By Doris Grass
Philadelphia–A new and rapidly growing association of residential and commercial tenants of OCF Realty was formed to demand that OCF meet the needs of its tenants during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Since the inception of Tenants of OCF several weeks ago, members have faced a high level of harassment, intimidation and retaliation from OCF and its owner, one of Philadelphia’s top gentrifiers, Ori Feibush.
A household of four tenants, who wish to remain anonymous for fear of further retaliation, reported that an OCF employee attempted to enter their home twice without notice, violating Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order while increasing the tenants’ risk of exposure to COVID-19.
In one instance, an OCF employee successfully entered the house while only one tenant was home and showering. The employee, claiming to be doing a “wellness check” was not wearing any form of personal protective equipment, which greatly alarmed the tenant concerned for her health. When questioned about the purpose of these “wellness checks,” Feibush responded, “A wellness check is exactly what it sounds like.”
Feibush went on to claim that these wellness checks were conducted because previous attempts to contact the tenants went unanswered. However, the tenants had no notice that any wellness checks occurred. The second wellness check was pure harassment.
Under the guise of “wellness checks,” these visits appear to be a method of pressuring the tenants into paying rent. Unable to pay rent due to job loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, some tenants began withholding rent in April. Yet organizers have made it clear that so far they have not called for a broader rent strike.
According to OCF’s lease agreement, OCF is required to provide tenants with 24-hours’ written notice before entering their home unless there is an emergency. During a pandemic with a statewide stay-at-home order, such an emergency would be along the lines of a fire, not a vague “wellness check” or failure to pay rent.
Feibush proceeded to harass these tenants and their cosigners via telephone, text message and email to try to coerce them into paying rent. Feibush called them over 20 times in one day. Other OCF tenants have reported alarmingly similar incidents.
Tenants of OCF recently held a meeting to discuss writing a letter to OCF, demanding that OCF follow landlord-tenant law in interactions with tenants. OCF infiltrated the meeting. The following day, Feibush personally called one of the attendees, Shaun Miller, a black small business owner in the Point Breeze neighborhood. Feibush told Miller that his lease would not be renewed because of what he said in the meeting. This refusal to renew Miller’s lease is blatant retaliation for participation in tenant organizing, a legally protected action.
Tenants of OCF are actively seeking to connect with as many OCF tenants as possible to demand that OCF treats its tenants fairly and professionally during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. All OCF tenants are urged to contact Tenants of OCF at [email protected] or call 267-416-0708.