Changes are an important step in fighting Philadelphia’s eviction crisis and protecting families from wrongful eviction, unsafe conditions
PHILADELPHIA — January 30, 2018 – Today, Councilmember Helen Gym (At Large) issued the following statement in response to changes adopted by Philadelphia’s Landlord-Tenant Court, recently announced by the First Judicial District. A new Municipal Court Rule of Civil Practice will require landlords filing an eviction to demonstrate compliance with city laws requiring a Certificate of Rental Suitability and lead safe certification, among other reforms. This change is an important step towards eliminating wrongful evictions in Philadelphia.
“I want to thank Judge Marsha H. Neifield and Judge Bradley K. Moss for their considerable work to implement this important reform,” said Councilmember Gym.
“For the last year, community activists and the legal community have come together with the City to shed light on the eviction crisis and take substantial measures to address abuses within the system. The new rule will give meaning to Philadelphia law by better ensuring that both landlords and renters uphold their ends of the bargain in rental agreements. It balances the scales, while providing important safeguards for those tenants who are not represented by attorneys.”
The announcement of new standards for filing a complaint in Landlord-Tenant court comes after a major initiative by city government, community advocates, legal experts, and renters to find long-term solutions to the eviction crisis plaguing Philadelphia. It also comes in the wake of ongoing litigation prosecuted by the Public Interest Law Center highlighting the frequency of evictions filed where landlords failed to comply with Philadelphia law.
One in fourteen Philadelphia renters face eviction every year, and evictions are a significant driver of poverty and homelessness. In 2016 alone, 24,000 evictions were filed in the City and only 9% of renters had access to legal representation to fight back.
Led by by Councilmembers Helen Gym and María Quiñones-Sánchez, City Council held hearings on the eviction crisis in March of 2017 that brought together renters, legal experts, and advocates to examine the human and health impacts of evictions and substandard housing and to propose solutions. In June 2017, Councilmembers Gym and Quiñones-Sánchez, along with Councilmembers Bill Greenlee and Derek Green, led the fight to win a $500,000 budget line item to provide legal aid for low-income renters facing eviction, doubling existing legal support for such renters and joining a national movement to expand access to counsel. A City task force on Eviction Prevention and Response has been established, and is projected to issue recommendations in the coming months.
“This change is a major shift towards protecting the rights of tenants in court,” said Councilmember Gym. “This is real step forward for protecting families and kids from unsafe conditions and in making sure both parties in a rental agreement are held accountable.”
# # #
Councilmember Helen Gym was sworn in as an At-Large Member of Council in 2016. Her primary concerns include addressing widespread poverty in Philadelphia, particularly through an emphasis on building a quality public education system. For more information, visit phlcouncil.com/HelenGym.