York Has Power to Seize Slumlord Assets

Industry Update
November 21, 2018

Source: York Daily Record

There was a time when slumlords ruled. They could take all the rental income from their property or properties, and put it in their pockets, never spending a dime for maintenance as required by municipal property maintenance codes.

They could milk all the equity out of their properties and at the same time never pay municipal real estate taxes, sewer, water or trash  bills.  When their properties became vacant and blighted, they would simply abandon them and walk away, leaving the taxpayers to clean up their mess.

What the slumlords leave behind is blight, and blight costs the taxpayers of municipalities in Pennsylvania, like York, billions of dollars a year. The blighted and vacant properties which slumlords abandon reduce the assessed value of real estate in the neighborhoods where the property is located, which in turn, reduces the annual property tax revenue available to a municipality, like York, to pay for municipal services.

This loss of annual municipal tax revenue obviously has to be made up through higher real estate taxes on properties owned by taxpayers who do maintain their property. Higher property taxes on well-maintained properties are also necessary, to pay for slumlords unpaid sewer and water bills, etc., left after they abandon their vacant properties.

This inequity is really an economic crime, grossly unfair to all taxpayers in York, and in every municipality in Pennsylvania.

An elderly couple that has worked all their life and maintained their property and have their life savings in the equity in their home, for example, worth say $80,000, find that a slumlord has abandoned a vacant and blighted building down the street in their neighborhood, and suddenly, the value of their home decreases to $40,000, if they can even sell it. They instantly lost $40,000. Isn’t that a crime?

If someone robs a bank and takes other people’s money, it’s considered a crime and they go to jail! If a slumlord does what I suggested, isn’t that a crime too?

This has bothered me since I was director of city planning and acting director of the Redevelopment Authority in York. But there was little I could do about it then.

Things have changed since then! There is a new sheriff in town.

In January of 1973, I became the first executive director of the House Local Government and Urban Affairs Committees for the Pennsylvania Legislature.

It was then that I was given a chance to actually do something about blight.

I was asked to draft House Resolution 91, which the Legislature passed unanimously, authorizing the House Urban Affairs Committee to investigate the causes of blight in Pennsylvania municipalities and recommend what needed to be done to eliminate it.

The committee held statewide hearings throughout Pennsylvania and I was asked to draft a report titled “Urban Opportunities: Eradicating Blight and Expediting Economic Development in Pennsylvania in the 21st Century,” which the committee released. The American Planning Association used the report in the development of their new national policy on blight and underutilized property in America and 30 blight prevention bills I drafted also passed in the House.

Later, state Senator Rhoades established a Pennsylvania Statewide Blight Task Force he asked me to lead. Blight prevention legislation I drafted for the Task Force, thanks to the support of newspapers throughout Pennsylvania, including York, passed and was enacted into law.

Senate Bill 900 became Act 90 of 2010, Pennsylvania’s Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act.

The main difference between blight prevention state law in Pennsylvania before the passage of Act 90 of 2010 and now is this: Before the passage of Act 90, if a slumlord abandoned a dangerous blighted building in York and it cost York taxpayers $30,000 to demolish it, the only remedy to get the taxpayer’s money back would have been to place a $30,000 lien against the formerly blighted property. In most cases in Pennsylvania, however, the vacant cleared land, minus the formerly blighted building, might only be worth $5,000. Thus, the loss to taxpayers is $25,000. Totally unfair!

I added a provision when I drafted Act 90 to allow a municipality to go after any and all assets of a slumlord to pay back taxpayer money owed a municipality for blight expenditures, including unpaid real estate taxes,  sewer and water fees, costs and fines, and municipal legal fees etc.

In other words, no longer is a municipality like York, or any other in Pennsylvania, limited to placing a lien on only the blighted property in an attempt to recover taxpayer expenditures related to blight.

