In good L&I news, commissioner Frances Burns announced today that her department has eliminated its backlog of cleaning and sealing run-down properties. In the past, it took the department a woeful 8 months to get the job done. Now, Burns says, such buildings are cleaned and sealed within 10 days of L&I receiving a complaint.

The impact is profound. Last fiscal year, L&I cleaned and sealed 952 buildings. This year the number is up by 1329.

The boost is in large part to $420,000 federal stimulus dollars, which enabled L&I to hire 12 temporary clean-and-seal workers.

When a house becomes an eyesore, or a crumbling danger to those around it, and the owner fails to take action, L&I's clean-and-seal unit boards up the property.

"A majority of our clean and seals originate with a citizen complaint," says Burns, "and I encourage any resident who believes that a structure is causing a problem in their neighborhood to call 311. We will send someone out to investigate the issue and take appropriate action."

The department then bills the owner for the trouble, which for cleaning-and-sealing typically costs $1,000. If there is no payment within 30 days, L&I places a lien on the property.

Now, if only the property can get rehabbed.

Read about one West Philadelphia neighborhood's battle with a long-abandoned house.