The widespread refusal to take housing assistance keeps low-income renters concentrated in disadvantaged neighborhoods, disproportionately affects black families, and undercuts the point of the Housing Choice Voucher program.
We target the severe power imbalance in Philadelphia between tenants and their landlords, as 91% of tenants face evictions without lawyers.
We filed a class action lawsuit seeking to give meaning to the legal protections Philadelphia enacted to protect vulnerable renters from unsafe housing. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a low-income tenant named Cassandra Baker and others like her. The complaint alleges her landlord’s collection lawyer, like many landlord lawyers, used misleading debt collection practices while attempting to evict her and force her to pay rent she did not owe, and that those practices violated federal law.
More than 24,000 Philadelphians are sued in Landlord-Tenant Court each year. While 81% of landlords have lawyers, most tenants—over 90%—do not. This results in a dramatic power imbalance, leaving low-income families afraid of complaining about the conditions of their homes, lest they risk facing an eviction lawsuit, where they will likely have to fend for themselves. Gerrell Martin and her family, represented by attorneys at the Public Interest Law Center, are trying to turn this dynamic on its head, arguing that the collection lawyer representing her landlord violated federal law.
The Law Center is representing MW, a Philadelphia man with intellectual disabilities who was deceived into selling his home for .05% of its market value – a grand total of $25. MW has intellectual disabilities, and his ability to read is extremely limited. His parents left the home to his brother, and after MW’s brother died the home deteriorated around him. He lived without electricity, heat, or water until he moved into a group home nearby.
A low-income Philadelphia renter is standing up for her legal right to live in safe and healthy housing, alleging that her landlord and property manager rented her a property that did not have heat, was infested with rodents, and had raw sewage leaking in the basement. The lawsuit alleges violations of state and local laws which are not used enough because they are not well known and there are too few lawyers for poor tenants to enforce those laws.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority and its agent, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority, have identified over 1,000 properties in the Sharswood/Blumberg neighborhood that it seeks to take through eminent domain proceedings.
In 2011, the Montgomery County recorder of deeds filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of herself and all other Pennsylvania recorders of deeds against Mortgage Electronic Recording Systems, INC. and MERSCORP, Inc.