Aug 24, 2023 - News

Troubled for-profit office resumes evictions in Philadelphia

Illustration of a gold key with the "no" symbol replacing the top of the key.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Philadelphia's Landlord and Tenant Office is back in the business of conducting evictions — but under new safety guidelines.

Why it matters: The office had been forced to halt evictions after three of its officers were involved in shootings during lockouts.

Catch up quick: City court officials ordered Marisa Shuter, who leads the landlord-tenant office, to stop evictions in July.

Background: The office is for-profit, headed by a court-appointed private attorney who deputizes private contractors to conduct evictions.

  • The office gets to collect eviction fees from landlords.

What's happening: Shuter's office has put in place new protocols to increase safety for both tenants and its officers, per a statement.

  • Evictions resumed Tuesday.

Details: The office will now post eviction dates and times on the court's docket and share them a week in advance with pro-tenant groups. Other new guidelines include:

  • Two officers must now perform evictions, at least one of which must have received training for certified state constables.
  • Those with experience serving as state constables will be sworn to service with the office.
  • Landlords must submit an affidavit to the office prior to evictions disclosing any known issues with tenants.

Plus: The office will hike eviction fees from $145 to $350 to pay for staffing, training and other expenses.

What they're saying: "Surprise lockouts are a recipe for disaster, and providing direct notification of the date and time of a lockout is a commonsense reform," said Councilmember Kendra Brooks in a social media post.

Context: Shuter's office or the sheriff's office can serve notices and perform evictions in a city that was averaging 20,000 a year pre-pandemic.

The intrigue: Housing advocates and some lawmakers have called for reforming or abolishing the landlord-tenant office because of concerns about its oversight and transparency.

  • Meanwhile, some landlords back the office because it's cheaper and faster than using the sheriff.

The other side: Mike Neilon, a spokesperson for the landlord-tenant office, declined to comment.

  • A spokesperson for the city courts did not respond to questions from Axios.

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