Feb 14, 2022 - News

Facing an illegal eviction in Philadelphia? Here's what to do

Illustration of a doorknob with a question mark-shaped keyhole.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

An illegal eviction is when a landlord attempts to push out a tenant without a court order.

  • If you think you or someone you know is in a similar situation, here's advice on what to do:

1. Documentation is king. It's extremely important to have something written to prove that you live there.

  • A copy of your lease is the most preferred option, but others include utility bills or a photo ID that lists your address.

2. Ensure that all interactions with your landlord are documented in some way.

3. If you're comfortable doing so, call the police. Officers will want to see proof you have a right to be there.

  • If you're not comfortable going to the police, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office at 800-441-2555.

If you're already locked out, it's common for these situations to escalate. It's a good idea to have another person with you.

  • When you are safe, file a complaint with the Fair Housing Commission. They can be reached at 215-686-4670 or email at [email protected].
  • This option is not a quick fix, but it is an alternative to going to court.

You can also call the Philly Tenant Hotline at 267-443-2500, which can provide legal advice and step in to resolve the situation.

Of note: If a landlord attempts to evict someone illegally, they can be sued up to $2,000 per action.

  • This type of activity can include removing a tenant's belongings, shutting off utilities and other intimidation tactics.

Typical outcomes: In most cases, when the police, a lawyer or the Attorney General's Office gets involved, the situation is deescalated rather quickly, and a tenant can soon return to the property.

  • "It's rare that we have to take any steps beyond just calling the landlord," Vikram Patel, a tenant lawyer with Community Legal Services, said.
  • When there is no intervention, it's more likely a tenant will be forced out of their home.

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