RESOLUTION OPPOSING HB 1713, 1714 AND 1715, AND SB 48 AMENDING THE LANDLORD AND TENANT ACT OF 1951

WHEREAS, the right to be secure in one's residence, whether it is a home or an apartment, without interference except by due process of law is a fundamental right recognized in both the United States Constitution, Fourth Amendment and in Pennsylvania law; and

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a long tradition of balancing the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in Pennsylvania, as reflected in the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951, 68 P.S. §§ 250.101 – 250.602 (the "Landlord and Tenant Act"); and

WHEREAS, the Landlord and Tenant Act balanced these rights in part by eliminating common law notions in Pennsylvania of a landlord's right to self-help actions for nonpayment of rent, including constructive eviction and self-help eviction (illegal lockout). See Wofford v. Vavreck, 22 D&C3d 444 (Craw. Co. 1981), see also Lenair v. Campbell, 31 Pa. D. & C.3d at 237, 242 (Phila. C.P. 1984) (finding Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951 to be exclusive source for landlord remedial rights); and

WHEREAS, the Landlord and Tenant Act established judicial process as the exclusive remedy for redress of grievances by landlords and by tenants, thereby incorporating fundamental concepts of due process and access to the courts; and

WHEREAS, the Landlord and Tenant Act provides landlords the right to recover possession through eviction or ejectment; and

WHEREAS, the Landlord and Tenant Act was amended by Act 129 of 2012 ("Act 129") to establish a fair and equitable process for governing when landlords may remove tenant belongings, providing that such actions may be taken only when landlords have evicted tenants through judicial process or when tenants have provided written notice stating they have vacated the rented home; and

WHEREAS, Act 129 recognized that tenants may, for any number of reasons be temporarily absent, such as moving out for lack of heat or due to a hospital stay without intending to give up their leases or abandon the property; and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania law provides tenants with an implied warranty of habitability, which allows tenants to withhold rent under certain conditions. Pugh v. Holmes, 486 Pa. 272, 405 A.2d 897 (1979); and

WHEREAS, in 1988, the Council of the City of Philadelphia, recognizing that thousands of Philadelphia tenants were subjected to actual or threatened self-help evictions, enacted the Philadelphia Anti-Lockout Ordinance to prohibit such practices and impose fines for such actions. See Philadelphia Code § 9-1600, et seq.; and

WHEREAS, House Bill No. 1713, Printer's No. 2396, House Bill No. 1714, Printer's No. 2397, House Bill No. 1715, Printer's No. 2398 and Senate Bill No. 48, Printer's No. 17 (collectively, the "Bills") have been introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly which would amend the Landlord and Tenant Act to permit landlords to engage in self-help evictions; and

WHEREAS, the Bills would eviscerate the terms of Act 129 and would give landlords the sole and complete authority to determine that tenants have relinquished their property, without judicial determination; and

WHEREAS, if enacted, the Bills would undermine the judicial process created with the enactment of the Landlord and Tenant Act, and would usurp the City of Philadelphia's ability to enforce the Anti-Lockout Ordinance; and

WHEREAS, if enacted, the Bills would eliminate due process protections established under the Landlord and Tenant Act, and would further permit landlords to use self-help actions to evict tenants, even when tenants are exercising their legal right to withhold rent under the doctrine set forth in Pugh v. Holmes, 486 Pa. 272, 405 A.2d 897 (1979).

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association opposes House Bill No. 1713, Printer's No. 2396, House Bill No. 1714, Printer's No. 2397, House Bill No. 1715, Printer's No. 2398 and Senate Bill No. 48, Printer's No. 17, or any similar legislation, as violative of basic due process rights as defined in the Landlord and Tenant Act, the Philadelphia Anti-Lockout Ordinance and other provisions of state and local law;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor and/or the Chancellor's designee(s) communicate the Philadelphia Bar Association's position on House Bill No. 1713, Printer's No. 2396, House Bill No. 1714, Printer's No. 2397, House Bill No. 1715, Printer's No. 2398 and Senate Bill No. 48, Printer's No. 17 and any similar legislation to the Governor, the General Assembly and the public and take whatever action is necessary to effectuate this resolution.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: November 20, 2013