Press Releases

Press Releases: City Controller Releases Special Investigation Findings of City’s Unsafe & Imminently Dangerous Properties


PHILADELPHIA – City Controller Christy Brady today released the results of a special investigation of the City of Philadelphia’s Department and Licenses and Inspections’ (L&I) oversight of unsafe and imminently dangerous properties. The investigation was conducted to assess L&I’s ability to meet public safety measures regarding demolition and construction standards, and imminently dangerous and unsafe building structures.

By examining L&I’s records and conducting visual inspections of its 120 imminently dangerous properties, the Controller’s Office found the department’s Contractual Services Unit, which is tasked with overseeing the properties, is not adequately staffed to keep up with the demand. There are 15 inspectors to oversee the imminently dangerous properties along with the thousands of additional properties identified as unsafe. 

“Homeowners from across the city have fears about how crumbling buildings and demolitions being conducted on neighboring structures could catastrophically impact their own properties,” said Brady. “The role of the Controller’s Office is to promote not only efficiency and accountability in government but also to promote public safety.

“This investigation is about making our city safer.”

The Controller’s investigation also identified the following:

  • The average residential demolition costs upward of $30,000, but the city only recovers about 3% of that cost, leaving taxpayers to cover the millions of dollars spent handling dangerous properties.
  • The eCLIPSE database utilized for maintaining all properties does not designate the priority levels of structural deficiencies for demolition and cannot produce a complete listing of all imminently dangerous properties, which L&I manages through a separate tracking system.
  • Long court processing delays leave L&I inspectors unable to reinspect imminently dangerous properties every 10 days as required.

Once a property is determined to be at risk of collapse and/or danger to others, the inspectors post violation notices on the door indicating that the property must be demolished. If there is no action taken by the homeowner, L&I continues the process of obtaining a demolition permit through the court system. If the owner appeals the court’s decision, the process can take up to 90 days. The CSU inspectors are tasked with follow-up inspections every 10 days until a determination is made on the demolition.

“The current process can be expedited if the property is inspected and determined that it could collapse at any time, which requires an emergency decision by a judge,” said Brady.

In response to the above findings, the City Controller’s Office developed the following recommendations:

  • Create an active recruitment program to hire additional inspectors.
  • Dedicate resources to implement a payment collection process to recover more demolition costs from private property owners.
  • Establish a tracking system within eCLIPSE that includes the stages of imminently dangerous properties, allowing inspectors to prioritize demolitions.
  • Collaborate with the courts to reduce delays and assist inspectors to complete follow-up inspections within the required 10-day timeframe.

“We believe these recommendations will improve the oversight of the city’s unsafe and imminently dangerous properties, making our neighborhoods safer for us all,” said Brady.

The Controller’s Office reviewed the investigation’s findings with L&I’s leadership and staff and they have already moved to address some of the properties identified through the investigation.

“We share the same goals of improving operations of the city’s oversight of unsafe and imminently dangerous properties,” said Brady. “This is not about pointing fingers; this is about working together to find solutions.”

To review the City Controller’s report, visit


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