PHILADELPHIA – Today, Councilmembers Kendra Brooks (At-Large) and Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) released the following statement in response to the landlord-tenant officer resuming operations:
“The private for-profit law firm appointed as landlord-tenant officer announced that she will resume lockouts next week using constables. We appreciate that the landlord-tenant officer provided her contractors with safety and de-escalation training, and thank the Municipal Court for their partnership. However, we made it clear to the landlord-tenant officer and the Court that contracting with constables is not an acceptable long or even medium-term solution to Philly’s reckless eviction process. Outsourcing evictions to armed constables elected in municipalities outside of the City does not ensure public accountability to Philadelphians nor does it satisfy the need for robust government oversight. These constables will not be serving in their official capacity as elected officials but as private contractors subject to no more accountability or oversight than the private contractors who shot two Philadelphia women during recent evictions.
“Much more work remains to meaningfully reform a system that subjects countless Philadelphians to reckless violence during hasty, poorly regulated evictions. In order to protect the safety of everyone involved in the eviction process, any permanent solution must guarantee accountability, oversight, and notification of the date and time of eviction to every tenant. Tenants, housing experts, and our fellow councilmembers have made clear that these basic, common-sense reforms must be achieved in order to prevent the violence inherent in the operations of the landlord-tenant office.
“Every tenant in Philadelphia deserves notice of the date and time of an impending lockout. The landlord-tenant officer’s proposal to provide notice to tenants only upon request does not address widespread, grave concerns about tenants being surprised at their door by armed private contractors who allow only ten minutes before locking families out of their homes. Notification of date and time must be provided directly to every tenant for every eviction in order to protect the safety of all parties and ensure that families can exercise their legal rights or make plans to find alternate housing. Surprise lockouts increase the likelihood of conflict and threaten the lives and safety of everyone involved in the eviction process, especially elderly tenants and tenants with disabilities and complex medical needs.
“Outsourcing the responsibility for evictions to out-of-county constables acting as private contractors does not make the system accountable to Philadelphians. While constables are elected officials, they are not elected by or beholden to Philadelphians. Oversight and accountability for this public responsibility must reside within Philadelphia and be led by Philadelphians. We look forward to continuing to work with the Municipal Court and other stakeholders to achieve this. The people of Philadelphia, including the two women who were shot during evictions, expect and deserve meaningful reforms to this office that will bring full accountability for our system of evictions.”
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