Hello. I am passing this bit of 4-1-1 along since I've recently had to help counsel someone through an emergency move and what to do about it.
There ARE ways you can avoid situations like this in Philadelphia, believe it or not.
If you don't have this site bookmarked in your browser, you better.
BRT Website: Welcome to the Board of Revision of Taxes
What is it?
It's the website for the Board of Revision of Taxes
What do they do?
They're the property tax collectors/assessors of Philadelphia.
What does this have to do with me renting?
Everything. I'll make this example clear.
Let's look at this nice little property in Northern Liberties:
Gorgeous House WOW Parking,Patio,Amazing
Sounds peachy, right? And it's in the Philly-category for "luxury rent" since it's way above $1,500 a month.
But the address listed here is peculiar... 919 N. Front. According to BRT, this is a multifamily condo building.
And if you look even closer on the BRT, there have been two tax liens levied against the property owner.
2006$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.00$0.002007 $7,644.34 $974.65 $535.10 $570.45 $9,724.54 BC00040360 2008 $10,644.03 $399.15 $425.76 $709.34$12,178.28RL00670351 2009 $9,255.68 $277.67 $0.00$0.00 $9,533.35 MISC$0.00$0.00 $0.00$148.00$148.00
I know this is hard to read, but those two highlighted blocks there are the collections account numbers for the two tax liens this property has already been slapped with. And 2009's property taxes are probably also not going to get paid, either.
Why would you want to rent this "LUXURY" apartment when it has the spectre of "troubled-property" all over it?
It would be even more ironic if you are seeking a rental because your own house was foreclosed on, only to discover later that the building you're renting from is ALSO in foreclosure and/or subject to a tax seizure!
That high rent doesn't seem so realistic now, does it?
What does a TAX LIEN have to do with anything?
If you haven't known there was a housing crash, nothing. But until the Fair Housing code in Pennsylvania is modified to allow full disclosure to renters about the status of their buildings, this is the only way you can do a "credit check" against your landlord for free.
Of course, a more savvy renter who has access to PACER will also run a "legal check" on the landlord to see what litigation the landlord has been up to prior to renting. You would be surprised at what you will find when doing a search on your landlord.
What the tax leins mean
It means there is a VERY strong suspicion that the property owner is not paying the mortgage on time or if he is, making full and complete payments on it.
While it seems that a listed property on Craigslist seems like a dream, it could be that your landlord is also a deadbeat property owner.
The lawn might be manicured, the amenities devine, but all of that is worthless if the landlord doesn't pay his bills on time, especially if the building he owns has been mortgaged as an ATM machine recently, and he's passing this building off as a great deal in order to cover the mortgage payment on the property.
Do not fall for this trap.
If someone is asking for LUXURY rents on craigslist, one of the LUXURIES should not be WORRYING if your belongings will be tossed out on the street at Sheriff's sale!
So what, I'm already renting, what does this have to do with anything?
If your landlord stops paying the mortgage, 9 times out of 10 the property taxes on the investment property are also behind, too. BRT updates their site frequently, so if 2009's taxes aren't getting paid down, or worse... a tax lein number shows up on the records, this should be your cue to start finding boxes and packing your things.
I would also print out the BRT information and confront your landlord for confirmation. If the landlord refuses to answer any of your questions about the financial status of the house or building you are in, that's a clear indication that your home or apartment is in jeapordy.
Your landlord will be the last person in the world to tell you that he is in arrears on the mortgage (this also includes mega apartment complexes), and mortgage lenders are also hesitant to disclose the mortgage status to tenants because the landlord is usually relying on the tenants to supply the income to repay their debts.
The only way you can protect yourself is by snooping around and gathering information if you suspect something is up. Once you are hit with a simultaneous foreclosure warning and eviction notice, you usually have a very short period of time to get your things and get out.
Obama has pushed through a short term change in the FH code which forces mortgage lenders to notify tenants of a building (or a home) that the landlord is in default and faces foreclosure.
This notice period is now 90-days prior to the lock-out date when the Sherriff's sale process can begin. If this occurs, you now have the legal backing to immediately stop paying rent so you can save up for a new deposit and flee your current rental.
Any attempt by a landlord to toss you out of your apartment while the property taxes sit unpaid and also the mortgage will get thrown out of Landlord-Tenant Court.
If you are forced into the choice of having to stop rent payments because you know your pad is in arrears on the mortgage and you need to escape the building and you are served with an eviction hearing, DO NOT IGNORE THE HEARING NOTICE.
You need to protect your credit rating and your reputation with other landlords by protesting the eviction in front of the judge, and present the BRT website information as evidence!
Your defense in these cases (if going on the tax info alone) is that you have strong reason to believe the building is in jeapordy of foreclosure or seizure, and the lease was executed on false pretenses.