Another Warehouse Fire, Another Tax Delinquent

Listed owner owes over $30,000 citywide in taxes.

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The listed owner of the vacant warehouse at 2412 N. American Street where a four-alarm fire injured three people overnight owes $11,023.55 in back taxes on the property, and a total of about $20,500 on at least three other parcels in the city, a Philly Mag review of city records finds.

According to city records, the warehouse’s owner is Richard Paynter. The records — which on occasion can be incorrect — show that Paynter hasn’t paid taxes on the property since at least 2007.

There are no recent records of safety or maintenance violations at the site, but another lot owned by Paynter in West Philadelphia has racked up 13 violations in recent years.

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 11.16.58 AMPaynter could not be immediately reached for comment. His listed number has been disconnected.

You’ll recall, of course, the 2012 blaze at the vacant Thomas Buck hosiery factory in Kensington that killed two firefighters. The owner of that factory, YML Realty, also owned a number of properties throughout the city with unpaid taxes and code violations. Locals had frequently complained to the city that vagrants, squatters, and others would go in and out of the hosiery factory.

It’s not yet clear if similar activity sparked last night’s fire. There was someone at the building — their identity has not been released — who was badly burned in the fire. “We don’t know if the person was squatting, if they were employed there, we don’t know what they were doing in the property, it’s too early,” said Executive Chief Peter Crespo of the Philadelphia Fire Department.

According to the Department of Licenses & Inspections, the city proactively inspected and sealed the warehouse in October 2012. There’s a record of a service request made in March of this year, but L&I says when it reinspected the building they found it intact and not open to trespass, with no structural deficiencies.

The two firefighters who were injured are faring well, Crespo said, and he described their injuries as “minor.”

As we’ve recently reported, the city is getting modestly better at property tax collection. But the delinquency epidemic remains massive, and tax delinquent properties are far more likely to be vacant and poorly maintained than are tax compliant properties.

In recent months, the city’s tax enforcement systems look to have caught up with Paynter. A Common Pleas court judge approved the city’s petition to take the warehouse at 2412 N. American to sheriff sale on July 11. A large vacant lot Paynter owns on the 5700 block of Market Street is also now eligible for sale, according to court records.

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