Foreclosure and bankrupt property owners can cause problems for tenants

Bankruptcies happen a lot.  In fact, they occur more frequently than divorce.  Know anyone who’s divorced among your friends and family?  Chances are you have twice as many as that number who have “went BK”, the financial-speak for the term.  People are just more happy to talk about their divorces than about that time they went BK.

But what happens if the person who goes BK is your landlord?  When this was happening to a lot of real estate investors in 2007-2009, Congress stepped in and passed Obama’s Protecting Tenants In Foreclosure Act of 2009 which allowed rental leases to survive a foreclosure.  But that law has since expired.

I really hated the glib TV spots during the Great Recession where TV anchors rattled off advice that boiled down to “talk with the bank” and “talk with the landlord”.  Most renters who find themselves in this situation learned of it because they discovered foreclosure notices from the bank arriving to the house or the landlord told them.  Today I am going to give you practical advice.

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An analysis of payroll records for the Sheriff’s Office has revealed a very surprising amount of overtime, over $3.5 million dollars worth, for a very small law enforcement agency.

Anthony Laforet, a Deputy Sheriff Captain in 2014 earned $71K but clocked in $73K of overtime, more than his present salary.

Collectively, in 2014 alone, over 149 employees at the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office were claiming overtime and collecting overtime pay of more than $10,000 per employee.

The Sheriff’s Office’s main duties are:

  • To transport prisoners between correctional facilities and the courts
  • To secure the courts of the First Judicial District
  • To process writs and warrants on behalf of the First Judicial District including the sales of real estate and personal and commercial property

While Sheriff’s officers can take on extracurricular duties in conjunction with other agencies, the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office has not played an integral and key part in the region’s law enforcement community.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey made it a point to contain and control the use of overtime to utilize personnel in the most effective manner and to deploy resources in the most efficient way possible. When overtime is astronomically high, this indicates one of two things: people are working 100 hour-plus work weeks and are going to experience burnout, or that there is a lack of controls in overtime management.

I seriously suspect the problem is the latter.

If you make me your Sheriff, I will get the answer to that question. If overtime is being abused, I will be the Sheriff who fixes it. Immediately.

Christopher Sawyer, owner of Philadelinquency, is running as the Republican candidate for Sheriff of Philadelphia.

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In foreclosure? Calling the Sheriff's Office is the worst experience ever
In foreclosure? Calling the Sheriff’s Office is the worst experience ever

It’s been one year since the Daily News’s Ronnie Polaneczky ran this piece about how awful the bedside manner is with those who pick up the phone at the Sheriff’s Office.  It’s not limited to just not answering the phone.  When they do answer the phone, callers are treated in a very gruff manner, almost as if they’re pissed off that you’ve called them.

After speaking off the record to local media and attorneys and those who buy properties at the Office, not one single visible improvement has been made.

Why is this important?   The Sheriff’s Office is the very last stop before you lose the keys to your home.   The types of calls they receive are homeowners and their bankruptcy attorneys trying to get a Sheriff Sale stopped.  They are people asking questions about properties going up for auction.   They are people who are confused about their warrants.

Have you had to play phone tag with the Sheriff’s Office and got the runaround?   I want to hear your story!   We are going to hold the Sheriff accountable for this.   Send me an e-mail with the subject line: ANSWER THE PHONE.

The phone is about the only way you can easily extract information from the Sheriff other than what’s published on the official website, which not everyone has access to.

I can’t believe it’s an election season and this simple problem has not been fixed.   Note, they won’t answer the phone on the days they hold Sheriff sales because that’s in another building in University City while their main office is in a fancy building at Broad and Spruce, where you sometimes see Sheriff vehicles illegally parked in the center median.

If you want respect, you have to earn it.   Our Sheriff’s Office continues to be a disgrace.  Unlike City departments, the Sheriff really does have the ability to fire rude employees and can implement technology and people to get those calls answered.  That is a guarantee and not a load of B.S.

And that, among many other reasons is why I, Christopher Sawyer, am running for Sheriff.   I will be on the ballot come May 19 and will also be there in November.

If you see Sheriff Jewell Williams pop up at your community group to pump fists, be sure to tell him to answer the phone.

Sheriff Answer the Phone

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Jewell Williams now has a challenger.  Me.
Jewell Williams now has a challenger. Me.

Over the last three years I and others have showed you many of the problems that are ripe in the Sheriff’s Office.  It continues to captivate the attention of the FBI, who conducted a raid two years ago targeted at the Sheriff’s Real Estate Unit.  But Federal investigators aren’t the only issue facing the Sheriff’s Office; it’s now being attacked in the courts.

A growing concern facing Williams are those who have actually bought property from Sheriff sales, only to be faced by continued collections efforts by the City for taxes, gas liens and water rents that should have been paid off at the time the sale occurred on tax foreclosures.  When a sheriff’s sale completes, the winning bid is to be redistributed back to creditors, namely the City and the lenders and anyone else holding liens against the property.

A Waco, Texas company called VFC Properties had purchased a litany of properties from the Sheriff during 2012 and 2013.  As it won each auction, the Sheriff’s office is supposed to go to settlement and collect the money from the winning bidder.  That money is then to be redistributed back to the creditor, the Sheriff’s own costs and to the various City agencies that have placed liens against the property.

In VFC’s complaint, they levy this charge against Sheriff Williams:

However, despite having paid nearly $700,000.00 to the Sheriff, upon information and belief, the Sheriff has not distributed these funds to the various taxing bodies and municipal authorities to pay these claims.

