Action News helps solve your problem properties

May 15, 2013 8:58:18 AM PDT
If you drive through Philadelphia, chances are you'll see at least one vacant, rundown property. The city is home to about 40,000 of them. They drive down property values and they often pose major safety concerns.

Action News viewers came to us about one such property after they'd tried to get the hazard removed for almost a decade. The bottom line was they want their neighbor to be more neighborly.

The beautiful Germantown neighborhood had a huge problem looming over it ? literally, as in a huge tree.

"You never know when it's going to come down," resident Vivian Carter said.

Carter wouldn't even sit in her own backyard.

"I'm absolutely afraid to. Look at the branches. If something like that comes down on your head, you're dead," Carter said.

One large branch ripped right through Shelah Harper's roof. She is no longer sleeping in her own bedroom because of it.

The City of Philadelphia said the monstrous tree is the responsibility of property owner Jason Seville. Neighbors called Seville an absentee landlord.

They've been asking him to cut the tree down for more than five years.

"We have written, we have called L&I, we have had petitions signed," Harper said.

The city's department of Licenses and Inspections sent Seville multiple violation notices. It also labeled the situation "Imminently Dangerous" and ordered Seville to "immediately demolish or repair."

Action News sat down with L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams and showed him the notices from May 2012 and September 2012.

"This is the property owner's responsibility. This is not the City of Philadelphia's responsibility," Williams said.

He did agree that it is the city's responsibility to make sure the neighborhoods and homes are safe.

The issue is while L&I guarantees it'll send an inspector within 30 days of a complaint, after that, property owners get three chances to make the fix. Then a judge can order them to do so, but scheduling a hearing can take six months.

Action News tracked down Jason Seville at his home in Douglassville, Berks County.

"I went down and got some estimates done and spoke to my insurance agent for that property and they said as long as the tree is healthy and doesn't pose a risk, then it was fine," Seville said.

But again, the city said the tree is in imminent danger of collapse.

Seville then later told Action News, he no longer owned the property, but the bank did.

L&I thought otherwise.

"According to our records, he does," Williams said.

But for the safety of these Germantown residents, we asked L&I's commissioner to take action.

"We're taking care of it," Williams said.

The tree is finally coming down.

Commissioner Williams said we can absolutely come back to him if more Action News viewers bring us other cases.

"Thank you for bringing this to our attention," Williams said.

"I thank you because if it was not for you, we would not have this happening," Harper said to Action News.

We're happy we could help!

Now, if you have a problem with a property in your neighborhood, the first thing you should do is call 3-1-1 or file a complaint through L&I's website.

It now empowers you by providing the history of a property: everything from violations to inspections to licenses that have been issued. You can use it to get status updates on your complaint and to see a map that shows details on all the construction going on in your neighborhood.



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