What can a Philadelphia homeowner do about neglected properties in the neighborhood?

You have seen them, one or two houses on a well maintained block; they have tall weeds, overgrown vines, junk on the porch, maybe a broken window. They are a real eyesore in the neighborhood.

Do you have one of these problem properties in your neighborhood?   If the property violates Philadelphia’s General Property and Structural Maintenance code, then Philadelphia’s Licenses and Inspection may be able to help.

Tittle 4, Chapter 3 of the Philadelphia Code (link) spells out what Philadelphia property owners must do to maintain their property.  Here are selected portions of  Tittle 4, Chapter 3 that may apply to your situation:

“PM-302.2 Sanitation:  All exterior property and premises, including porches, patios and decks, shall be maintained in a clean, safe and sanitary condition and free from any accumulation of:

     1.     rubbish or garbage;
     2.     building materials or equipment that are not currently being used for work at the property, or are being used in connection with work at the property which requires a building permit, if no such permit has been obtained; or
     3.     an unreasonable quantity of other personal property, not including currently functional items such as patio furniture, play equipment, lawn and garden equipment or other similar outdoor items.”

“Where rodents are found, they shall be promptly exterminated by approved processes which will not be injurious to human health. After extermination, proper precautions shall be taken to prevent reinfestation. The occupant shall keep that part of the exterior property which such occupant occupies or controls in a clean and sanitary condition.”

“PM-302.3 Weeds: All premises and exterior property shall be maintained free from weeds or plant growth in excess of 10 inches (254 mm). All noxious weeds shall be prohibited. Weeds shall be defined as all grasses, annual plants and vegetation, other than trees, shrubs, cultivated flowers and gardens.”

“PM-302.7 Motor vehicles: Except as provided for by Use Registration Permit, not more than one currently unregistered motor vehicle shall be parked, kept or stored and no vehicle shall at any time be in a state of major disassembly, disrepair, or in the process of being stripped or dismantled on any exterior property.”

PM-304.1 General: The exterior of a structure shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound and sanitary so as not to pose a threat to the public health, safely or welfare. All structural members shall be maintained free from deterioration, and shall be capable of safely supporting the imposed dead and live loads.

“PM-304.4 Roofs: The roof and flashing shall be sound, tight and not have defects that admit rain. Roof drainage shall be adequate to prevent dampness or deterioration in the walls or interior portion of the structure. Roof water shall not be discharged in a manner that creates a health or safety hazard.”

PM-304.5 Appurtenances and architectural features: All cornices, belt courses, corbels, terra cotta trim, wall facings, canopies, marquees, signs, metal awnings, stairways, fire escapes, standpipes, exhaust ducts and similar elements shall be maintained in good repair and be properly anchored so as to be kept in a safe and sound condition. When required, all exposed surfaces of metal or wood shall be protected from the elements and against decay or rust by periodic application of weather-coating materials, such as paint or similar surface treatment.”

“PM-304.6 Chimneys and towers: All chimneys, cooling towers, smoke stacks, and similar construction shall be maintained structurally safe and sound, and in good repair so that it will function safely and effectively. All exposed surfaces of metal or wood shall be protected from the elements and against decay or rust by periodic application of weather-coating materials, such as paint or similar surface treatment.”

“PM-304.7 Handrails and guards: Every handrail and guard shall be firmly fastened and capable of supporting normally imposed loads and shall be maintained in good condition.”

“PM-304.8 Windows and doors: Every window, door and frame shall be kept in sound condition, good repair, weather tight and free of broken glazing.”

“PM-307.1 Unsafe Structures:  All structures that are or hereafter shall become unsafe, unsanitary or deficient because of inadequate means of egress facilities, or which constitute a fire hazard, or are otherwise dangerous to human life or the public welfare, or which involve illegal or improper occupancy or inadequate maintenance, shall be deemed unsafe. All unsafe structures shall be taken down and removed or made safe and secure as the code official deems necessary and as provided for in this Section. A vacant building that is not secured against entry shall be deemed unsafe. Likewise, a pier or other waterfront structure shall be deemed “unsafe” pursuant to this Section where the owner has not complied with the most recent deadline for performing an inspection and submitting a structural assessment report to the Department pursuant to Section PM-304.9.”

“PM-312.1 Definitions:     Enforcement Officer: Any person authorized to enforce ordinances, including, but not limited to Code official as defined in Section PM-202.0.

 Overhanging or Encroaching Tree: Any tree, any portion of which either
(i)     overhangs or rests upon the property of someone other than the owner of the tree in a manner that harms or is likely to harm the other’s property; or
(ii)     is dead, weakened or decayed such that a significant portion of the tree could reasonably be expected to fall or come to rest upon the property of someone other than the owner.”

“PM-312.2 Trees: No person shall allow any tree on his or her property to become an Overhanging or Encroaching Tree.”

If necessary, section 503.2 of the City Code allows L&I to abate the violation and recover costs:

“A-503.2 Abatement of violation: Whenever any violation of this code or the technical codes or any order issued pursuant thereto is not corrected, the department, in addition to invoking any other sanction or penalty shall be authorized to itself or by contract correct the violation, charge the costs (including administrative costs) thereof to the violator, and with the approval of the Law Department collect the costs by lien or otherwise.”

If you see any potential violations like weeds or broken windows  call the City’s 311 service and lodge a complaint. Any potential City action first starts with a 311 complaint. If you register a 311 complaint,  Licenses and Inspection will send an inspector to assess the situation, and if violations are observed the homeowner will be cited.

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