Richard L. Vanderslice

Richard L. Vanderslice

Richard L. Vanderslice has been the sole shareholder of Richard L. Vanderslice, P.C. since 2008.  Prior to that, he practiced with small- and medium-sized firms in Philadelphia and San Francisco.  Mr. Vanderslice, in addition to his Juris Doctorate, has a Master’s in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from the University of Kansas.

Rick’s practice focuses on real estate and business litigation.  Mr. Vanderslice is the past chair of the Real Property Section for the Philadelphia Bar and served as a board member over the past six years.  In that context, he participated in the working group that drafted the General Court Order For Act 135 Conservatorship cases in Philadelphia. Mr. Vanderslice has presented many real estate focused continuing education class including those related to Act 135 conservatorships, trial techniques for small firms, short term rentals, foreclosure and title issues. 

Rick is a Member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and its Real Property, Probate & Trust Law Section and Solo and Small Firm Section. 

Rick is also a Member of the American Bar Association Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Litigation Section where he is a vice chair of the Plaintiff’s Policy Task Force and Business Litigation, Outreach to Young Lawyers, Solo and Small Firm Committee, Cannabis Task Force and Past Chair of the Technology Committee.

Rick is licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the State of New Jersey and the State of California. 

Practice areas
  • General practice
  • Boundary disputes
  • Conveyancing
  • Land acquisitions, trusts and sales
  • Quiet title
  • Real estate contracts
  • Real estate errors and omissions
  • Real estate foreclosure
  • Real estate fraud
  • Real estate investment trusts
  • Real estate litigation
  • Real estate tax foreclosure
  • Residential real estate
  • Accidents
  • Catastrophic injury
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Wrongful death
  • Alimony
  • Family law
  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Divorce

 

  • Domestic partnerships
  • Equitable distribution
  • Military divorce
  • Premarital agreements
  • Uncontested divorce
  • Spousal support
  • Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs)
  • Interstate support
  • International family law
  • Wills

 

Admitted
  • California, 2002
  • Pennsylvania, 2006
  • New Jersey, 2008
Education
  • J.D., Vermont Law School, 2001
  • Masters of Studies in Environmental Law, Vermont Law School, 2002
  • B.A., University of Kansas, 1997

 

Professional information

Professional associations

  • Philadelphia Bar Association (Former Chair, Real Property Section; Past Member, Young Lawyers Division Executive Board)
  • State Bar of California
  • New Jersey State Bar Association
  • American Bar Association
    • Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (Vice Chair, TIPS Business Litigation Section, Young Lawyer Outreach and Plaintiff ‘s Outreach Committees)

Speaking engagements

  • Speaker for Continuing Legal Education (CLE)
    • Act 135 Conservatorship Cases at the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania’s Blight Summit
    • “Pennsylvania’s Conservatorship Law: An Effective New Tool to Combat Blight”
    • “Avoiding Disaster at Real Estate Closing”
    • 1031 Exchanges
    • Foreclosure Practice

Other engagements

  • Participated in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Working Group to draft the general order regulating conservatorship cases
  • Participated in the Philadelphia Department of License and Inspections Working Group

Cases

  • Patel v. Byler  €“ Philadelphia County  €“ represented defendant Stephen Byler in contract action and obtained verdict for defense in amount of $25,000
  • Bostwick v. Thomas et al.  €“ Centre County  €“ represented plaintiff James S. Bostwick P.C. in fraudulent conveyance and obtained judgment for plaintiff on appeal
  • Palmer v. Catinzzo et al.  €“ Philadelphia County  €“ represented plaintiff Joel Palmer in Act 135 conservatorship and obtained title to subject premises in one of the first Act 135 conservatorship cases

Pro bono

  • 10 percent of practice spent on pro bono work
  • Named to Philadelphia Pro Bono Honor Roll
  • Volunteer attorney for Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program (VIP)
  • Judge pro tem for Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Mortgage Foreclosure Diversion Program

Accolades

  • SuperLawyers  €œRising Star € (2010  €“ 2013)
  • 9.1  €œSuperb € Avvo ® rating

 

