Published September 07, 2011
Current and former residents at a luxury building in Philadelphia partly owned by hip-hop star Jay-Z say the music mogul's legal team has been relentlessly harassing them to leave until they give up and vacate the premises, FoxNews.com has learned.
"I'm scared of Jay-Z," says a tenant of 603 North American Street, who because of what she claims are safety fears does not want to be named. "I've endured endless harassment from his team of lawyers, and I can't take it anymore. I don't know when this drama is going to end."
The 24-unit condominium complex was purchased by SCC North American Realty, LLC, in January of 2009. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, SCC North American Realty, LLC, is partially owned by Shawn Carter, otherwise known as Jay-Z.
"The whole thing has been so unsettling,” former tenant Liza Tedeschi tells FoxNews.com exclusively. “I’ve been in tears over this.”
Tedeschi claims Jay-Z's legal team has been trying to evict tenants at his four-year-old building.
“They filed a lawsuit against me knowing that I had paid the rent. The lawyer admitted it to me, yet they still filed the lawsuit against me,” says Tedeschi. “It’s total and utter harassment. They’re filing frivolous lawsuits. They gave my personal cell phone number out to what seems like every realtor in town to show my apartment. I’ve gotten phone calls at 9 p.m. on a Friday night. They’re on a coordinated crusade of harassment–everyone who’s left in the building is being sued."
Tenant Lani Moreno agrees.
"They had process servers banging on my door, ringing my doorbell nonstop,” Moreno tells FoxNews.com exclusively. “The banging was very violent. This was happening on a daily basis for at least a week. They were yelling my name, and the names of my neighbors. I was very scared because I live alone, and it was very, very scary for me.”
FoxNews.com was shown the real estate company's lawsuit filed against one of the tenants for unpaid rent, along with emails from the resident to the attorney stating she had paid the rent. According to the resident, her personal rent checks had simply never been cashed.
Typical rents for the 2,000 sq. ft. condo units at 603 North American Street are about $2,200 a month. A similar unit is currently listed for sale on a real estate site for $488,000.
Jay-Z’s company seems determined to evict all of the building’s renters, says Moreno. “I spoke with someone named Lillian at Starkman-Palumbo, the current property management company,” Moreno explains. “She told me, ‘You need to understand something–they want everyone out of the building.’”
Anthony Palumbo, a broker for Starkman Palumbo, Inc., told FoxNews.com that the building was indeed shedding its rental units, but disagreed that remaining rental tenants were being treated poorly.
“We’re the new management company,” Palumbo said. “We took over from the former management company, which was let go. The owners are not interested in keeping the building a rental property–they’re interested in selling the units. If anybody produces a valid lease and proof of rent payments, then they’re allowed to stay until the end of their lease."
"We take good care of the building, I think that some people were unhappy that they had to leave, because it is such a nice building–but the owners are not interested in keeping it a rental property, they are more interested in selling it," Palumbo continued. "If any tenant would like to buy their unit, they’re welcome to stay if they want to purchase the unit. The owners are going to honor all the leases until their terms are ended. They are not interested in renewing any of the leases. We continue to manage it, we take care of all maintenance, and if there was any misunderstanding because of the prior management company because they did not keep good records, once (the tenant) provided us with all the documentation, everything was fine."
At least 15 tenants have moved out of the building since May. "From what I can tell, only two other units besides mine are still occupied,” says Moreno. “The rest of the units in building appear to be empty." A letter dated July 1, 2011 obtained by FOX411 from Lighthaus Condominiums, listed at the same 603 North American Street address, stated everyone in the building was to be out by July 31. Adam Atacan, a realtor with Keller-Williams in Philadelphia, who is not involved with the property at 603 North American Avenue, tells FoxNews.com that at least seven of the vacant units are currently listed as for sale.
Things were so bad at the building at one point, Tedeschi got her state senator involved.
“They won’t return Sen. Farnese’s calls," she said. "Can you imagine not calling a senator back? He finally had to send Jay-Z’s lawyers a letter.”
“The Senator was very concerned about the tenants as soon as he found out about the situation,” Kathie Abookire, Sen. Farnese’s communications director, tells FoxNews.com. “On August 12, he wrote a letter to Harper J. Dimmerman, who is the counsel for 603 North American Street. He expressed his concern about what was happening in the building and asked that the management thoroughly investigate each complaint and handle each tenant on a case-by-case basis, and determine if eviction was appropriate, or if it was not. The latest that we heard is that Liza was issued a stay while the matter was investigated further. Our concern is for the tenant, that they're being treated properly, fairly and in accordance with the law. The owner of the building is immaterial. The fact that someone may be famous is not our concern."
Even though Tedeschi was spared an immediate eviction, she decided to move out of the beleaguered building last week as she said the stress of living there had become too much.
Multiple calls and emails to Jay-Z’s attorney, representative, and SCC North American Realty, LLC were not returned.