Landlords, Tenants Penalized for Reporting Domestic Abuse

by Chris on April 29, 2013

“Nuisance” Rental Law Faces New Legal Challenge

A federal lawsuit was filed against the city of Norristown, Pennsylvania this week, alleging that its new rental ordinance penalizing landlords for multiple police calls to a rental property is unconstitutional.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP joined forces in challenging the ordinance.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a tenant who had placed calls to the police to report her abusive ex-boyfriend. Norristown’s ordinance requires landlords to file for eviction once a tenant’s behavior has been deemed disorderly. Three police calls in four months triggers an eviction referral.

The police warned the tenant that more calls could result in her being evicted. When the abuser showed up at her door again, the tenant was afraid to call police. The woman suffered a beating so severe she had to be airlifted to a hospital once a neighbor heard the disturbance and called for help.

These “nuisance” or “disorderly tenant” ordinances — which penalize landlords based on the number of emergency responses to a particular property — recently have gained popularity with local governments. Examples range from blacklisting particular tenants from renting within city limits, to forcing landlords to evict “problem” tenants, many times levying a daily fine on a landlord until the tenant is out of the property. Officials say these laws help make cities safer, but opponents criticize the one-size-fits-all approach.

For instance, according to an ACLU study of a similar nuisance law in Milwaukee, domestic violence complaints ranked as the number three reason police issued nuisance citations. That study also found that enforcement of the nuisance ordinance was more common in minority neighborhoods.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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