Angel and KB

CITY COUNCIL’S HOUSING COMMITTEE APPROVES REGULATING FOR-PROFIT EVICTIONS

In Kendra Brooks, Uncategorized by Kendra Brooks

June 5, 2024

The Angel Davis Eviction Accountability Bill, named for the woman who was shot last year by a private contractor of the LTO, sets new standards for evictions in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA – Today, Bill No. 240018, known as the Angel Davis Eviction Accountability Bill, passed out of City Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless. The bill, authored by Minority Leader Kendra Brooks, provides accountability and oversight for the landlord-tenant officer (LTO), the for-profit law firm whose private contractors shot two women during evictions last year. The bill will now be considered by the entire City Council and is eligible for final passage as soon as Thursday, June 13th.


Shootings by private contractors of the LTO are “the outcome of an unjust, unaccountable system that routinely endangers the lives of Black women and their children, as well as our seniors, people with disabilities and other people who live on a fixed income in a time of skyrocketing rents,” said Minority Leader Kendra Brooks (At-Large). “With the Angel Davis Accountability Bill, we are fundamentally changing the for-profit eviction system that has traumatized so many Philly families and standing up for the dignity and safety that Philly renters deserve.”


Philadelphia is the only municipality in Pennsylvania that uses a private, for-profit law firm to conduct evictions. In all other municipalities, evictions are handled by constables who are elected and directly accountable to the public. State law authorizes Philadelphia’s Municipal Court to appoint a private, for-profit law firm to serve as “landlord-tenant officer,” an arrangement that has led to widespread concerns and shrouded an important public function in secrecy. In response to last year’s shootings, Minority Leader Kendra Brooks, alongside Councilmember Jamie Gauthier, began working with the Municipal Court, the General Assembly, landlords, and tenant groups to make changes to the city’s opaque and dangerous eviction process.


“The status quo could not be allowed to continue after landlord-tenant officer subcontractors shot Angel Davis and Latese Bethea,” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Chair of City Council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development, and the Homeless. “Our communities deserve a safe, compassionate, and accountable eviction process. Through the Angel Davis Eviction Accountability Bill, we will bring the landlord-tenant officer in line with other entities that conduct lockouts in Pennsylvania.”


Under current law, the City has minimal oversight over armed private contractors who conduct lockouts. There is no requirement for contractors to be licensed or to identify themselves to tenants, no public information about who is conducting evictions, and no requirement for contractors to carry insurance in case of grave injuries like the one sustained by Angel Davis, who was shot in the head during an eviction in March 2023 and suffered permanent brain damage.


“I applaud the City Council’s efforts in developing legislation to prevent the abuses that have occurred in the past, including the incident involving Ms. Davis, with training and licensing requirements that will hopefully prevent or minimize the use of force during future eviction proceedings,” said Bethany Nikitenko, the attorney with Feldman Shepherd who is representing Angel Davis in a lawsuit against Landlord-Tenant Officer Marissa Shuter. “The insurance requirement will also prevent the victim of a violent eviction from becoming a charge, dependent upon taxpayers to pay for hundreds of thousands of dollars in hospital bills and medical and therapy services made necessary by the unreasonable conduct of a private for-profit eviction officer.”


The Angel Davis Eviction Accountability Bill requires contractors to provide proof of insurance and complete annual training in firearm safety, crisis intervention, and cultural diversity in order to obtain a license to conduct evictions. Under the bill, the City would have the authority to suspend or revoke licenses when private contractors violate safety standards or put people at risk. The City has similar licensing requirements for other private businesses, such as bouncers, pawn brokers, and masseuses, whose activities can pose threats to Philadelphians’ well-being.

“This bill gives a concise, uncontroversial solution to several facets of a controversial matter,” said Jennifer Coatsworth, Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. “Companies or individuals performing services with or within the community must be licensed and receive adequate training to perform their work. It is a no brainer. We see licensing and qualification requirements in all types of for-profit industries, and it is time to require it of those serving evictions and performing lock outs.”

“We need to be crystal clear on who the private contractors executing these evictions are, and make sure they are professionally liable for their actions,” said Minority Whip Nicolas O’Rourke (At-Large). “This bill aims to ensure we don’t have a completely unregulated Landlord-Tenant Office — a private, for-profit venture so directly tied to the legal system should have standards.”


“As the Vice Chair of the Housing Committee and a housing attorney I was excited to co-sponsor the Angel Davis accountability bill,” said Councilmember Rue Landau (At-Large). “This bill will mandate licensing, training, and insurance, which are necessary and long overdue reforms to the Landlord-Tenant Office that will create the accountability and transparency we don’t currently have under the current system.”


In addition to Leader Brooks’s bill in City Council, lawmakers in both the Pennsylvania State Senate and the Pennsylvania State House have proposed legislation to reform evictions. The proposed legislation earned wide support among Philadelphia elected officials but faces opposition from Republicans in the state legislature.
“The Angel Davis Eviction Accountability Bill is a major step forward for Philadelphia’s housing movement. Simple licensing requirements will ensure eviction agents are adequately trained and can be held accountable to the public,” said State Representative Krajewski (House District 188). “This fight doesn’t end here. I’m going to keep advocating in Harrisburg to pass H.B. 287 out of the Senate and enshrine safety and oversight measures into state law.”


The Angel Davis Eviction Accountability Bill was introduced by Minority Leader Kendra Brooks (At-Large), Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Minority Whip Nicolas O’Rourke (At-Large), and Councilmember Rue Landau (At-Large) in January 2024. With Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At-Large), Councilmember Jim Harrity (At-Large), Councilmember Mark Squilla (1st District), Councilmember Jeffery Young (5th District), Councilmember Mike Driscoll (6th District), Councilmember Nina Ahmad (At-Large), Councilmember Curtis Jones (4th District), and Councilmember Anthony Phillips (9th District) co-sponsoring, a veto-proof majority of City Councilmembers already support this legislation.

# # #

Print Friendly, PDF & Email