Slumlord assets under Act 90 that can be taken now include the homes of slumlords, their cars, trucks, boats, investments, developments, and/or commercial holdings. In other words, any and all assets necessary to generate enough money to repay the taxpayers for what they spent, which the slumlord refused to pay. Thus, the reason I said earlier, there’s a new sheriff in town.

I didn’t stop there. Act 90 now allows any municipality in York County or in Pennsylvania for that matter to deny a building permit, subdivision approval, zoning approval or zoning change, stormwater management permit, or any municipal approval being sought by an applicant property owner who also owns blighted property in York, or in any municipality in the state, that is in violation of municipal property maintenance codes – until that particular property is brought up to code standards and all money owed the municipality is paid.

I am also in the process of drafting a model municipal blight prevention ordinance that could be used in any municipality in Pennsylvania or nationally that includes a system for going after all aforementioned assets, patterned after what the federal government does when someone attempts to hide assets to avoid paying federal taxes.

Hopefully, municipalities will begin to understand their new powers to prevent blight granted by Pennsylvania’s new state blight laws.

I would be remiss in closing if I failed to mention that not all owners of rental property are slumlords. In my opinion, most landlords are great and maintain their properties to municipal property maintenance code standards.

In fact, landlords are extremely valuable community assets, as most times, they provide the bulk of affordable rental housing desperately needed in the community.

The slumlords I am speaking about, in my opinion, are the most egregious of the egregious. And what they do hurts the value of property owned by good landlords who do maintain their property, which in turn, costs them money.

In fact, in addition, everyone owning property in a neighborhood near vacant, abandoned, blighted property, also ends up paying higher premiums for fire insurance, as a result of blighted property being a favorite site for crime, drug dealers and arsonists!

I truly hope there comes a time when blight in York and everywhere is eliminated. Taxpayers and the communities in which they live deserve no less.

Jeri E. Stumpf is a former director of city planning and acting director of the Redevelopment Authority in York. He also served as the first executive director of the state House Local Government and Urban Affairs Committees.



Alan Jaffa

Alan Jaffa is the chief executive officer for Safeguard, steering the company as the mortgage field services industry leader. He also serves on the board of advisors for SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Alan joined Safeguard in 1995, learning the business from the ground up. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2002, and was named CEO in May 2010. His hands-on experience has given him unique insights as a leader to innovate, improve and strengthen Safeguard’s processes to assure that the company adheres to the highest standards of quality and customer service.

Under Alan’s leadership, Safeguard has grown significantly with strategies that have included new and expanded services, technology investments that deliver higher quality and greater efficiency to clients, and strategic acquisitions. He takes a team approach to process improvement, involving staff at all levels of the organization to address issues, brainstorm solutions, and identify new and better ways to serve clients.

In 2008, Alan was recognized by Crain’s Cleveland Business in its annual “40-Under-40” profile of young leaders. He also was named a NEO Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year® finalist in 2013.


Chief Operating Officer

Michael Greenbaum

Michael Greenbaum is the chief operating officer for Safeguard. Mike has been instrumental in aligning operations to become more efficient, effective, and compliant with our ever-changing industry requirements. Mike has a proven track record of excellence, partnership and collaboration at Safeguard. Under Mike’s leadership, all operational departments of Safeguard have reviewed, updated and enhanced their business processes to maximize efficiency and improve quality control.

Mike joined Safeguard in July 2010 as vice president of REO and has continued to take on additional duties and responsibilities within the organization, including the role of vice president of operations in 2013 and then COO in 2015.

Mike built his business career in supply-chain management, operations, finance and marketing. He has held senior management and executive positions with Erico, a manufacturing company in Solon, Ohio; Accel, Inc., a packaging company in Lewis Center, Ohio; and McMaster-Carr, an industrial supply company in Aurora, Ohio.

Before entering the business world, Mike served in the U.S. Army, Ordinance Branch, and specialized in supply chain management. He is a distinguished graduate of West Point (U.S. Military Academy), where he majored in quantitative economics.



