Unlike other jurisdictions, Philadelphia courts rely on a private attorney, appointed by Municipal Court’s president judge and known as a landlord-tenant officer, to execute evictions. This attorney deputizes private security contractors to perform on-site lockouts in exchange for the right to collect millions in related eviction fees.
With a woman resisting a lawful eviction getting shot in the head by a deputy landlord-tenant officer on Wednesday morning, there were obvious outcries from the usual suspects:
A deputy landlord-tenant officer shot a woman while enforcing a court-ordered eviction. Lawmakers are proposing to change how the system operates.
State lawmakers from Philadelphia are proposing to ban private firms from enforcing evictions after a security contractor shot a 35-year-old woman during an attempted lockout Wednesday.
The move comes after a shooting that has brought Philadelphia’s unusual eviction system into the spotlight.
While most jurisdictions deploy sworn law enforcement personnel, such as sheriff deputies, to enforce evictions, Philadelphia outsources much of that work to a private, for-profit law firm, known as a Landlord-Tenant Officer. This firm in turn contracts out the work of serving court notices and performing tenant lockouts to armed security guards, known as deputy landlord-tenant officers.
That unique arrangement would be banned under legislation State Sens. Nikil Saval and Sharif Street plan to introduce. A bill the Philadelphia Democrats plan to introduce next month would amend state codes to clarify that courts across Pennsylvania “cannot empower private companies or individuals to perform evictions,” according to a statement.
With “progressive” Helen Gym Flaherty running for Mayor of Philadelphia and letting us know how she feels about the eviction system, I can easily see how the rights of property owners can be abridged by the city government. If evictions are returned to the Sheriff’s office for enforcement, then the problems that the Sheriff’s office already have would hit eviction services. In the past, confiscated weapons have gone unaccounted or missing, and even though the then-new Sheriff, Rochelle Bilal, said that she had instituted a new, reformed system and was cleaning up the mess in November of 2020, we previously noted that Sheriff’s Deputy Samir Ahmad was arrested in October of 2022 for trafficking firearms.
The Sheriff is an independently-elected official in Philadelphia, and even the left-wing Editorial Board of The Philadelphia Inquirer has complained that Sheriff Bilal has failed in her attempts to reform the Department and that the whole office should be abolished. What if the next Sheriff campaigns on a pledge to not enforce eviction orders?
The original Fourteenth Amendment, via the National Archives.
The Fourteenth Amendment says, in part:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Our rights to property are confirmed in the Constitution of the United States, but we have a situation in which a lot of Philadelphians think that evictions for not paying your rent are somehow wrong. Philly’s leftist politicians — and Democrats outnumber Republicans about seven-to-one in registrations in the city — are very well able to see that landlords are not exactly the most popular people there.
Even if the Sheriff’s office completely supports court-ordered evictions, the city has had staffing shortages in virtually every department; giving eviction duty to the sheriff’s office means that more deputies would be needed, at a time when they are difficult to hire.
The eviction case was one of dozens at Girard Court Apartments in recent years.
The complex is owned by Odin Properties, which is among Philadelphia’s largest landlords. Owned by developer Philip Balderston and based in Philadelphia, its website advertises a full portfolio that encompasses some “10,000 apartments and 200,000 square feet of commercial space in 14 U.S. States.”
But a 2020 report from progressive advocacy group One PA also identified Odin as among “the highest evictors in Philadelphia,” having brought 470 eviction cases to Municipal Court in 2019.
One would expect that one of Philly’s “largest landlords” would also be among “the highest evictors” in the city; the more units one leases, the more non-paying renters he will have.
Who are “One PA,” which even the Inky called a “progressive advocacy group”? They are perfectly willing to tell you exactly who they are!
Housing is a fundamental human right and must be prioritized over the profits of landlords and developers. City Council must act now to protect Philadelphians and support low-income Black and brown residents to stay in their homes and continue to build thriving communities. They must pass rent control and “pay as you stay” property tax relief to create thriving communities in which their constituents can stay in their homes. Our communities need the Freedom to STAY.
Predatory landlords and developers are hiking rents, evicting tenants, operating unsafe housing, and displacing Black and brown Philadelphians, who often have the fewest resources to fight back due to a history of housing discrimination, racial and economic segregation, and depressed wages. These same communities face dramatic increases in property taxes, jeopardizing what wealth they have managed to build. Many low-income tenants find themselves moving every few years because of unsafe and unhealthy homes, hiked rents, and landlords selling their homes. At the rate of current rent increases, many families are not able to relocate to healthier, more stable conditions. They find themselves evicted, disrespected, and dismissed, time after time, causing homelessness and/or mental or physical illness for many. The system is stacked against low-income renters and homeowners and in favor of wealthy landlords and developers.
Translation: they believe that people have a right to the homes and apartments they rented, even if they don’t pay their rent. That landlords and developers invested their own money into building and buying housing units, that they have their property rights as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States, apparently means nothing to them.
Since the start of 2022, office addresses associated with Odin have appeared in at least another 727 different landlord tenant filings in Municipal Court. A typical month in Philadelphia sees between 1,500 and 2,000 eviction filings, according to the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, a figure that does not include illegal evictions.
A spokesperson from the Department of Licenses and Inspections said building inspectors issued several violations to the Girard Court complex during a January inspection that stemmed from complaints about nonfunctional fire alarms. That case is still listed as unresolved.
People seem to have a picture of landlords, or property owners, as Snidely Whiplash, tying Sweet Nell to the railroad tracks. But property owners have a right to their property, regardless of how wealthy or otherwise they are. The majority of rental property owners are actually small entrepreneurs who own five or fewer units. This statistic equates to 10.8 million investors representing 98% of all rental property owners or 80% of all rental properties.
As I mentioned previously, we own one rental unit, though it’s a not-for-profit, rented within the family property. The intention is that, once we go to our eternal rewards, our daughters and my sister-in-law’s son, will inherit the house, and, we hope, a significant appreciation in investment. We aren’t tying anyone to the railroad tracks!
Our Constitution is supposed to protect our rights, including protecting our rights from the tyranny of the majority. But I can see the “progressives” of Philadelphia trying to end the property rights of landlords and property owners in the City of Brotherly Love
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