New Castle County has secured over $400,000 in back taxes from a delinquent landlord with multiple properties in Claymont.
Officials announced this summer that the County was initiating sheriff sale proceedings against George Fantini, who local residents called a “slumlord.” But the County reached an agreement with him Thursday that requires him to hire a property manager, correct code violations and pay overdue taxes, fines and fees.
Fantini's properties include 13 parcels in the Overlook Colony subdivision and six in Edgemoor Gardens.
His 34 properties had racked up nearly two thousand code enforcement inspections, hundreds of public safety calls, and more than $400,000 in unpaid taxes and fees, according to New Castle County officials.
Thirteen of his properties had been scheduled for sheriff sale this month.
Officials are calling the agreement with Fantini the “first successful outcome” of this summer’s executive order about problem property owners.
“If you’re not treating your tenants within the bounds of the law, we in the County are going to act,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer.
Meyer’s executive order gave the New Castle County Chief Financial Officer authority to take legal action, including initiating sheriff sale proceedings, against owners of residential and commercial properties who fail to maintain those properties or pay taxes and fines.
“Those who are not paying their taxes and fulfilling their legal obligations will be taken to court, taken to sheriff sale, and will ultimately be held to account for their violations,” said Meyer. “And that’s the message we are communicating across the county.”
Meyer says Fantini was by far the biggest problem landlord the County is dealing with.
“We haven’t gone down this road with any other delinquent landlords. But there are delinquent landlords on our radar and we think very soon there will be other actions taken,” he said.
Officials say Fantini has paid $438,000 to satisfy County and school property taxes, sewer service charges, code enforcement fees, and legal costs and fees.
The County has also signed a binding legal agreement with Fantini requiring him to allow the County to inspect the insides of his rental properties, to correct all code violations through a licensed contractor, to give all residents access to working electricity, plumbing, heat and hot water, to install smoke detectors and to exterminate pest infestations.
Officials say he is also required to employ a licensed property manager and must correct all “life safety” code violations within 30 days.
Assistant County Attorney Sanjay Bhatnagar says the County will collect a $55,145 escrow check from Fantini if he violates this week’s agreement, and may take properties with delinquent fees or taxes to sheriff sale.
A small petition that circulated on Change.org this spring urged elected officials to take action against Fantini, calling his properties “nuisances,” and claiming they are associated with drugs and criminal activity.