Trying to take the mystery out of LLCs; property ownership companies that hide the people behind them

Pat Loeb
November 28, 2018 - 6:54 pm
Public interest attornies and advocates testified in support of the bills. From left, Colleen McCauley of PCCY, George Gould of CLS and Karla Cruel of TURN

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Thousands of properties in Philadelphia are owned by Limited Liability Companies, or LLCs, that hide the identity of the people behind them. A city council committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would require the actual owner's name and address before they could get a rental or commercial activity license.

Public interest lawyer George Donnelly represents tenants whose homes have been made barely livable by a sewage explosion, leaks, a collapsed ceiling and electrical hazards.

"There was no way for my clients to contact the actual owner. It's an LLC name with the address of the property management company," he said.  

Donnelly says it's not unusual.

Investors are scooping up properties in low income neighborhoods and renting them as LLCs.  

"As a city, we can't allow these largely out of town investors to continue to profit off of poverty while remaining anonymous. We need to know who owns homes in Philadelphia. We have to, so that we can hold people accountable when they fail to maintain their properties," he said. 
Donnelly was among several witnesses in support of the bill. 

Landlord organizations sent written testimony calling the bill a violation of privacy rights. 

Councilman Allan Domb, a landlord himself, was sympathetic.

"There are many people who invest, whether it's in real estate or other things, who don't want to be in the public eye," he said. 

Domb voted against the bills but says he could support them if they required only the name of the primary investor.