A leaky ceiling, raccoons and cat poop: Ex-residents say Sheriff Williams was a 'slumlord'
Leaks in the ceiling, holes in the wall, a family of raccoons. This is what Antoine and LaVerna Moseley endured when they lived for more than a year in the second floor apartment of a house owned by Sheriff Jewell Williams. Their story raises questions about whether Williams was a shoddy landlord to struggling residents - and if he was misleading when he said only one tenant lived at the property, following the violations he received for operating an illegal triplex.
Leaks in the ceiling, holes in the wall, a family of raccoons. These are some of the headaches Antoine and LaVerna Moseley say they endured when they lived for more than a year in a North Philadelphia house owned by Sheriff Jewell Williams.
The couple said it was a dump — and that Williams and One Day at a Time, a drug-recovery center that leased the house from Williams and rented the second-floor area to the Moseleys, refused to make repairs.
"It was nasty," LaVerna, 47, said, recalling the state of the apartment when they moved in. "We had to clean up cat poop, and the floors weren't up to par."
The Moseleys' story raises questions about Williams' maintenance of the property, and if he was misleading when he said only one tenant lived at the property following a city citation he received for operating an illegal triplex.
The Moseleys said they were forced to move out in February after the city's Licenses and Inspections Department issued "nonhazardous" violation notices to Williams. The department claimed that Williams did not have the proper zoning or certificate of occupancy for a triplex, and that his second-floor apartment had a malfunctioning stove and lacked a working carbon-monoxide detector.
When Williams' violations were first reported by the Inquirer and Daily News last month, he said he only ever had one tenant at a time and said anyone else there was an illegal squatter.
Williams did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
The Moseleys have struggled with drug addiction for many years. They said they were living on a relative's couch for over a year and were grateful when One Day at a Time found them a one-bedroom apartment in North Philadelphia. But with nine grandchildren who often visited, they said, it was a tight space.
The couple asked officials at the recovery program if there was anything bigger; the group hooked them up with a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment nearby owned by Williams.
The Moseleys said they paid a $1,050 cash deposit to One Day at a Time on Nov. 1, 2016, and then gave between $550 and $700 a month in cash rent to the organization.
The couple showed a reporter a folder full of receipts for their rent payments, along with utility bills.
"I work hard for my money every day," Antoine said, noting he has two jobs. "I'm not squatting. … Squatters don't pay rent and pay bills."
The Moseleys also disputed Williams' claim that only one tenant had lived there at a time. They said that when they moved in, there were residents in the basement and first-floor apartments. The person in the basement used hot plates to cook, they said.
Another woman said she still lives in the first-floor apartment but is in the process of moving out. She declined to speak further about the property.
The Moseleys want Williams to give them their money back — about $9,000, they said — and have retained a lawyer.
"We moved in, and they never did anything," Antoine Moseley said, referring to what he said was a promise from One Day at a Time that the apartment would be fixed once they moved in. "My wife kept complaining and kept complaining. … They never came.'"
On Nov. 20, LaVerna made a list and kept a copy. The note said: "Windows in front do not lock; faucet leaks; hole in the wall; bedroom ceiling leaks; wall is separating." She also said that her bedroom floor had holes big enough she could see into the first-floor resident's kitchen, and and that she was hearing what sounded like animals in the ceiling (a family of raccoons was living in the vacant house next door, she said.)
In a statement, One Day at a Time said the group's "housing/shelter team was not aware of any material issues with the property" before it learned of the L&I citations, adding that it "does not foreclose the possibility the information was communicated from the residents but not appropriately relayed."
The organization declined to answer specific questions about whether it or Williams had ultimate responsibility for maintenance and repairs.
The Moseleys said that a few weeks after they gave the Nov. 20 memo to staff at the recovery center, a worker arrived but only covered up a hole in the bathroom wall. The rest of the complaints were not addressed, they said.
In January, LaVerna filed a complaint with L&I. An inspector came two days later.
One Day at a Time's statement also said the organization at "all times believed" the home was zoned for multifamily housing. When the group realized it wasn't, it "terminated the lease and left the property."
Antoine Moseley, 48, said Williams came to the property in February and told him: "Listen, L&I came. … We going to fix everything up in here. Don't worry about it."
But a few days later, the Moseleys said, the rehab center told them they would have to move out by Feb. 22. LaVerna Moseley said they didn't received a 30-day notice or other formal notice to vacate. They never signed an official lease, she said.
One Day at a Time offered them a small one-bedroom apartment in exchange but after the Moseleys refused, they said, the group gave them $800 to find a new place.
"To try to move us out … because y'all got hit with violations?" she said. "Why not fix it up and stop being slumlords?"