Oct 15, 2021 - News

Philly landlords can't rely as heavily on eviction records anymore

Illustration of a crumpled-up eviction notice in a trash can.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

New guidelines around how Philadelphia landlords can use eviction records went into effect this week.

  • It's part of an effort to encourage more individualized assessments.

Why it matters: Evictions have long-term consequences. Tenants who are evicted can lose housing subsidy vouchers, become ineligible for public housing programs and be screened out of private housing.

Context: Philadelphia was averaging 20,000 evictions per year before the pandemic. It ranked fourth in total eviction filings among the largest U.S. cities.

Under the new guidelines, landlords can't outright deny potential tenants based solely on eviction records or credit scores.

  • They also can't deny anyone because they failed to pay rent during the state's COVID-19 emergency declaration period.

What else: Landlords must disclose their criteria for potential tenants publicly.

  • If they reject a tenant, they must notify the person within three business days and provide a reason.
  • If landlords violate any of the guidelines, they'll have to pay up to a $2,000 fine.

What they're saying: Councilmember Kendra Brooks, who's behind the legislation, said this is about making the renting process more equitable and transparent.

  • "[This] is setting a nationwide precedent for what it means to eliminate structural barriers that keep working class people of color out of the private rental market," Brooks said in a statement.

The other side: Paul Cohen, a lawyer for the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia, said he doesn't believe it's possible to ask landlords to do individualized assessments while also requiring them to disclose uniform criteria.

  • "It's confusing and puts landlords and property managers in a difficult position because they don’t know how to comply with the law," he told Axios. "They don’t understand, and neither do I."

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