Claymont, DE – Today, New Castle County announced new action against a local landlord whose 34 properties have racked up nearly two thousand county code enforcement inspections and hundreds of public safety calls, while accruing $415,000 in unpaid taxes and fees. County Executive Matt Meyer, members of County Council, staff from the county’s Code Enforcement Office and Public Safety Departments and community advocates visited one of the properties, a residence in the Overlook Colony neighborhood near Claymont, to voice concern for the health and safety of neighborhood residents and the tenants who occupy these properties and to announce next steps in the county’s enforcement efforts.
“We are concerned for the law-abiding tenants and local residents who are harmed by the appalling condition of these properties,” County Executive Meyer said today. “This landlord’s failure to maintain his properties and to meet his financial obligations hurts the entire community and drains resources from our code enforcement and public safety officers. If you are not taking care of your property in New Castle County, you are not getting away with it anymore.”
Under the current owner’s watch, his 34 properties, which are largely concentrated in the Claymont area, have triggered:
- 1,992 property inspections by county code enforcement officers
- 418 code enforcement violations
- $22,000 in abatement costs initially paid by county government to correct code violations on these properties
Additionally, during just the past 18 months, these properties have generated 297 separate calls for public safety response, including:
- 220 for police dispatch
- 72 for emergency medical services
- 5 for fire response
Cumulatively, as of today, this property owner owes New Castle County and local school districts $415,000 in unpaid county and school taxes and code enforcement fees and fines.
“My constituents have spoken loud and clear that everybody needs to pay their fair share,” said County Council members John Cartier. “Today, we’re taking action to hold an irresponsible landlord accountable for the damage he’s done to this community.”
The County Finance Department has initiated contact multiple times with the owner, Hockessin-area resident George Fantini, to arrange payment of county and school property tax, sewer fees and code violation fees. On some of the owner’s most severely delinquent accounts, no payment has been made since 2012, and despite pledges to make payment on those severely delinquent accounts, no payment has been received. In June and again in July, the County’s Law Department communicated in writing in a final effort to secure payment and a plan to remedy all outstanding code violations on these properties.
“Fair enforcement of this new policy will assist New Castle County and Claymont by addressing some of our problem residential and commercial properties,” said Brett Saddler, Executive Director of the Claymont Renaissance Development Corp. “Many of these properties have been detrimental to our revitalization.”
During today's announcement, County Executive Meyer signed an Executive Order establishing a policy that gives county officials the discretion to initiate sheriff sale proceedings against owners of multiple properties who disregard their obligations to maintain those properties for the occupants and pay property taxes, fees and fines that are owed to the county and school districts. In response to Mr. Fantini's persistent failure to meet his obligations, the County is initiating legal action to take his properties to sheriff sale.
County officials emphasized that the tenants in these properties have legal protections under the Delaware Landlord Tenant Code and it is not the County's intention to displace these tenants from their residences. Rather, today's action is aimed at transitioning these properties to new owners who will maintain them in a condition that provides for the wellbeing of their residents. Tenants can learn about their rights under the Delaware Landlord Tenant Code by visiting the Delaware Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit website at https://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/fraud/, by calling 302-577-8600 or e-mailing Consumer.Protection@State.DE.US. Additionally, tenants with questions or concerns about the legal protections available to them under the law are encouraged to contact Legal Services Corporation of Delaware (LSCD) at 302-575-0408 or www.lscd.com. LSCD is the state’s leading legal aid provider for tenants with private landlords with a focus on providing services to low income individuals.
“It is important for people who have been taken advantage of by their Landlord to know that they have rights under both the Landlord Tenant Code and County Ordinances to protect them,” said Douglas Canfield, Esq., Executive Director of Legal Services Corporation of Delaware. “Also, they should know that there are organizations such as New Castle County, the Attorney General’s Office and Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, who work collaboratively to help tenants assert their legal rights and to stand up to Landlord abuses.”
County Executive Meyer also stressed that information and services are widely available to tenants who want to explore their housing options. These individuals can explore available housing through Delaware Housing Search, an interactive website at http://delawarehousingsearch.org/ which includes detailed listings of many housing options with pictures, maps, and more. This site is offered through a collaboration among New Castle County, the Delaware State Housing Authority, municipalities and other organizations. The site also provides links to other housing resources at http://delawarehousingsearch.org/Resources.html. Tenants who have additional questions can contact the New Castle County Department of Community Services and Housing at 395-5600 to speak with staff who can assist in identifying housing services that may be available to them.
Contact: Jason Miller, Director of Communications, 302-545-1462