Sean Reddington

Sean Reddington is the new Chief Information Officer for Safeguard Properties LLC. Sean has over 15+ years of experience in Information Services Management with a strong focus on Product and Application Management. Sean is responsible for Safeguard’s technological direction, including planning, implementation and maintaining all operational systems

Sean has a proven record of accomplishment for increasing operational efficiencies, improving customer service levels, and implementing and maintaining IT initiatives to support successful business processes.  He has provided the vision and dedicated leadership for key technologies for Fortune 100 companies, and nationally recognized consulting firms including enterprise system architecture, security, desktop and database management systems. Sean possesses strong functional and system knowledge of information security, systems and software, contracts management, budgeting, human resources and legal and related regulatory compliance.

Sean joined Safeguard Properties LLC from RenPSG Inc. which is a nationally leading Philintropic Software Platform in the Fintech space. He oversaw the organization’s technological direction including planning, implementing and maintaining the best practices that align with all corporate functions. He also provided day-to-day technology operations, enterprise security, information risk and vulnerability management, audit and compliance, security awareness and training.

Prior to RenPSG, Sean worked for DMI Consulting as a Client Success Director where he guided the delivery in a multibillion-dollar Fortune 500 enterprise client account. He was responsible for all project deliveries in terms of quality, budget and timeliness and led the team to coordinate development and definition of project scope and limitations. Sean also worked for KPMG Consulting in their Microsoft Practice and Technicolor’s Ebusiness Division where he had responsibility for application development, maintenance, and support.

Sean is a graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts and received his Masters in International Business from Central Michigan University. He was also a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force prior to his career in the business world.


General Counsel and Executive Vice President

Linda Erkkila, Esq.

Linda Erkkila is the general counsel and executive vice president for Safeguard and oversees the legal, human resources, training, and compliance departments. Linda’s responsibilities cover regulatory issues that impact Safeguard’s operations, risk mitigation, enterprise strategic planning, human resources and training initiatives, compliance, litigation and claims management, and mergers, acquisition and joint ventures.

Linda assures that Safeguard’s strategic initiatives align with its resources, leverage opportunities across the company, and contemplate compliance mandates. Her practice spans over 20 years, and Linda’s experience covers regulatory disclosure, corporate governance compliance, risk assessment, executive compensation, litigation management, and merger and acquisition activity. Her experience at a former Fortune 500 financial institution during the subprime crisis helped develop Linda’s pro-active approach to change management during periods of heightened regulatory scrutiny.

Linda previously served as vice president and attorney for National City Corporation, as securities and corporate governance counsel for Agilysys Inc., and as an associate at Thompson Hine LLP. She earned her JD at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. Linda holds a degree in economics from Miami University and an MBA. In 2017, Linda was named as both a “Woman of Influence” by HousingWire and as a “Leading Lady” by MReport.


Chief Financial Officer

Joe Iafigliola

Joe Iafigliola is the Chief Financial Officer for Safeguard. Joe is responsible for the Control, Quality Assurance, Business Development, Accounting & Information Security departments, and is a Managing Director of SCG Partners, a middle-market private equity fund focused on diversifying and expanding Safeguard Properties’ business model into complimentary markets.

Joe has been in a wide variety of roles in finance, supply chain management, information systems development, and sales and marketing. His career includes senior positions with McMaster-Carr Supply Company, Newell/Rubbermaid, and Procter and Gamble.

Joe has an MBA from The Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and holds a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s Honors Accounting program.


AVP, High Risk and Investor Compliance

Steve Meyer

Steve Meyer is the assistant vice president of high risk and investor compliance for Safeguard. In this role, Steve is responsible for managing our clients’ conveyance processes, Safeguard’s investor compliance team and developing our working relationships with cities and municipalities around the country. He also works directly with our clients in our many outreach efforts and he represents Safeguard at a number of industry conferences each year.

