Category Archive: I need repairs

  1. Right to Counsel

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    On November 14th, 2019, Philadelphia City Council unanimously voted to pass a renter’s right to counsel, guaranteeing all low-income renters access to an attorney to fight their eviction. Given the scale, right to counsel will not start immediately. Instead, it will be phased in over five years or more.

    This momentous change was made possible by a decade of advocacy by a local and national community of legal professionals, grassroots organizers, researchers, community members and renters.

    Here are some of the testimonies shared in support of right to counsel:

    • Rasheedah Phillips, Managing Attorney of Policy at CLS: Nov 2019, Mar 2017
    • Barrett Marshall, former Supervising Attorney and Director of PEPP at CLS: Nov 2019

    What is a “Right to Counsel” for Evictions?

    A “right to counsel” means that low-income tenants would be guaranteed access to a lawyer for their eviction proceeding. Currently, tenants in Philadelphia do not have this right. About 90% of tenants in Philadelphia face an eviction without the assistance of a lawyer.

    Legal representation is an effective tool to prevent eviction and homelessness. In 2017, New York City was the first city to pass right to counsel legislation. Since then, San Francisco, CA, Newark, NJ and Cleveland, OH have also passed right to counsel.

    A right to counsel in Philadelphia would give even footing for tenants in court and access to greater resources to resolve conflict.

    Eviction Prevention Works in Philadelphia and Can Be Scaled Up to a Right to Counsel

    The Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project (PEPP) is a collaboration of six service providers started in early 2018 that provides comprehensive services to tenants facing an eviction. PEPP is successful – tenants are more likely to come to their hearing and have better case outcomes when meeting with an advocate.

    An advocate can help a tenant assert their rights or, where a tenant owes back rent, can help negotiate affordable payment agreements or reasonable time for a tenant to move into more affordable housing.

    PEPP has shown that both limited assistance and full representation are important, and choosing one over the other depends on the tenant’s circumstances. Tenants who visited the Help Center and did not receive full representation were still more likely to show up to court and win their cases than tenants that did not meet with a PEPP advocate at all. For this reason, the right to counsel program should use a range of legal assistance, from advice to full representation.  

    We already have nationally recognized local legal aid organizations to carry out this program.  These organizations have spent the last year developing a successful eviction defense program through (PEPP). PEPP legal staff are highly skilled at providing individualized service to tenants to get the best outcomes. Philadelphia can expand this pilot into a full right to counsel.

    What are the Potential Impacts?

    Right to Counsel for tenants could assist thousands low-income households in keeping their home or preventing homelessness, making it one of the major anti-displacement efforts in the City.

    A recent study commissioned by the Philadelphia Bar Association has shown that right to counsel would save the City $45 million in costs of services.

    Additional Resources

    • Policy recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Eviction Prevention and Response: report
    • Overview of the eviction crisis in Philadelphia: report by Reinvestment Fund
    • City Council’s Narrowing the Gap report to address poverty, which includes strategies to increase legal representation for tenants: report
    • Regional Housing Legal Service’s overview of their cost study on a statewide Right to Counsel for Pennsylvania: report

  2. I have bedbugs!

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    UPDATE: Philadelphia’s Bed Bug law went into effect on January 1, 2021. Tenants and Landlords have important responsibilities under the law. Read More

    What do I do?

    • Tell your landlord right away! Within 5 business days, call, text, email or send a letter.
    • Your landlord has to answer you within 5 business days and send a pest management professional out to inspect within 10 business days.
    • Let the inspector in during reasonable times.
    • If the inspector finds bed bugs, your landlord must then provide written notice to all tenants and hire a pest management professional to do treatment.
    • Prepare your home for treatment by following all the instructions carefully.  It is a lot of work, but it’s important in order to get rid of bed bugs. Visit PA Integrated Pest Management for more information about bed bug treatment.

    Who pays for bed bug treatment?

    • Landlord – The landlord must pay the full cost of treatment if:
      • You let your landlord know about the bedbugs in the first year of your lease, OR
      • You let your landlord know about the bedbugs within 180 days of the discovery of bed bugs in an adjacent unit, OR
      • You are a subsidized housing tenant (PHA public housing, Section 8 voucher, etc.)
    • In all other cases, the landlord and tenant split the cost 50/50.

    What if my Landlord won’t help?

    • Send the landlord a letter asking the landlord to investigate or treat for bed bugs. It is best to send an email or letter. See the sample bed bug demand letter.
    • File a Complaint with L&I. Call 311 or submit the L&I Bed Bug Complaint form.
    • File a Court complaint against the landlord for actual and punitive damages ($2,000), cancellation of rent, and attorneys fees and costs.

    Before you move in, your landlord should:

    • Tell you in writing if the property had bed bugs in the last 120 days.
    • Give you the Health Department’s Bed Bug Information Flyer.
    • Have a Bed Bug Control Plan
    • If your landlord didn’t do this, you can end your lease without penalty.

    For more information, review 9-4800 Responsibilities Concerning Bed Bug Infestation.

  3. I need a lawyer. What is Right to Counsel?

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    Call 267-443-2500 for the Philly Tenant Hotline.

    Tenants may speak to a live housing counselor at the Tenant Union Representative Network (TURN) for:

    • Free legal information
    • Referral for legal advice and representation

    If no one is available to take your call, we will do our best to return your call within 2-3 business days.  We receive more calls than we can answer at the moment, so please review for legal information, links and templates for your use.

    You can also attend one of TURN’s daily free Know Your Rights webinars.

  4. Help! I got a utility shut off notice.

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    What is the reason for the shut off?

    Electric, gas and water shut offs occur for two main reasons:

    • Non-payment.  The utility may be trying to collect unpaid bills. If this is the reason, you will get a shut off notice before the shut off.
    • Tampering. The utility believes someone has turned on the service or tampered with the meter without permission.  If this is the reason, you may not get a notice until after the shut off. 

    What do I do if I get a PECO or PGW shut off notice because of unpaid bills?

    This video provides a brief overview of your options when facing a shut off from PECO or PGW.

    If your bill is in your landlord’s name, you have special rights as a tenant in the property.

    What do I do if I get a Water shut off notice because of unpaid bills?

    If the water bill is in your name, there are options to prevent or delay a shut off, or to restore service. When you call, the Water Department is required to explain your options to avoid a shut off or restore service.  Here are a few of your options:

    • You can apply for customer assistance offered by the Water Department, including the Tiered Assistance Program (TAP) for low-income customers.  More information is available on our TAP Flyer.
    • You may be able to delay a shut off or restore service if you have an illness.  More information about water medical delays is available at this City of Philadelphia website.
    • If you disagree with the shut off notice you have the right to file an appeal and have a hearing.  Contact the Water Revenue Bureau directly at 215-685-6300 and demand an informal hearing request form.  

    If your bill is in your landlord’s name, you have special rights as a tenant in the property.

    What do I do if my utility service is shut off because someone turned it on or tampered with the meter without permission?

    If your electric, gas or water service was shut off because of unauthorized use, the utility will issue a notice after service has been shut off.  This notice can include charges for the service provided and can demand additional fees to reconnect service.  Staying in your home without utility service is unsafe.  If you are not responsible for turning on the service or interfering with the meter, you will need legal help to assess your options.

  5. Good Cause Protections: Can my landlord end my lease?

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    What are Good Cause eviction protections in Philadelphia?

    • For leases less than one year, such as a month-to-month lease, your landlord must give you thirty (30) days written notice stating a Good Cause reason to end your lease.
    • For leases of one year or more, your landlord must give at least (10) days written notice and is not required to state a Good Cause reason to end your lease.
    • For subsidized housing leases, it is likely that you have Good Cause protections. Find your subsidy program to learn more.

    What are some examples of Good Cause?

    • Breach a lease term such as repeatedly late on rent;
    • Cause damage to the unit or refuse access for repairs;
    • Refuse to sign a new written lease with changes including a reasonable rent increase with some exceptions;
    • The owner or owner’s immediate family wants to move into the unit;
    • The owner is renovating the unit with some exceptions.

    What if my landlord ends my lease without Good Cause?

    • Challenge it. If your landlord sends you a Lease Termination Notice or a Notice to Quit without a Good Cause reason and your lease term is currently less than one year, you have the right to file a compliant with the Fair Housing Commission. You must file within fifteen (15) business days of getting the lease termination notice from your landlord.
    • Defend yourself. If your landlord files an eviction in Municipal Court before you are able to file a complaint with the Fair Housing Commission, then you must attend your court hearing and raise Good Cause as a defense.
    • Get legal help. If your landlord files an eviction in Municipal Court and you have low income, you may be eligible for free legal help.
    • Call City Council. While the law doesn’t apply to leases that are a year or longer, you can ask your Councilmember to pass a bill that would extend Good Cause protections to all leases. Look up your city council member.
  6. I’m being billed for my neighbor’s electric or gas. What do I do?

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    What should I do if I suspect that I am paying for electric or gas being used by another tenant or in a common area?

    Foreign load is utility usage that shows up on a tenant’s bill that is from another unit or common space. If you suspect you are paying for gas or electric in another unit or common space, you can contact your utility to request a “foreign load” investigation. If the utility finds foreign load, they must transfer your account and any past-due account balance to the landlord or owner’s name.

    How much counts as Foreign Load?

