Slumlord’s former properties still in limbo, but auction is coming

Zulma Rivera Zulma Rivera stands on the porch of her house, which she moved into when infamous slumlord Bob Coyle was the landlord. Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro

At a hearing Monday, the group that had tentatively agreed a year ago to participate in rehabbing and selling 100 Kensington and Port Richmond properties linked to jailed slumlord Robert N. Coyle Sr. announced it will seek to instead auction off the properties within 60 days.

The reason was a “bureaucratic nightmare,” as Kenpor LP attorney Marc Zucker described it.

Kenpor (short for Kensington-Port Richmond), which purchased Coyle’s defaulted loans, struck a deal in in September 2012 to take over the properties under a settlement with the city, but didn’t get the deeds until November 2013.

Without legal titles, Kenpor was prevented from actively working on the properties, they claim. Over that period, the properties deteriorated further.

Now, they want to pursue an auction, and have guaranteed they will seek out “legitimate” buyers.

But Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez is worried about Kenpor’s auction plans.

“I am concerned to hear that these properties may now be offered up in an open auction, which would make it even harder for the city to ensure they are brought back up to code,” Quinones-Sanchez said via email. “Repeated changes of ownership have left the properties in limbo, with most vacant or occupied by squatters, and it is impossible to overstate the devastating effect that this has had on the surrounding community.”

Kenpor’s lawyers said that they will seek competent buyers, and each buyer will be required to post $6,500 as a security fund for required repairs to the property, to be supervised by Kenpor’s attorneys.

“If these were just disposed of to another slumlord, she would have good reason to be concerned. She doesn’t want that to happen and we don’t want that to happen,” said attorney Walter Weir. “Kenpor believes that getting local talent, as we did with the first 10 properties that we sold, is the most efficient, effective and the quickest way to restore these properties to code-compliant status and to get them improved.”

For Zulma Rivera, who started renting from Coyle in 2006 and lost approximately $20,000 to him, the original settlement with Kenpor did not bring any stability to her home, which has a leaky roof, no heat and no gas, she said.

But on Tuesday, a Kenpor employee visited Rivera’s home, and their lawyers said they intend to repair her home.

How Coyle did it

Dubbed the “slumlord millionaire,” Bob Coyle ran riot with Philadelphia’s property laws in the 2000s. He acquired or pretended to own properties, then duped tenants into phony “rent-to-buy” agreements where they thought their monthly payments were going toward a final sale and even utilities.

In 2008, as the economy crashed, Coyle defaulted on $10 million in loans and the bank foreclosed on about 150 properties. Victims found their savings were not credited against foreclosure proceedings or massive tax liens.

Coyle was indicted by federal prosecutors for loan fraud in March 2012 and sentenced to six years in prison last May.

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