The City of Philadelphia has a pretty robust housing code.  It is not perfect but it contains a strong standard for quality housing.  However, if you live here or have ever toured our city you would not believe this to be true.  We understand that there are many factors which contribute to this but a great percentage of this can be attributed to our city’s License and Inspection Department and its policies.

Philadelphia has a complaint based inspection system.  This means landlord’s are granted a license to rent properties just by asking.  Therefore whether or not a property is habitable, only becomes known when a tenant makes a complaint, waits a minimum of 20 days, an inspector finds a violation of the Philadelphia housing code.  The rental license is not revoked even if a violation is found and a landlord does not correct this violation within 60 days on notification (a long time if you have sewage in your basement).

There is a rule that states “No license shall be issued or renewed if the licensing property has any outstanding L&I code violations.”  However, as an organization we see too often license granted to landlord’s who have outstanding violations.  This granting of a license leads to tenants, who have complained about the need for repairs, being evicted through our courts in direct violation of Philadelphia’s Fair Housing Ordinance.

Philadelphia has potential to be a beautiful city; not just in the high-end areas.  Too often tenants, particularly the poor ones, are blamed for run down properties and neighborhoods yet, that blame should be placed on bad landlords, policy makers and enforcers.  Our city would look quite differently if bad landlords were not allowed to ignore tenant complaints; ignore L&I’s enforcement lawsuits by waiting out processes to just re-rent or reapply for a license without consequence; evict despite having housing code violations.  If our existing laws were fervently enforced we would see a significant reduction in this city’s homeless population and run-down communities.

Philadelphia needs to implement a proactive inspection policy.  Landlords should not be granted a rental license until it have been inspected and found to be in compliance with our Housing Code.  Landlords who maintain their properties should be rewarded and bad ones should be punished. Our citizens should not have to suffer due to a lack of prioritization of quality housing.