WRITTEN TESTIMONY BEFORE CITY COUNCIL RE: CONSERVATORSHIPS

Members of Council, I have had the opportunity to represent many petitioners including the non-profits Scioli Turco, Inc., the Bridesburg CDC and the Mayfair CDC, who have all been pioneers in the implementation of Act 135 Conservatorships in Philadelphia.   In addition to representing non-profit clients, I’ve represented several other private sector pioneers in these actions including Stephen Ehrenhalt, Universal Building and Construction, Streamline Solutions and other developers and citizens who have filed these actions.   Of the approximately 60 cases that have been filed in Philadelphia, I have represented the Petitioner in at least 50. I served on the working group that prepared the General Order for the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas in regards to conservatorship cases and I have participated in statewide workshops and Continuing Legal Education seminars.  Based upon this experience, I offer the following testimony in regards to the establishment of funding to support conservators and to propose issues for legislation to enhance the effectiveness of Act 135 based upon issues specific to our City of The First Class. I suggest four areas of legislation that could greatly enhance the utility of the Act: funding, abating municipal liens, incorporating the requirements of the Act in the Property Maintenance Code and a minor reform to tax sale procedure.

First, the Department of License and Inspections and especially Rebecca Swanson, Esquire, have been an invaluable resource in the implementation of Act 135.  The Department, through its vacant property strategy, has provided information regarding owners and violations in addition to proceedings in Code Enforcement Court.  Without this assistance, many projects would not be feasible. Further, the inspectors’ testimony has been valuable evidence in the conservatorship hearings. At the initiation of the vacant property strategy, Inspector Derrick McCall was assigned to all conservatorship matters and was a very competent witness.  Currently, the inspector that performed the last inspection is testifying on the matters and adding valuable insight.

Likewise the Court has processed theses cases efficiently and fairly. In all cases the Court gives preference to an owner that is willing to rehabilitate the property itself and gives the owner ample time to do so. In most cases, the Court helps these cases resolve by settlements that benefit the owner while remediating the blight.

A conservator can be thought of as a trustee of a vacant and blighted property that is charged with remediating the blight and rehabilitating the property to a standard approved by the court.  It is important to point out that Act 135 us not a “land grab” as some uninformed litigants have charged. The owner remains on title and has opportunity to keep its property or receive proceeds from a Court supervised sale. In most cases where the Court appoints a conservator to preform a rehabilitation and out-sale of the property, the owner has received proceeds where as a vacant shell, any value would have been consumed by the liens against the property.

The largest bottleneck for wider implementation of the law is financing. While pursuant to Section 1106 of the Act, a conservator may incur any liens necessary to implement the plan for restoration of the property, obtaining loans from institutions for conservatorship projects has been problematic. It has been my experience that, “hard money lending,” those non-traditional funding sources in which above market interest is expected, is the only source available.  Traditional lending institutions have been uninterested in funding conservatorship projects. I suspect this due to the fact that, although a conservator has every other right and duty that comes with ownership of a property including granting lines secured by the property, title to the property remains with the owner.

Due to this constraint, the potential of the Act has not been realized in our City.   Potential conservators are limited to those who can self-finance or have resources available from either hard money lenders or developers willing to risk their own capital to perform these projects.  Legislation providing for a funding source for conservators would greatly enhance the effectiveness of the Act and result in more blighted properties being returned to productive use. Benefits to the city of supporting conservators include returning blighted and vacant properties to the tax rolls, providing revenue from delinquent taxes upon the sale of the rehabilitated property and over time raising the market value of properties in the vicinity of the property generating additional revenue.  

In addition to funding for conservators, City Council could also spur the implementation of Act 135 by passing legislation designed to abate municipal liens against properties that are being rehabilitated by a conservator.  Typically these projects have a very narrow margin for which a significant tax burden other municipal liens can be the determining factor as to whether or not a project is financially viable.

By removing the limitation imposed by municipal liens, even waiving penalty and interest in some cases, a greater number of properties can be rehabilitated with private funds.  In the past the Department of Revenue has reviewed its liens on a case by case basis and waived penalty and interest under narrow circumstances. Unfortunately, the Water Department has been unwilling to even waive penalties and interest.  Further, in a number of cases, the Water Department has not properly recorded liens and the conservator is unaware that these liens exist until after conservatorship is awarded and the conservator attempts to restore water service to the premises.  This can have a devastating effect on the budget for the restoration of the building and result in fewer projects being completed.

