FOX 29 Investigates: Local housing developer

PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) More trouble for a local builder who is already being sued by several homeowners after their new homes developed leaks and caused over $150,000 in damages.

FOX 29 Investigates put the spotlight on that builder two months ago when we aired the homeowners' complaints. Now the Department of Licenses and Inspections is turning up the heat at one of his projects.

L&I has slapped stop work orders on the million dollar South Philadelphia construction project for failing to have the proper permits, licenses and insurance. But as our Dave Schratwieser uncovered, the stop work order didn't stop the work at all. Now city inspectors are cracking down.

The last time we saw builder Anthony Valenti, he was ducking our cameras and questions about work he did on several homes in South Philadelphia. The homeowners are suing him because their new houses were leaking, causing thousands of dollars in damages.

"I want to give you an opportunity to reply," FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser asked Valenti. "You don't want to say anything? You don't want to say anything at all?."

Valenti wouldn't talk as he drove away from his latest project in the 100 block of Alter Street just off Washington Avenue. It's called Alter Point. Three new, three story homes being built on a triangle piece of property off Front Street.

"That's a street people live on," said L&I spokesperson Karen Guss. "It's a narrow street and there's not anywhere else for those folks to go."

Fast forward two months, when FOX 29 Investigates made a trip past the project on June 23rd. Valenti's project had just been shut down by the Department of Licenses and Inspection. There was a stop work order dated June 22nd clearly posted on the fencing there.

"There was some blocking of the street going on at the construction site without a permit," Guss explained.

It turns out, L&I says the project had no "right of way" permits to block the streets on both sides during construction. Neighbors complained to L&I after months of work left their streets looking like this and the project still not finished.

"If you're going to be blocking the street, you're really inconveniencing the people who live there," Guss told FOX 29.

A stop work or cease operations order means no work can take place at the site until the builder and property owner get the proper permits from l and i, and post them on site.

But when FOX 29 Investigates returned to the site a week later, we found a generator running and contractors clearly at work on the third floor in violation of the stop work order. Copies of the orders posted on windows here were ripped off.

"They took the posters down and took it upon themselves to go back to work. That's not legal. It's not acceptable", Guss said.

An hour later we watched as an L&I Inspector arrived. He quickly pulled the plug on the operation and shut down the generator. Down came the contractors and they were told to pack up and leave.

We asked the workers who told them to come to work at the site and did they see the stop work order. They refused to respond.

"It's not a stop work suggestion," Guss said."It means you cannot do the work there until you are no longer violating the law."

The contractors were in no mood to speak with FOX 29 Investigates as they packed up their tools and left. Then, while the l and i inspector filed his report, they went a few blocks away to Valenti's other ongoing construction project, stopped in to see him and left.

"There's going to have to be some serious compliance with all the safety requirements before we can even consider letting that site get back up and running again," Guss added.

L&I tells us the project was clearly in violation and there could be fines.

According to Guss,"It's all about safety, that's what these rules are there for."

The project was also slapped with a second order. Guss says Valenti's city license and insurance expired.

"Without a license, without insurance you cannot do the work. Period," she said.

Meanwhile, back at 5th and Dickinson, where the homeowners are suing Valenti for over $150,000 in damages, the leaking roofs have now been repaired by another contractor. The flow of water has stopped and the homeowners have an October trial date with Valenti.

"We're going to take a look around the city and see what other projects this contractor is involved in because again this raises our concern," Guss told us.

Finally some advice for consumers and would be home buyers.

"Don't hire a guy who doesn't have his licenses and his permits and his insurance in order. It's for public safety and it's for your safety."

We tried to contact Mr. Valenti to get his comments on the L&I stop work orders. He did not return our call.