A four-story building in North Philadelphia that is home to eight Temple University students was built illegally - without the required safety inspections or even a building permit, city records show.
The tan-brick building at 1806 W. Montgomery Ave., constructed within the last two years, is owned by 826 N. Broad L.L.C. Shawn Bullard, a real estate developer from West Oak Lane, is the sole member of that company, real estate records show.
Bullard, 33, is a former Temple football player who had a short stint in the NFL and this year starred as a bachelor looking for love in the WE TV reality show Match Made in Heaven. He operates another company, Konkrete Investments L.L.C., which served as the general contractor for construction of the building, records show.
Bullard, who owns several other properties that city inspectors say were built with proper inspections, said the Montgomery Avenue building is safe. He disputed city records listing the property as not having been inspected.
"I don't know what to tell you. It was inspected," Bullard said. He referred further questions to his lawyer, Laurence Mester, who declined to comment.
Without construction inspections, city inspectors say, it's impossible to know whether the building is safe.
While the building has tenants and a rental license, it does not have the required certificate of occupancy, which attests that a property is in compliance with building codes and is safe for habitation, city records show.
Last week, after The Inquirer asked about the building, officials with the Department of Licenses and Inspections gave Bullard 35 days to obtain such a certificate from the agency. If he does not comply, L&I officials said, they will shut the building down and order the tenants to leave.
L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams declined to be interviewed. In response to written questions, he said his department would conduct a hearing to determine whether to suspend Bullard's contractor license.
In the aftermath of the Center City building collapse in June 2013, Williams pledged greater scrutiny of contractors.
In Bullard's case, Williams said, L&I issued several violations against the contractor for not summoning the agency to perform the required safety inspections. In January, the agency took him to court, citing the failed inspections and unlawful occupancy. The case is pending.
The narrow, modern-looking Montgomery Avenue building has a graffitied side wall facing a vacant lot. A student who lived there verified that there are eight tenants but declined further comment.
Six current and former L&I inspectors who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal said they were appalled that the agency had allowed the construction to proceed without required inspections - and then allowed Bullard to take in tenants.
"They're only threatening to vacate the building now because the newspaper asked about it," one of the inspectors said.
The L&I employees also faulted Bullard for not summoning inspectors to review the work as it progressed, and for not obtaining a certificate of occupancy.
Williams wrote that L&I became aware of the project in late 2013, when an accident occurred on the job. A worker was injured when a scaffold he was standing on came in contact with electrical wires, according to records of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
City records show that on Dec. 3, 2013, an inspector wrote in the L&I database that "there were NO inspections performed of any sort at this site." He added: "The contractor failed to notify me for any inspections."
L&I records show that the inspector issued a stop-work order, but it was not carried out.
The next month, with the building nearly completed, the inspector wrote, "4 story property built with no legal permit issued. Fire suppression system roughed in with no legal permit. No inspections performed and all work done illegally and without permission from [L&I] North District to start work. All work concealed from this office."
In a visit to the site a few months later, another inspector, Ryan Wheeler, wrote, "No inspections were performed by any inspector.. . . I, Ryan Wheeler, have stated in my notes that I will not assume any responsibility for work performed."
Williams, in his statement to The Inquirer, said the city has had problems with contractors building without the required inspections. He said the agency is responding with stricter enforcement, and a policy of revoking the licenses of such contractors. L&I also has been hiring additional inspectors to step up enforcement, he said.
As for Bullard's building, Williams wrote, "L&I inspectors found no structural conditions that pose a threat to occupants."
In interviews, L&I inspectors said they were puzzled by that assertion.
"How can we know the structural integrity of the building when no one inspected while it was being built?" one asked. "Now the walls are up and we can't see in them."
To compensate for the lack of construction inspections, Bullard will be permitted to hire an engineer to study the building and assure the city that it is safe, Williams said. To do that, experts say, an engineer would have to inspect the building's framing, foundation, insulation, and other aspects of construction, a task that requires taking apart walls and peering in.
Because construction was completed without L&I review, city inspectors say, they were unable to examine key indicators of the building's safety, such as checking the lumber to be sure floors and walls were not in danger of collapse; ensuring that the construction complied with fire-suppression regulations; seeing that appliances are properly vented, to prevent carbon-monoxide poisoning and fire hazards; and dozens of other issues.
"There are 100 ways to get hurt in an uninspected building," one inspector said, "and that includes the firefighters who might be called there one day."