In addition to municipal liens, Council could enact legislation to assist in the conservator’s elements of proof.  The criteria for establishing blight pursuant to the Act are as follows:

(5) The court finds at least three of the following:

      1. The building or physical structure is a public nuisance.
      2. The building is in need of substantial rehabilitation and no rehabilitation has taken place during the previous 12 months.
      3. The building is unfit for human habitation, occupancy or use.
      4. The condition and vacancy of the building materially increase the risk of fire to the building and to adjacent properties.
      5. The building is subject to unauthorized entry leading to potential health and safety hazards and one of the following applies: (A) The owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to secure the building. (B) The municipality has secured the building in order to prevent such hazards after the owner has failed to do so.
      6. The property is an attractive nuisance to children, including, but not limited to, the presence of abandoned wells, shafts, basements, excavations and unsafe structures.
      7. The presence of vermin or the accumulation of debris, uncut vegetation or physical deterioration of the structure or grounds has created potential health and safety hazards and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remove the hazards.
      8. The dilapidated appearance or other condition of the building negatively affects the economic well-being of residents and businesses in close proximity to the building, including decreases in property value and loss of business, and the owner has failed to take reasonable and necessary measures to remedy appearance or the condition.
      9. The property is an attractive nuisance for illicit purposes, including prostitution, drug use and vagrancy.

 

  • 68 Pa.C.S. Section 1105(d)(5)

 

In regards to the nine factors above, the Property Maintenance Code could be amended to track with these issues.  For example, define factors that affect specific structural and use problems as public nuisances. Additionally, defining certain violations as per se fire hazard,  such as build up of weeds and/or trash on the premises, structural failings that are safety issues for first responders and citing properties for illicit specific uses, i.e.  attractive for vandalism (especially graffiti), loitering, drugs and prostitution.

Finally, most properties that are abandoned are subject to a tax line. In a few instances the City has pursued Sheriff Sale to satisfy the liens against properties for which conservator petitions are filed. Despite, having a lis pendens (legal notice) recorded against the property, the the firm that is prosecuting the sale proceeds with the sale without notice to the conservator. This causes confusion for the successful bidder at Sale and can cause additional costs to the conservator. This has a simple solution, requiring the firm representing the City to run a title report prior to the Sale to give notice to any interested party of record prior to the Sale. The current procedure is to only run a title report prior to filing for the lien. Often times this is years prior to the notice of sale and omits many parities, not just conservators, creating more work for the Law Department and the parties that have equitable interests in the property.

I welcome the opportunity to work with Council to prepare legislation to assist conservators.  Additionally, I am sure that members of the Philadelphia Bar and potentially the Court would provide input as well.  I thank the committee for the opportunity to address these matters and look forward to continued progress concerning vacant and blighted properties.

 

Anthony J. Caiazzo, Jr., Of Counsel

Anthony J. Caiazzo, Jr., Of Counsel

The key behind the professional personal service that you will receive at the law offices of Anthony J. Caiazzo, Jr., Esquire, P.C.   is experience and dedication.   Founded in 1965 by Anthony Caiazzo, Sr., Esquire, the firm has been serving South Philadelphia for over 40 years.   The Caiazzo ‘s are truly the American story of success.   Anthony Caiazzo, Sr., Esquire came to Philadelphia as an Italian immigrant when he was four years old.   He could not speak nor read English.   His indomitable spirit and intelligence over came every obstacle placed in his way.

Practice areas
  • Personal Injury
  • Estate Probate
  • Real Estate
  • Social Security
  • Workman ‘s Compensation

 

Admitted
  • Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, May 1988
  • U.S.   District Court, January 1989
  • U.S.   District Court of Appeals, February 1989
  • U.S.   Supreme Court, May 1992
Education
  • Drexel University June 1981
    Business Administration Bachelor of Science

  • Oklahoma City University School of Law December 1987
    Juris Doctorate

 

Professional information

Memberships

  • American Trial Lawyers Association
  • Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association
  • Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association
  • American Bar Association
  • Pennsylvania Bar Association
  • Philadelphia Bar Association
  • Justian Society
  • Lawyers Club

Largest Verdicts / Awards

  • Settlement for over $6.5 million dollars on a school negligence case  €“ One of the largest settlements in Pennsylvania in 2013.
  • One of the highest simple slip and fall jury verdicts in Pennsylvania ‘s history, $3.2 million dollars.
  • Product liability settlement,  1.7 million dollars.
  • Slip and fall jury verdict,  $1,000,000.
  • Product liability mediation settlement,  $550,000.
  • Failure to diagnose settlement,  $600,000.
  • Defective elevator verdict,  $400,000.
  • Other numerous mega-verdicts and settlements.