The Department of Revenue is responsible for collecting taxes, water charges and other payments that support the City and School District of Philadelphia. These collections are what make ALL other City services possible.
Most Philadelphians pay what they owe, and do so on time. We owe it to those taxpayers and water customers to take action when people who can afford to pay, choose not to. One of the ways we collect overdue taxes and water charges is through the City’s Sequestration Program.
Anne Whitcombe is a Senior Attorney with the Law Revenue Bureau. An avid yoga practitioner, she has worked for the City for 25 years. We asked her to explain what sequestration is, and how it works.
In a few words, what is the City’s Sequestration Program?
The City of Philadelphia has the right to request a court-appointed “sequestrator” to collect outstanding property tax and water sewer charges from property owners. The sequestrator will collect rent, manage a property, and pay its expenses –including current and delinquent taxes and water sewer charges– until any debts to the City are paid off. This arrangement is known as the City’s Sequestration Program.
How does it work?
If you have delinquent property tax or water sewer charges, the City will alert you by mail that it will be requesting that the Court appoint a sequestrator. If you do not pay off your debts or get into a payment agreement by the date stated in the letter, the City will file a petition with the Court of Common Pleas.
The Court gives the sequestrator the authority to take possession of all the building’s keys and leases. The sequestrator begins managing the building, collecting rents and paying expenses.
Failing to pay your debt to the City, and ending up in sequestration, may also lead to mortgage default. If you are the owner, you will be unable to collect rent from tenants, sell, lease or refinance the property while it is under sequestration.
What are the advantages of using sequestration to collect debts?
Sequestration is a much faster and less expensive legal process for the City compared to a Sheriff Sale. It is also a way to protect tenants who are paying rent from a potential eviction.
If my property goes into sequestration, how can I get out of it?
You can prevent sequestration before the Court appoints a sequestrator by paying your delinquent tax and water bills. If you can’t pay the debt in full, you can enter into and remain current on a City-run payment agreement.
To pay, use the payment coupon sent to you in the mail. Visit the City’s Real Estate Tax payment website or Water payment website to pay by eCheck [FREE], credit, or debit card. You can also call (877) 309-3710 to pay Real Estate Tax over the telephone. You can pay in person with cash, check, money orders, or other payment forms, at the Concourse of the Municipal Services Building in Center City.
Contact us at (215) 686-3629 if you have trouble paying on time. Our customer representatives can review your file to determine if you’re eligible for an installment plan.
During sequestration, the ownership of the property stays the same. Sequestration ends only when all debts to the City and the sequestrator have been paid.
What happens to me if I rent a property under sequestration?
If you are a tenant in good standing, for both residential and commercial properties, you have nothing to worry about. After taking over the building’s management, the sequestrator will contact tenants and building employees and let them know they will be responsible for collecting the rent, making necessary repairs, and paying expenses for the building.
However, if you fail to pay rent to the sequestrator you can be evicted.
What if the landlord tries to collect money from me directly, or tells me to leave the property?
Contact the sequestrator to inform them of the situation. The powers of the sequestrator are set forth in the City’s contract with the sequestrator. You can contact them directly:
Gary F. Seitz, Esquire
Gellert Scali Busenkill & Brown LLC
8 Penn Center, Suite 1901
1628 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19103
How can I get more information about sequestration?
To check if a property is in sequestration call (215) 686-3629. For any other questions about sequestration, email the Department of Revenue at email@example.com or call (215) 686-6442. If English isn’t your first language, we will find an interpreter who can help.