All Ashley Ishmael wanted was a home for herself and her two-year-old son.
But after her dream was dashed and she was out of money, this single mother from Philadelphia turned to Harry Hairston and the NBC10 Investigators.
"This goes from paradise to hell." said Ishmael who thought she found a good deal in a row home rental in Kensington.
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"I looked on the Internet. It was actually on two websites."
Ishmael signed a 12 month lease and paid $1,600 for the first month's rent and security deposit.
"I'm thinking this is going to be where I stay, me and my son are comfortable for a while," Ishmael said.
Her comfort turned to trouble 20 days later when PGW told her the gas had been hooked up illegaly, and cut it off.
Ishmael contacted her landlord, Greg Louis.
"He stopped answering his phone and stopped returning text messages," Ishmael explained.
She then received a letter from a man claiming he was the property's rightful owner and Greg Louis was a tenant.
A check of city records shows the property is not owned but Louis, but by a man in New York who told us Louis maintains the property and has permission to rent the home. But neither has the required license to rent out the home.
"The renters license is in the process of getting done." Louis told NBC10 by phone.
Louis admitted renting a second home on D Street, where the renter told us she did not realize Louis wasn't allowed to rent out the property. The real owner of that propety lives in Georgia and does have a rental license either.
"Only the owner of a property can obtain a renters license," said Ralph DiPietro, deputy commissioner licenses and inspections.
DiPietro acknowledged renting homes without a proper license is a big problem in Philadelphia, but said L & I can't hold Louis responsible because he isn't a property owner. Police would have to investigate for fraud.
Louis returned most of Ishmael's money, but charged her rent for the 20 days she lived in the house, Ishmael said, adding she plans to work through the courts to get back the rest of her money.
The City and L & I plan to take action against the owners of both properties. We were unable to reach the property owner in Georgia for comment.
If you want to check to see if your landlord has a rental license just click on the L & I website, then go down to “Property History” on the left hand side of the page. A search by address brings up records related to the property.