Philadelphia has an eviction problem. There were 22,573 cases filed in landlord-tenant court in 2016, and the majority of tenants are simply unable to hire legal counsel to represent them. In fact, 92 percent of tenants represented themselves – 6.7 percent received pro bono help from private attorneys and 1.5 percent were able to afford their own legal aid.
On the opposite end, 81 percent of landlords are represented by private attorneys.
You may have no other option but to represent yourself, but without legal counsel you are at risk of being taken advantage of. When you do go up against your landlord in court, you need to stand up for your rights as a renter.
What Are Your Rights As A Tenant?
Far too many renters do not know their legal rights, and are at risk of being unlawfully kicked out of their homes. When you are threatened with eviction, keep in mind your rights as a tenant and hold your landlord accountable to the law.
- You cannot be evicted for discriminatory reasons. It is illegal for a landlord to evict you because of your race, color, religion, national origin, sex or age. You may also not be evicted because of a disability, because you own a support animal or because you are pregnant or have children.
- A landlord cannot kick you out without first going to court. In order to enforce an eviction notice, a landlord must take the case to landlord-tenant court. Many courts have declared it unlawful for a landlord to forcefully lock you out or remove you themselves. They also cannot cut off your utilities.
- Your landlord must give you at least 10 days notice. Unless otherwise stated in your lease agreement, your landlord must give you written notice before they file your eviction case. This must be done at least 10 days prior when you haven’t paid rent, 15 days prior for non-rent payment issues and 30 days prior for non-rent payment issues when the lease is for longer than one year.
- You may not be forced to pay rent for a unit that is unfit to live in. If you are threatened with eviction for not paying rent, you could defend yourself by proving the unit was unfit to live in. You also need to provide proof that you brought up rental issues and defects to the landlord, and they refused to resolve the problem. A common example of this occurs when landlords fail to meet lead paint regulations.
- Your landlord cannot throw away your property or belongings. After your eviction, you have 10 days to notify your landlord that you are coming to retrieve your property. If you do, they must store that property for at least 30 days. They also cannot charge you for storing property if you retrieve it during the first 10 days.
An eviction can permanently affect your ability to rent properties in the future and could severely impact your credit score. Don’t simply submit to their commands. While your landlord may be trying to take away your home, they can never take away your rights.