Residents forced to vacate East Oak Lane condo

Watch report from Action News
March 13, 2014 2:34:04 AM PDT
Residents who live in a condo in Philadelphia's East Oak Lane have been told they have to pack up and leave by Friday morning.

The building is located at 6751 North 13th Street.

Officials say the order to vacate is for the safety of the residents. But many of them can't believe they have so little time to find someplace else to live.

From the outside, it is a beautiful brick building in the East Oak Lane section of Philadelphia. But a closer look shows the Oak Lane Gardens condominiums are crumbling.

The city says it is an unfortunate situation, but something has to be done.

Licenses and Inspections (L&I) will take over the building Friday morning. Residents will have to leave, and the 5-story, 54-unit building on North 13th Street will be boarded up.

"It could have been prevented a long time ago. Now people have to take their kids out on the streets," said Larry Samuels.

Action News found deplorable conditions inside, including raw sewage in the basement, exposed wires and a fire alarm system that does not work.

Records show more than 20 owners have a stake in the building. But the company Rare Rentals owns nearly half of the units.

The city says the condo association fell apart in the early 2000s, and the owners have not kept up Oak Lane Gardens, which is home to low-income families and even some squatters.

Anderson Love, who lives in the condos with his wife and 6 children, says their home does not have heat or plumbing.

"The people who are hard workers and trying to survive and trying to make it are the ones taking the burden on this," said Love.

L&I says there are also serious structural concerns. Since 2007 the property has logged 85 cases with hundreds of violations.

63 cases are still open, which prompted an "intent to cease and vacate" order on February 28th.

Residents say they understand the danger. They just wish they had more time and the resources to move out.

"If they would have given us, like, 30 days - okay, fine. But just throwing us out? Some of us have children or health issues or just can't afford to leave," said Kisha Carter.

L&I says it is working with city agencies and the Red Cross to make sure residents have options for housing.

Rare Rentals, which owns 29 of the 54 condos, says it is doing the same.

A spokesman says the company has been trying to do its part and blamed other owners for not helping to keep the place up.

Rare Rentals issued the following statement:

This is an unfortunate situation for all parties involved. Rare Rentals is just one of many owners of condominium units in this building, and we are working very closely with our tenants to accommodate them at this time. Rare Rentals has been cooperating with the City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections to correct the various code enforcement violations existing in the common elements of the condominium building and has unilaterally been conducting repairs to the building. With the exception of certain owner occupants, we have not received any correspondence or assistance with the maintenance of the building from the other owners. There are some tenants and even squatters who continuously deface and destroy this property making our efforts worthless to the detriment of those occupants who care about where they live. The City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections, Office of Supportive Housing, Office of Emergency Management, along with City Councilwoman Tasco's office were represented at the meeting with the occupants and are working diligently to remedy this matter.


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