons, which con­sti­tuted the world’s third-migh­ti­est nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al. Ukraine kept its end of the bar­gain, but are the U.S. and UK will­ing to hon­or that Memor­andum now? Maybe “Nukes for Ukes” (in Na­tion­al Re­view) was not such a bad thing after all.   

Leo Iwaskiw


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