This major case has also been combined with seven other foreclosure cases which did not have their debts cleared away.

This is fatefully serious.  Investors already know our Sheriff’s Office is about as close to incompetent as you can get, but when tax sales have no guarantee of clear title, much less any of the municipal debt actually gets discharged, and those who buy from the Sheriff get no assurance that debt is actually cleared away—this sends people running for the exits.

Why would you want to buy a property from the Sheriff if you have to pay the municipal debts twice over because the Sheriff kept the money and can’t or won’t tell you where it went?

In response, Sheriff Williams filed an answer to the court with incomplete figures and no real accounting of where it sent the money it received after the sale.  Not good.

Common Pleas Judge Nina Wright-Padilla has scheduled this case to go to trial in September.

VFC Properties vs. Sheriff Jewell Williams – Complaint

VFC Properties vs. Sheriff Jewell Williams – Jewell Williams' Answer to Complaint

VFC Properties vs. Sheriff Jewell Williams – Exhibits Starting at "A"

VFC Properties vs. Sheriff Jewell Williams – Exhibits Starting at "I"

VFC Properties vs. Sheriff Jewell Williams – Exhibits Starting at "T"

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The poll-watching reporters buzzing around City Hall today probably didn’t notice me slip in the side door with my playoff beard and the Flyers hoodie.  I’m a computer guy.  I live in Kensington.  I could stand in a lineup with a lot of Laborers or IBEW folk and no-one would notice which one was the politician and which one just came back from the lunch truck.

I was on a mission:  to hand-deliver the signatures people all across Philadelphia signed the last three weeks supporting my name to be on the voting machine you’ll see next May.

That’s if you could be bothered to vote, that is.

Emergency trip to visit my dad on his 2nd round of cancer
On an emergency trip to visit my dad fighting his 2nd round of cancer

Attendance at primaries is not expected to be that great.  For Democrats the slate of candidates for Mayor is a big fat yawn.  The Republican City Committee however has introduced a new candidate, Melissa Murray Bailey.  Surprised?  She is a former Democrat.  I am also a former Democrat.

Get used to it.

For the Republican Party in the city to survive, it cannot continue to put forward a same face over and over, year after year.   It’s like visiting a soda machine that’s almost always out and your only choices are a diet-Pepsi you don’t really want or a really stale RC Cola.

In talking to voters, the one thing that stuck out with me the most has been how many people don’t understand Republicans in the city.   Associations are always summed to Tea Party ideals or extreme social-conservative evangelicals—and that it’s an all-white, all-male party here in town, just like you’re told by newsprint and TV.

This is the reality:  ex-Democrats are what Philadelphia’s Republicans are becoming.   Are you non-white? Bilingual? LGBT?  Far short of scorn like the stereotypes would program you to think, you will get praise and support from Philly Republicans instead.

Where are these new ex-Democrats coming from?   They’re recent arrivals to the city who have discovered what a nonsensical mess our City government is.  They’re lifetime residents who have been personally screwed one way or another by the quirks of City Hall.   They’re the folks who are being asked to fork over more and more cash to pay for systems that don’t work, schools that don’t educate, trash that doesn’t get collected, funds that are stolen, vacant properties that won’t get sold, buildings that collapse on citizens.

That sorta thing.

I cannot continue pushing a button on a voting machine for people who are in it for the check and the glamour shots.

And yes, I am referring to my opponent Jewell Williams who the Philadelphia Public Record, which is a newspaper funded heavily by no-bid Sheriffs Office ad contracts, named him “Public Servant of the Year“.

Scarlett has pooped on that edition of the Record for the last couple of days
My parrot Scarlett has pooped on that edition of the Record for the last couple of days

If you’ve known Philadelinquency you know my tolerance for bullshit from City Hall is very thin, and I would simply die on the inside if I tried to lay it on thick with you.   I am running for Sheriff because the office has stolen millions in Philadelphians’ money–right at the time these people were hurting the most.  That is the reality of this office and no amount of photo ops will fix that crime.

The Sheriff effectively answers to almost nobody.  You wouldn’t accept that for the Philadelphia Police Department, but in the very few tasks the Sheriff actually does, it’s mediocre on its best days.  The Mayor nor City Council can’t do much about it which suits our current Sheriff just fine.

This office is important because it’s presently the only realistic way that fallow land and property gets recycled so it has a chance at being the next community garden, the next house or business, the next church, or the next store, and possibly to generate tax money to pay for our schools, fire and police.   When you don’t recycle vacant, investor-deadbeat property back into the hands of new owners this forces the City to raise your taxes and asks you to pay more, and more, and more.   And as a reward you get to enjoy that burned-out vacant shell across the street from you.

Like the Darrell Clarke House.    My article helped convince the City’s collection agency to start the work on getting this house put to Sheriff Sale.  It’s owned by a tax-deadbeat who rented it out under-the-radar.

1657 E BERKS
1657 E BERKS

We need a Sheriff’s Office that does its job to the best it can, protects homeowner’s rights and gets the most vulnerable homeowners access to as many programs as possible to save their homes before it’s too late.  We need nuisance properties and investor-deadbeats to see their deeds go bye-bye so they know the days of not maintaining a property and ruining the quality of life and lowering the safety of neighbors is OVER.

I am Christopher Sawyer.   For Sheriff.