Steve joined Safeguard in 1998 as manager over the hazard claims team. He was instrumental in the development and creation of policies, procedures and operating protocol. Under Steve’s leadership, the department became one of the largest within Safeguard. In 2002, he assumed responsibility for the newly-formed high risk department, once again building its success. Steve was promoted to director over these two areas in 2007, and he was promoted to assistant vice president in 2012.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve spent 10 years within the insurance industry, holding a number of positions including multi-line property adjuster, branch claims supervisor, and multi-line and subrogation/litigation supervisor. Steve is a graduate of Grove City College.


AVP, Operations

Jennifer Jozity

Jennifer Jozity is the assistant vice president of operations, overseeing inspections, REO and property preservation for Safeguard. Jen ensures quality work is performed in the field and internally, to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations. Jen has demonstrated the ability to deliver consistent results in order audit and order management.  She will build upon these strengths in order to deliver this level of excellence in both REO and property preservation operations.

Jen joined Safeguard in 1997 and was promoted to director of inspections operations in 2009 and assistant vice president of inspections operations in 2012.

She graduated from Cleveland State University with a degree in business.


AVP, Finance

Jennifer Anspach

Jennifer Anspach is the assistant vice president of finance for Safeguard. She is responsible for the company’s national workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. She manages recruitment strategies, employee relations, training, personnel policies, retention, payroll and benefits programs. Additionally, Jennifer has oversight of the accounts receivable and loss functions formerly within the accounting department.

Jennifer joined the company in April 2009 as a manager of accounting and finance and a year later was promoted to director. She was named AVP of human capital in 2014. Prior to joining Safeguard, she held several management positions at OfficeMax and InkStop in both operations and finance.

Jennifer is a graduate of Youngstown State University. She was named a Crain’s Cleveland Business Archer Award finalist for HR Executive of the Year in 2017.


AVP, Application Architecture

Rick Moran

Rick Moran is the assistant vice president of application architecture for Safeguard. Rick is responsible for evolving the Safeguard IT systems. He leads the design of Safeguard’s enterprise application architecture. This includes Safeguard’s real-time integration with other systems, vendors and clients; the future upgrade roadmap for systems; and standards designed to meet availability, security, performance and goals.

Rick has been with Safeguard since 2011. During that time, he has led the system upgrades necessary to support Safeguard’s growth. In addition, Rick’s team has designed and implemented several innovative systems.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Rick was director of enterprise architecture at Revol Wireless, a privately held CDMA Wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana, and operated his own consulting firm providing services to the manufacturing, telecommunications, and energy sectors.


AVP, Technology Infrastructure and Cloud Services

Steve Machovina

Steve Machovina is the assistant vice president of technology infrastructure and cloud services for Safeguard. He is responsible for the overall management and design of Safeguard’s hybrid cloud infrastructure. He manages all technology engineering staff who support data centers, telecommunications, network, servers, storage, service monitoring, and disaster recovery.

Steve joined Safeguard in November 2013 as director of information technology operations.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was vice president of information technology at Revol Wireless, a privately held wireless provider in Ohio and Indiana. He also held management positions with Northcoast PCS and Corecomm Communications, and spent nine years as a Coast Guard officer and pilot.

Steve holds a BBA in management information systems from Kent State University in Ohio and an MBA from Wayne State University in Michigan.


Assistant Vice president of Application Development

Steve Goberish

Steve Goberish, is the assistant vice president of application development for Safeguard. He is responsible for the maintenance and evolution of Safeguard’s vendor systems ensuring high-availability, security and scalability while advancing the vendor products’ capabilities and enhancing the vendor experience.

Prior to joining Safeguard, Steve was a senior technical architect and development manager at First American Title Insurance, a publicly held title insurance provider based in southern California, in addition to managing and developing applications in multiple sectors from insurance to VOIP.

Steve has a bachelor’s degree from Kent State University in Ohio.