Penn students and local West Philadelphia residents are facing rent hikes and evictions from University House Apartments, a building located on tree-lined South 47th Street in the Clark Park area of University City.
Since the 28-unit building changed hands for $4.2 million in December 2018, multiple residents including Penn students have been informed that their leases will not be renewed and they will be evicted from their homes. Rent prices will also significantly increase, effectively pushing out longtime residents.
Multiple residents confirmed the building was purchased by Brick Management LLC, a Philadelphia real estate group, from Signature Investment Realty, through signs and written letters.
Brick was formerly known as ZanderCo Properties, another Philadelphia real estate group, according to multiple University House residents. ZanderCo has a one star rating on Google Reviews, with multiple allegations of extortion, failure to make repairs, and poor service from prior residents at other locations.
Brick Management did not respond to multiple requests for comment over the course of several weeks. When contacting ZanderCo, the calls either went to voicemail, or Brick representatives answered but declined to provide comment. "No one here is interested in speaking with you," a Brick receptionist told The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Although the ZanderCo website does not mention Brick, ZanderCo and Brick have the same office phone number, according to the Brick company sign outside University House. University House residents were, at one time after the building changed hands, also receiving paperwork signed by ZanderCo, resident and Penn Medical student Marianne Kramer said.
Kramer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Perelman School of Medicine who has lived in the building since April 2018. She said when the building was sold in December 2018, she received a notice of pending eviction a month later in January 2019, despite paying her rent on time.
“They had cashed my check," Kramer said. "I emailed them frantically saying, 'here’s a picture showing you cashed my check.'"
Kramer said Brick initially ignored multiple phone calls and four emails from her when she alerted them of the issue. The company responded by not renewing her lease for the upcoming year and announced plans to raise rents on new leases, forcing Kramer to make plans to move to the Graduate Hospital area in August 2019.
It took more than three days for the issue to be resolved, Kramer said, during which she feared for her ability to find another apartment. Kramer said she has lived in a new apartment each of her past five years of school, and hoped to finally settle down in her University House apartment. However, she said she will be forced to relocate with the impending rent increases.
Kramer said she has been informed by Brick that her rent is increasing from $930 to $1,200 per month on her single apartment.
Corey Lonberger, managing partner of Rittenhouse Realty Advisors, confirmed in a press release that rent for University House will increase significantly for renovations, but did not provide exact numbers. Rittenhouse is a realty firm that coordinated the sale of University House Apartments from the building's previous owner to Brick.
Kramer said she believed the eviction notice and the company's delay in response was a sign of mismanagement, as well as an effort to scare off residents to renovate vacant apartments and increase profits.
University House resident and fourth-year Penn Medical student Tony Spadaro currently lives on the ground floor of the building with his girlfriend. Although management has not communicated directly with him, Spadaro said he is worried about a zoning notice on the front door that indicates the new managers have applied for a permit to change the ground floor to "vacant commercial space." Spadaro said he believes it is only a matter of time before they will be forced to move.
"Since we live on the first floor, with the zoning, it seems like they’re going to kick everyone out. We wouldn’t be able to continue living here even if we wanted to," Spadaro said, who will graduate in May. Spadaro said he has not inquired further with Brick because he plans to relocate at the end of his lease due to his placement into a residency program outside of University City.
"They've basically said, when they post new leases, apply for those," a University House resident said, adding that she was concerned she would be unable to afford the new lease agreement. She wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution from Brick management.
Lonberger wrote in an email to the DP that the new buyer plans to remodel over time to create what he called an "upscale building" for the "sophisticated student." A two-bedroom, one bathroom apartment at University House is listed recently on an apartment-listing website at $1,500 per month.
“I keep seeing people move out,” Kramer said. “People who have lived here for five or ten years, and they have families."
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