A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: landlord-tenant

When Seeking Help Can Get You Evicted

By Anthony Vento

There’s an ordinance in Norristown, Pennsylvania that says if the police are called to respond to “disorderly behavior” on a tenant’s property three times within a four month period, then the landlord must evict the tenant. If he doesn’t, he could lose his rental license.

Enter Pennsylvanian domestic abuse victim Lakisha Briggs. The New York Times recently reported the story of Ms. Briggs, a tenant in federally subsidized housing. Police responded to two domestic disputes at her home and warned her if they were called to her house once more, she would be evicted. Not long after the warning was issued, Ms. Briggs was attacked and severely injured by her boyfriend. Before slipping into unconsciousness, she plead with her neighbor not to call the police out of fear that she’d be evicted. Her condition was so bad though, that the neighbor called the police anyway.

Ms. Briggs’ fears were justified; the landlord brought eviction proceedings against her. Although reluctant to evict his tenant, he dared not risk losing his rental license.

The ACLU chose to represent Ms. Briggs arguing that the ordinance incentivizing landlords to evict “nuisance” tenants was illegal. Is the ACLU correct? Is the ordinance illegal, or can municipalities penalize landlords for not evicting tenants when police are called too frequently to their property?

LASIS investigates.

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