Gerrell Martin v. Levy Law: Fighting for Renters in Landlord-Tenant Court

Ms. Martin and her husband, Curtis Sampson, are parents to six children, including a two-year old with cerebral palsy. Their rental home was unhealthy, having been terribly neglected by subsequent landlords. At various times the heat did not work, the roof leaked, the bathroom sink would not drain, and there were faulty electrical outlets. The Department of Licenses & Inspections (L&I) issued multiple violations on the property, and at one point, deemed it unfit for human habitation.

Under the Philadelphia Code, a landlord must be licensed, and must provide tenants with a Certificate of Rental Suitability, each of which is issued by L&I so long as the property has no code violations. The property was long unlicensed, and Ms. Martin and Mr. Sampson were never provided a Certificate. Under the law, when a landlord fails to comply with these requirements, renters do not owe rent. However, without a lawyer many tenants are not aware of this provision, not equipped to enforce it, and sued in spite of it.

Ms. Martin and Mr. Sampson’s federal lawsuit alleges that the landlord’s collection lawyer violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), because he used false, misleading, and deceptive practices in the eviction case he filed, misstating the conditions at the property, demanding money when the law says none was owed, and seeking to turn out a family, when the law says he could not.

May 4, 2018
Oral argument scheduled for the Law Center's motion for summary judgment

March 2017
Philadelphia Family Fights to Gain Power for Renters in Landlord-Tenant Court

Staff on the Case
Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg