This is 7563 Battersby St. in Mayfair (left), at the prominent corner of Ryan Ave and Battersby Street.
Back in late December, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI raided this bucolic Northeast twin and charged two Dominican nationals for running a massive stash house with 12 kilogram blocks of heroin, more than enough to supply all of Philadelphia’s junkies for weeks; over $2MM worth of supply was kept there.
But this story isn’t about Luis Manuel Gomez Rodriguez and Jose Antonio Rosario Reyes the two stash house workers. This is about the property owners, Guang-Hui Ren and Lin Yun Ren.
The Rens acquired this house in 2009 as outside investors. Sometime in early-to-mid 2015 they applied for a Homestead Exemption, while the house was still being rented out:
Meanwhile, over at L&I, there is still a rental license on the property, albeit now just-expired and the rental license clearly shows that the Rens live over in Voorhees, New Jersey:
Looking at the address in New Jersey, it points to this:
I don’t know about you but I’m not entirely convinced that Mr. and Mrs. Ren have given up their fully-detached cottage to take up residence in a semi-detached in Mayfair. The City seems to believe whatever story the Rens told them when they filed their Homestead Exemption, but I’m not convinced.
Given the timing of the Homestead Exemption application it was filed BEFORE the house was raided for its $2 million dollar heroin stash while the Rens were still renting it out.
I’m not the only one who has noticed this discrepancy. Loads of other people looking into property issues have been noticing more and more rental properties similar to this one—claiming the Homestead Exemption to skip out on paying some Real Estate Taxes with renters living inside the building.
The Homestead Exemption is only eligible to Philadelphia Residents who own their own properties and use them as their primary domicile. You can rent out part of your home and still claim the Homestead Exemption, but not all of it. Your Homestead Exemption is reduced proportionally by the amount of the house you actually use as your primary residence. The part which you use as income is still subject to full taxation.
This is a fraud which can easily be thwarted if L&I sent copies of rental license applications it’s granting over to the Office of Property Assessment. This can be done on paper or sent over as an electronic list. A simple change to the Homestead Exemption law should allow the Office of Property Assessment to automatically delete a Homestead Exemption whenever a new rental license is filed where the applicant tries to claim the full $30,000 exemption.
This is a computer fix that literally takes a couple of hours.
Can City Council do it?