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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:

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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:

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Looking at the address in New Jersey, it points to this:

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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?

Franklin Towne Charter High School [philly.com]
Franklin Towne Charter High School [philly.com]

Franklin Towne has been a consistent success story over the last several years.  Better than average academic rankings over SDP District schools.  Safe campus.  Athletic programs.   Parents rave about it.

Because of that, and its remote location in Bridesburg, its high school has acted as a vacuum cleaner sucking up the middle class children from the SDP whose parents would have normally paid to send their children to Catholic schools.  74% of its student population is white.

But things aren’t as perfect as they seem.

In a lawsuit filed by former principal Todd Dupell, he claims he was fired in retaliation for complaining about fraud and mismanagement at Franklin Towne.  Specifically, he cites nepotism all over the charter.  One gal was clearing an $80K job on the payroll but didn’t actually have a job at either of the Franklin Towne schools.  They wouldn’t fire her because her husband could make waves.  And that would be bad, according to the suit.

Naturally one would expect calls to investigate this charter over the claims made in the lawsuit.   Franklin Towne’s administration has now been put into damage-control mode as parents get to wonder about the selection they made to send their kids there.

Charter Schools!  They’re so much fun!

The lawsuit was filed in Federal Court in New Jersey.

UPDATE:  The new L&I Commissioner, David Perri, just contacted me to let me know the hot mess behind 2317 E SERGEANT ST is going out to bid for an emergency demolition TODAY.

bank-foreclosure-generic-722

A week back I ran this feature-creature on what to do with a landlord that’s going broke.  That feature of course centered on a landlord, Anthony M. Cancelliere.

Since that story ran I’ve had 9 of his current and ex-tenants come forward to me to unload after I posted one ex-tenant’s exchange with him.  All his current tenants who have read the piece are of course worried that they may lose their rental (that’s not really in the cards–at least not the specific ones that contacted me, I checked on those), and of course because he appears to be broke, that nothing will ever get repaired again ever.

Broke landlords are a problem.

Especially ones that are as broke as this:

“Credit One Bank”, a subprime lender that markets its credit card products to the sub-600 FICO score range, sued him and got a default judgment.   That’s pretty broke for a landlord.

When you have a landlord that is in this state there is no way you could ever expect major repairs to a building in a short period of time, especially for something critical such as the heating system.  Another recurring theme going on with Cancelliere is that he has a bad habit of not paying water bills.  Multiple tenants have told me this.   He’s not just skipping a few months, but just not paying it all during the whole period of the lease contract, up to the point where tenants turn on the tap or flush the toilet and then nothing happens–which takes more than six months of nonpayment.

Let me show you.    First, let’s log into the Municipal Court docketing system and do a search where someone has been sued, like this:

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Now let’s see what the court has on file HOLY MOTHER OF GOD

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See that at the bottom of that picture??!!

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Well, the first two numbers after “CE” is the year the case was first docketed.   CE by the way stands for code enforcement, it’s where the City is suing you for property and tax issues that carry fines below $20,000 or don’t result in a lien.   Next to Anthony’s name in the middle column it shows you what agency or party sued him.

To get his recent lawsuits we have to go over to Page 2 and ignore this other mountain of cases.  In the middle are the 15’s and there’s even a 16-… which means the City just sued him yet again just a couple days ago (that was for a water bill over $2,000).

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He also gets sued over not taking out rental licenses on his properties.

Considering that no landlord in Philadelphia can get a valid rental license without being current on their property taxes, which denies them access to the courts to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent, I am wondering how Cancelliere is juggling that.

Another thing you might notice if you’re following along and doing a court search to see how I did one here is that sometimes his own tenants sue him.   Here’s one of several examples of that:

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I haven’t really looked at his real estate tax bills yet but I need a scotch and soda after looking at this court docket.  I can’t even.

What Should Landlords Like This Do?

