Philadelphia House Delegation advancing eviction reform

The group is prompted by recent violent incidents involving landlord-tenant officers

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 30 – In response to a series of violent incidents involving landlord-tenant officers taking place in the city, members of the Philadelphia House Delegation today said the organization has been working hand in hand with the House Housing and Community Development Committee to help end the practice of private contractors performing eviction services.

As part of this collaboration, both organizations held a public hearing Tuesday in the Philadelphia City Council Chambers on proposed reforms regarding landlord and tenant officers and evictions.

Rep. Morgan Cephas, chair of the Philadelphia House Delegation, explained that a vital concern is that the eviction services are executed by people without the proper training, and carrying guns.

“Moving forward there needs to be accountability and transparency with an agency that is responsible to the citizens of Philadelphia,” Cephas said. “We are determined to take this task away from the unaccountable, private entities.

“We respect the need for landlords to run their business and receive their payments in a timely manner. However, the need for compassionate, respectful interaction with tenants was made obvious in the hearing,” she added.

Rep. Mike Sturla, chair of the PA House Housing and Community Development Committee, highlighted that when it comes to housing it is important to look at the situation as a whole.

“This applies to more than just LTOs in Philadelphia. The affordable housing crisis is not going away, so these highly complex issues will continue to be a problem across the state. This committee is committed to finding solutions,” Sturla said.

Rep. Rick Krajewski, who is one of the prime sponsors of legislation to reform the process, explained that he was deeply moved by one of the testimonies during the hearing.

“People are given 15 minutes to pack up their belongings, their life, before they’re evicted. That’s unnecessary trauma inflicted on people who are already in a desperate situation,” Krajewski said.

“On the worst day of their life, the situation should be handled by someone publicly accountable, highly trained and locally known. Housing is a human right, and our delegation will fight to ensure that right for all Pennsylvanians.”

Rep. Tarik Khan, a member of the committee and co-host of the hearing, detailed that the legislation that he is co-sponsoring with Krajewski and other members is aimed at improving the process for everyone involved.

“As a state rep., one of my top priorities is ensuring the safety of the people in my community,” Khan said. “Our legislation (Common Sense Eviction Reform) would create more accountability in eviction proceedings with a public entity, standards in training for officers rooted in best practices and de-escalation, and ensuring that tenants have clear, advance notice of eviction. We must find ways to avoid the confrontation and violence that we’ve seen in recent months.”

Rep. Roni Green, who also co-hosted the hearing, pointed out the critical need to protect the safety and integrity of the tenants.

“Let’s bring some humanity back into this process. These are real people in a difficult situation - not just an overdue payment,” she said. “Our bill would go a long way to reform the landlord-tenant relationship, but it’s going to take all of us as a people to ensure a safe and humane process.”

The latest incident occurred in July when a woman was shot by a private contractor during an eviction in the Port Richmond area during an eviction. The altercation was registered as the third eviction-related shooting since March in Philadelphia