Inside landlord-tenant court

Finally just got around to reading Isaiah Thompson's cover story in last week's City Paper about Robert Coyle, whom the Daily News last year dubbed "slumlord millionaire," and how the conditions that allowed him to buy up lots of land in Kensington and then allegeldy neglect it still exist. Of particular interest was the stuff about Philadelphia's landlord-tenant court:

Critics have long argued that the system favors landlords and facilitates evictions. Only a handful of each day's 50 or so cases are ever heard by a judge. Instead, defendants (almost always the tenants) are instructed to try to reach an agreement with their landlord (or their landlord's attorney) — a situation that tenant advocates say leads to unnecessary concessions by tenants.

And check this out:

In 2006, even as he awaited trial (and an eventual conviction) for corruption, former City Councilman Rick Mariano ushered through a so-called "rental suitability" law requiring landlords to meet minimum standards — such as resolving code violations —before L&I issued them rental licenses. Landlord associations sued after Mayor John Street signed the bill into law. In 2008, the landlord groups persuaded the new Nutter administration to suspend the law; City Solicitor Shelley Smith said the administration wanted to examine it first.

Two years later, that examination is apparently ongoing.

Protecting tenants is not the sort of thing we generally think of as a "city service," but it is something the city does, and this story raises some questions about how well it's currently doing it.

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