Curtis Jones

Curtis Jones

Landlords attempting to evict some tenants must now have a good reason to do so.

By a unanimous vote, City Council passed tenant protections that require landlords to offer a so-called “good cause” or “just cause” when evicting renters with leases of less than one year.

Councilman Curtis Jones, who introduced the legislation, said the protections would be a game changer to protect against unscrupulous landlords who are throwing out tenants for any reason.

“You have to put on the record why [tenants] aren’t being asked to renew or allowed to renew,” he said.

The legislation underwent substantive amendments that limited who is covered by the protections and overcame opposition from the business community. Jones characterized the final form of the bill as as a compromise.

“We were able to do that without losing the integrity of the bill,” Jones said, referring to numerous amendments made during the yearlong debate.

The Homeowners Association of Philadelphia and the Apartment Association of Greater Philadelphia, among others, remained steadfastly opposed to the bill.

Jones added that he was open to modifying the legislation in the future.

“And I think, what we can do, is for HAPCO and them, if this adversely impacts their membership, I’m always willing to negotiate and tweak a bill and make it more palatable, if it is a fair thing to do,” Jones said.

The legislation underwent substantial alterations in recent weeks, including shifting the protections from all tenants to those with leases of less than one year, such as month-to-month leases.

The legislation prevents an owner or landlord from issuing a notice to vacate, notice of non-renewal, or notice to terminate a lease without showing a “good cause.”

The bill lays out what qualifies as a “good cause,” which includes habitual non-payment or late payment; non-compliance with the terms of the lease or agreement; engaging in activity that is a nuisance or substantially affects the health or safety of others in the building; and refusing to agree to a proposed rent increase, among others.

But tenants can challenge a landlord’s efforts to vacate them by contesting the good cause claim in the courts or by filing a complaint with the Fair Housing Commission within 15 days of receiving the notice. A tenant can remain at the premises while the challenge is pending, unless the courts finds the challenge was filed in bad faith.

Non-renewal notices from landlords must also be given to tenants at least 60 days in advance. The legislation also requires the return of a tenant’s security deposit “as promptly as possible” before the tenant moves out, or no later than 30 days afterwards.

Jones said the legislation would not lead to imposing rent regulations or controls in Philadelphia, which he did not support. New York City and San Francisco are among the cities that have adopted rent controls.

“We are not New York. ... Philadelphia isn’t in such demand as New York [City], where every little efficiency is being developed,” Jones said. “That’s not needed in this city.”

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