West Philly Tenants Stop Illegal Eviction Attempt

Six months after SBG Management served illegal eviction notices to tenants at the Admiral Court and Dorsett Court apartments at 48th and Locust streets in West Philadelphia, the landlord tried again. On Friday, Oct. 26, they posted notices declaring that the building would be closed on Tuesday, Oct. 30, and “NO ONE will be permitted access after 5 pm.” 

The Philadelphia Tenants Union organized an eviction-defense rally Oct. 30, with about 50 tenants and supporters in the Admiral building’s courtyard. Neither SBG landlord Phillip Pulley nor property manager Bill Hunter showed up—and the residents stayed. 

“If people weren’t out here today, they would have locked this building,” Admiral Court tenant Shakeiva Tisdale told the Philadelphia Partisan. On the 26th, she told the rally, Hunter knocked on her door, “and told me that on Tuesday, me and my family should find a shelter, so we’d have somewhere to go…. He had no paperwork, so I shut my door in his face.” 

“Stay here—do not give up—because the only person who can evict you out of here is the sheriff and the city,” Philadelphia Tenants Union member Barry Thompson told the rally. “Until the sheriffs of the City of Philadelphia come and tell you that you have to leave, you do not have to leave these premises.”

SBG shut off the gas in Admiral Court on Oct. 26, and turned off the water in both buildings on Oct. 29. Pulley does not have a rental license, but has said he wants to sell the buildings. According to publicly posted real-estate data, the market value of Dorsett Court, located in a gentrifying area about a mile west of the University of Pennsylvania, has nearly tripled in the past five years. 

The tenants are demanding the return of their security deposits plus $2,000 per household for moving expenses and the first and last months’ rent for a new apartment. Without that, they say their families can’t afford to move. 

“A comparably sized unit would be an increase of at least $500 in rent,” says Tisdale. Her family of four has gone without gas for the past six months, so “we have to go out and buy dinner every day, shower at someone else’s house.” Tisdale’s mother, Jonaia Briley, said she is now taking medication for anxiety and high blood pressure for the first time in her life. 

District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office on Oct. 29 declined a request from the Philadelphia Tenants Union that it step in to prosecute or stop the illegal eviction.

“We’re going to take things to Pulley on higher levels with our actions and get in his face to make sure he doesn’t do this to other tenants,” PTU member Klyde Breitton said as the rally dispersed. He said that SBG Management had sent similar eviction notices to residents at Fern Rock Gardens on the city’s far north side. Last year, the owner of the 17-story Penn Wynn House on the city’s far west side evicted the tenants of all 239 apartments to convert the building to luxury housing. 

At noon on November 2, tenant Steve Veney found two maintenance workers installing locks on the front and side doors to Dorsett Court. He called the police, who stopped the workers from installing them—but there is a latch that could easily be locked. 

A longer version of this article originally appeared in the Philadelphia