Vacant Property Owners Responsible For Blight

Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Licenses and Inspections (L&I) Commissioner Fran Burns announced new efforts to reduce the number of vacant and blighted properties in Philadelphia.

The new initiative will better hold private owners accountable for the maintenance of their vacant property.  L&I has identified approximately 25,000 unoccupied structures believed to be vacant because the owner has either not obtained a vacant property license or was cited for violations that are likely indicators of vacancy.  The goal of this program is to provide incentives for owners to repair or sell their properties to someone else who will repair it, thereby improving the neighborhood. The Department will then be able to concentrate its resources on neighborhoods where the need is greatest.

“Philadelphia residents can no longer afford to have vacant properties harming their neighborhoods,” said Mayor Nutter.  “Abandoned buildings tarnish blocks, bring crime and encourage illegal dumping.  The City is committed to holding these landowners responsible.  Eliminating vacant and blighted properties will benefit our neighborhoods and encourage development.”

“Blight is a major issue facing our neighborhoods and change will not happen overnight.  But this program, in addition to the good work the Department does every day, will start shifting neighborhoods,” said Commissioner Burns.  “We will not tolerate absentee property owners bringing down our neighborhoods any more.

L&I’s new initiative is different from previous efforts to address the issue of vacant property in three main ways:

Focus on Finding the Owners: A team of dedicated researchers is culling several databases to find good names and addresses for the owners of vacant properties.

New Enforcement Measures: The City will enforce the “doors and windows” ordinance, which allows L&I to ask the court to fine owners $300 per day per opening that is not covered with a functional door or window.  Properties in violation of this ordinance are posted with a bright pink poster.  State Act 90, sponsored by Rep. John Taylor, allows the Department to ask the court to attach these potentially high dollar fines to the owner’s personal property.  The Department can also leverage these fines to bring the property to sheriff sale.

Dedicated Court Time: L&I and the Law Department are working with Judge Bradley Moss to have dedicated days to hear vacant cases.  This will make sure that these cases flow through the legal process quickly.

A study commissioned by the RDA and the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations has determined that vacant property costs property owners an average of $8,000 per household, with an estimated $3.8 billion in lost household wealth.

Department of Licenses and Inspections Communications contact: Maura Kennedy (215) 686-2149

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