Madison Weiss | Rampant history of code violations at Campus Apartments

09-07-23-Apartments-Offices-Campus-Derek Wong

The Campus Apartments office is at 4043 Walnut St. Credit: Derek Wong

I have a somewhat unusual view of the 76ers’ new arena. For four months, I lived in a renovated Victorian building managed by Campus Apartments. That company is headed by David Adelman, who is also leading the 76ers’ stadium construction efforts. This short time was more than enough to leave a bad taste in my mouth at the mere mention of the new construction led by Adelman.

Once I moved in, my $925-a-month apartment had leaks, a broken faucet, an ineffective heater, and the occasional roach. I complained dozens of times over the course of four months, submitting maintenance requests through their online portal, emailing their maintenance address, calling their office, and speaking in person with the maintenance workers and Campus Apartments staff to try to get something done. The faucet was finally fixed. But most of the issues received no attention at all.

Then, as April came to a close, I discovered hundreds of caterpillars brooding under the kitchen mat, the living room rug, and all next to the baseboards. When I called the emergency maintenance line, I was told that the exterminators assigned to my property only come on Tuesdays. I watched in horror as cockroaches began to hatch in my kitchen, living room, and bedroom, while I begged the manager to do something. The exterminators wouldn’t come until the following Wednesday.

Frustrated and disgusted, I asked to cancel my lease. They agreed, perhaps because I registered a lot of complaints. I had a week to find another place to live.

This is not a one-time case. Adelman’s Campus Apartments currently owns nearly $200 million in real estate, according to its website, and has been cited for problems before. Some of his possessions are in “completely abusive” conditions, according to a 2012 lawsuit filed by six students who live at 3935 Baltimore Ave. They claimed problems included “leaks, rodents, mold, and a collapsed ceiling in the third-floor bathroom.” The case was withdrawn without prejudice in 2013.

More recently, in 2020, a student living at 4036 Locust Street filed a lawsuit alleging that their home was the site of a rat infestation and that the building had broken radiators and ineffective plumbing systems. The case was settled later that year.

These complaints are not unique. University City Associates, the real estate arm of the University of Pennsylvania, lists 68 properties, containing 550 total units, on its website. All of these apartments are managed by Campus Apartments. City records show that 26 of those properties, or more than 38 percent, failed inspection at some point. Seven of them were classified as “unsafe” and four as “dangerous”.

These numbers don’t tell the whole story. For every failed inspection, I suspect there are more tenants who either don’t know how to advocate for themselves or haven’t been able to get the city to take action. Take 3935 Baltimore Street, for example. Despite the history of litigation resulting from this property, to date, it still has zero inspections listed.

In addition to properties that are not inspected at all, there are properties that have violations marked “compliant” even when they have not actually been remedied, as I learned in my own apartment building.

Why is this happening? Short Answer: Inspections in Philadelphia are conducted by the Department of Licensing and Inspections, or L&I.

Any Philadelphian groans at the mention of L&I, and for good reason: The department suffers from a reputation of “laziness and unaccountability.” L&I has seen scandal after scandal over the years, with the latest allegations from 2018 suggesting that the former deputy commissioner was ousted from his position by a “politically connected” group.

So what can be done? First, the city must get serious not only about conducting inspections, but also about supporting and reforming its inspectors. The city must also make inspections more accessible online. I wouldn’t have signed a lease at the place I did if I had researched the history of the property beforehand, but it’s hard to find a location that’s difficult to use. Finally, we must carefully monitor companies that buy and build real estate in our city, to ensure that they act responsibly and in our best interest. Which brings me back to David Adelman.

Mr. Adelman: If your playground is going to be like your apartment, I don’t want anything to do with it.

Madison Weiss He is a 2023 graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences in philosophy, politics, and economics. they e-mail He is maweiss@sas.upenn.edu.

(tags for translation)opinion

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