    There is no amount of foreign load that is too minor or trivial, a single light in a common area counts.  The account can only go back in the name of the tenant once the foreign load is corrected by the landlord and verified by the utility. 

    Only the debts at the current property can be moved into the landlord’s name, not debts that had been accrued at a previous address.

    Can my landlord still ask me to pay for utilities if there is foreign load?

    The utility cannot ask you for payment–unless it provides proper notices in the event the landlord does not pay for the service, discussed here. However, a landlord may ask for payment if you are responsible under the lease.  

  7. My landlord pays the water bill, but I got a shut off notice. What are my rights?

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    What should the notice say? 

    The notice you receive must have the following information:

    • The date on or after which the utility proposes to terminate service, which cannot be earlier than 30 days after the date of the notice
    • The amount of the most recent bill for service for the 30-day period before the notice
    • Instructions on how you can pay the 30-day bill and assurance that you are not responsible for your landlord’s back bill
    • An explanation of your legal rights under state law, which include:
      • The right to deduct your payments for utility service from rent, and
      • The right to be protected from retaliation by your landlord for exercising your right to pay to continue utility service

    What should I do if I did not receive the notice described above?

    • You should contact the utility provider immediately if you did not receive the notice of your utility rights as a tenant
    • Inform the utility provider that you are a tenant and that your landlord is responsible for the utility service
    • Demand a notice stating your state law rights under the following statutes:
      • For Philadelphia Water – “Utility Service Tenants Rights Act”
      • For PECO and PGW – “Discontinuance of Service to Leased Premises Act”
    • If the utility does not agree to give you the legally-required notice, you should file a dispute:
      • For Philadelphia Water – Contact the Water Revenue Bureau directly at 215-685-6300 and demand an informal hearing request form
      • For PECO and PGW – Contact the Public Utility Commission and file an Informal Complaint at 1-800-692-7380
    • If you did not receive the legally-required notice and your service was shut off, or if you have questions about your rights, you should seek legal help.

    Do I have to provide a copy of my lease to the utility?

    The utility provider is required by law to give the tenant notice to each home or apartment “reasonably likely” to be occupied by a tenant who would be affected by a utility shut off.  You have no legal obligation to provide your lease or information to the utility to be entitled to receive notice.  Failure to deliver a notice to a home or apartment reasonably likely to be occupied by a tenant is a violation of state law.

    Once you receive a notice, you may need to provide identifying information and show that you are a tenant in order to continue service.

    Can I become a customer of the utility instead of my landlord?

    Under state law, any tenant who may be affected by a shut off of service in the landlord’s name has the right to agree to have future utility service provided in the tenant’s name if the utility can provide that service (typically, if the tenant’s dwelling is individually metered).  Inquire directly with the utility for information on how to apply for service in your name.

    Can my landlord call the utility and have the service shut off?

    No.  The same rules that apply to the utility when the landlord doesn’t pay apply if the landlord wants to have the service turned off.  The utility must still provide the 30 day notice and information about the tenant’s rights to continue service.

  8. Can I request a grievance hearing with PHA?

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    When can I request a grievance hearing?

    All PHA and PAPMC public housing tenants can ask for a Grievance Hearing to dispute a lease termination notice or raise an issue with PHA.

    What is the grievance hearing process?

    1. Fill out Grievance Hearing Request form and give to the manager.
    2. Informal Meeting with manager should be scheduled within 10 days.
    3. Summary & Decision should be sent within 5 days of the meeting.
    4. Accept or Reject Summary & Decision. If you do not like PHA’s decision, sign it and return it to the manager within 10 days.
    5. Grievance Hearing should be scheduled within 20 days. For questions, call the PHA Grievance Coordinator at 215-684-5909.

    How do I prepare for a grievance hearing?

    Start gathering evidence right away to prove your case. Proof may include:

    • Photos
    • Rent receipts
    • Letters from PHA
    • Repair receipts
    • Proof of income
    • Police reports
    • L&I inspection reports
    • Doctor’s notes
    • Utility bills
    • Witnesses
    • PHA rent ledger (AR history)

    What happens at the grievance hearing?

    Grievance hearings are usually held at 2013 Ridge Avenue (near Ridge and Master Streets).

    • At the hearing, you can present evidence, call witnesses and explain the details of your case to the hearing officer.
    • PHA will also have a turn to present evidence, call witnesses and explain their case to the hearing officer.
    • The hearing officer should send you a written decision within 15 days of the hearing.
    • If you are not satisfied with the decision, you can appeal the decision in the Court of Common Pleas in City Hall, Room 296, within 30 days.
  9. Can my landlord increase my rent?

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    Can my landlord increase my rent?

    There are no rent control or stabilization laws in Pennsylvania, so your landlord is permitted to increase your rent.

