Property Owners Owe the City $423 Million in “Nuisance Liens”

But no one has figured out how to collect it.

Some important records reporting at the Inquirer: The total amount of liens on properties for L&I demolition and other work, the oldest of which dates from 1975, is nearly as much as the better-known amount due for unpaid taxes — but the records are such a mess that the majority is uncollectible:

It’s almost enough to cover, for example, the Philadelphia School District’s $440 million deficit.


But the records are messy. People inside and outside government say the true amount of nuisance debt is elusive. And like the unpaid real estate taxes, only a fraction of it is considered collectible.

The nuisance debt is another cost of running a city where, even as new buildings rise, others are falling apart after years of neglect by owners. One former official calls it a decades-old malaise overdue for a cure.

"It's a surprise to me that in a city that is stone-cold broke, someone hasn't figured out a way to collect these liens," said Bennett Levin, who headed L&I in the 1990s. "We are encouraging blight by not going after it."

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