Anthony, I know you’re listening—you called my lawyer within two hours of me posting about you the last time.   You need to sell off some of your real estate empire.  You can’t afford the maintenance and you’re not doing the maintenance on many of your properties, some of which are in choice locations like my own neighborhood.  I don’t know why you think transferring some of your holdings to your wife Janine is gonna help anything, it’s not.   You’re still not doing maintenance and you never follow through with your word.

In fact, you have an outdoor squatter right now camping out behind one of your rentals, 2317 E SERGEANT ST, and we’ve called the 26th District, the Department of Licenses and Inspections who visited your wonderful property a couple weeks ago (and condemned it).  Talking to you is a no-go because you have a mountain of excuses to give and it’s all lies.   Everyone is tired of hearing it.   It’s not just the rentals you own down where I live either.  People are up in arms about you in Tacony and in Mayfair.   There’s immediate neighbors to your properties spread across five whole zip codes that are sick of it.

Dude, you are broke.  Your tenants know it, the property owners next to your holdings know it, Bobby Henon knows it, the civics know it, everyone knows it.   You need to pull the lever and file for personal bankruptcy (call my buddy Isaac Slepner, he can file you a quick 7 or 13) and clear your personal creditors and start picking which properties you think you can manage and put the others up for sale and let an investor who can maintain the property have a go at it rather than building up this huge conga line of angry tenants and pissed-off neighbors.

No one thinks you’re an evil guy or the Anti-Christ.   It’s just fucking obvious that you have no idea how to manage a property portfolio this large.   Yes, yes, you bought a ton of shit at the housing peak and got ruined by the Great Recession.   The investors who were wiped out all went BK and started over.   You are now eight years behind everybody else.

And answer the phone calls from the realtors who want to buy your stuff.   They want to help you unload your mess if you’ll just talk to them.

We are tired of having to call 311.  We are tired of having to complain to the district councilperson.  We are tired of having to call the police.  We are tired.

Anthony, fix your nightmare.   I don’t care that Councilman Bobby Henon rents an office from you or that you’re a true son of the Northeast and a swell guy.  Nobody gives a shit.

Not when we have to put up with this shit in a good neighborhood.

 

Enough already.

 

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Broken Sidewalk

 

We’ve all seen this, it’s everywhere.  But in neighborhoods where people work their butts off, you might notice the concrete outside the housefronts is kept up a little better.  And in Philly that’s not really because of neighborhood pride.

It’s because there are sick predatory lawyers who have a death wish on your homeowner’s insurance.

But today’s the day you can hug yourself and buy yourself an ice cream cone, because after a judge shut off the bank accounts of attorney Andrew H. Gaber, he offed himself:

Attorney Andrew H. Gaber, 52, was accused of running the operation out of his Center City law office, where he was the sole practitioner.

Gaber, of Delaware County, was scheduled to be arrested Wednesday but committed suicide last week after an initial court proceeding in which some of his bank accounts were frozen, prosecutors said.

How did prosecutors figure out that this scam was going on?  Neighbors talk to each other.  Particularly in G-Ho (Southwest Center City), where a lot of folks have mortgages which means they also have insurance.

Prosecutors said they were also tipped off by neighborhood groups, particularly in Southwest Center City, that noticed area homeowners were being hit with similar slip-and-fall claims and discussed their suspicions at community meetings.

Shout out to Alex Wrigglesworth at [Philly.com] for covering this.

In the DN this morning, a quick analysis of property tax records reveal a significant amount of properties in Philadelphia that are defined by default as being ineligible for the Homestead Exemption in fact are, exempted because the Office of Property Assessment had failed to screen the applications (and those exemptions by the way were factored into your tax bill for 2014):

That apparently didn’t stop Martin M. Miller, or someone operating his property, from applying for the tax break for a vacant lot he owns on Reno Street, near 50th, according to city records.

Because the property is worth only $3,100, the Homestead Exemption brought Miller’s tax bill this year down to $0.

That’s good news for Miller because he already owes $6,489.61 in delinquent taxes for that lot.

Maybe it was some sort of mix-up then?