    When can my landlord increase my rent?

    Generally, the landlord can only increase your rent at the end of a lease term unless your lease says otherwise.  Most lease terms are 2 year, 1 year, or month to month.

    Philadelphia Code § 9-804 (11) requires that the landlord give at least 60 day notice of rent increase for leases with a term of 1 year or more and at least 30 day notice of rent increase for leases with a term of less than one year.  Your lease may require even more advance notice.

    If your landlord is not giving proper notice or is improperly raising rent in the middle of your lease term, you can send your landlord a letter stating why the rent increase violates your lease and you will not pay the new amount. Keep a copy of the letter.

    Can I negotiate a rent increase?

    You always have the right to negotiate with your landlord. You can ask the landlord to keep the rent at the same rate or ask for a smaller increase. Landlords generally do not want to have to find new tenants. However, if you cannot come to an agreement with your landlord, your options are to pay the increase or move.

    My rent is subsidized. Can my landlord increase my rent?

    It is possible for the rent you pay to go up. For example, if your household income increases, your rent may increase after you report your new income to your subsidy provider. If you have a government rental subsidy and have questions about a rent increase, please seek legal help.

  10. Where can I get help paying rent or security deposit?

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    For Households Facing Hardship Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

    COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) also known as Phase 4

    NOTE: As of January 7, 2022, Phase 4 Rental Assistance is closed for new applications.

    To check the status of an existing application, visit

    COVID-19 Homelessness Prevention Funds

    For Low-Income Households:

    • Office of Homeless Services (OHS)
      • Not accepting in-person applications at 1430 Cherry Street at this time.
      • Phone: 215-686-7177
      • Apply online
      • Assistance generally ranges from $0 – $1500
    • Philadelphia County Assistance Office
      • Not accepting applications at this time.
      • Phone: 215-560-1976
      • Address: 801 Market Street (near 8th & Market)
      • Mon-Fri 8:30am-4:30pm
      • Very low-income tenants only.
      • Assistance generally ranges from $0 – $400
    • United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey
      • Referral only.
      • Phone: 211
    • Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha
      • Accepting applications by appointment only.
      • Phone: 215-235-6070
      • Address: 600 Diamond St
    • Catholic Social Services (CSS)
      • Accepting applications at all locations by appointment only.
      • Help Line: 267-331-2490
      • CSS Northeast Family Service Center
        • Phone: 215-624-5920
        • Address: 7340 Jackson St (near Cottman & Torresdale)
      • CSS Southwest Family Service Center
        • Phone: 215-724-8550
        • Address: 6214 Grays St (near 62nd & Elmwood)
      • CSS North, Casa del Carmen Family Service Center
        • Phone: 267-331-2490
        • Address: 4400 N Reese St (near 5th & Cayuga)
    • HACE
      • Accepting applications at all locations by appointment only.
      • Frankford Ave
        • Phone: 215-437-7867
        • Address: 4660 Frankford Ave
      • Allegheny Ave
        • Address: 167 W Allegheny Ave
        • Phone: 215-426-8025
    • New Kensington CDC
      • Accepting applications by phone.
      • Phone: 215-427-0350
    • People’s Emergency Center
    • Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (PIHN)
      • Accepting applications by phone.
      • Phone: 215-247-4663
      • Address: 7047 Germantown Ave (near Mt. Pleasant Ave)

    For Families with Children in Philadelphia Schools

    For Survivors of Domestic Violence

    For Veterans

    For Residents of Northwest Philadelphia

    19118, 19119, 19126, 19138, 19144 & 19150

    • Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry
      • Accepting applications by phone. Processing may be delayed.
      • Monday through Wednesday, 9AM-2PM
      • 215-843-2340
      • 35 West Chelten Avenue
      • Assistance generally ranges from $300 – $400

    For Families with Children Involved in DHS

    • DHS Prevention Assistance Fund
      • Contact your case manager or social worker.

    For Households with a Person Living with HIV

    • Direct Emergency Financial Assistance (DEFA) grant
    • AIDS Fund: All Walks of Life grant

    For Utility Assistance

    What do I need?

    • Photo ID for all household members age 18 and over.
    • Social Security cards and Birth Certificates for all household members.
    • Proof of Income
      • Pay stubs (for last thirty days)
      • Employment letter (hrs, pay date(s), wages/salary)
      • Award Letter from Social Security office
      • Any other documentation of income
    • Proof of Assets such as bank statements or inheritance award letters
    • Lease Agreement
    • Eviction Notice and/or Court Documents

    What do I need from my landlord?

    • Rental License also called a Housing Inspection License
    • Certificate of Rental Suitability
    • W-9 signed by landlord
    • Letter with current rental balance signed and dated by landlord
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(267) 443-2500
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