August 18, 2023
Philadelphia's landlord-tenant office may resume evictions as early as Monday, ending a brief hiatus prompted by a string of shootings by its deputies during lockouts.
New protocols will be in place when evictions resume, multiple media outlets reported. All evictions will be carried out by two officers, including one trained as a Pennsylvania Constable. Constables are sworn law enforcement officers elected in municipalities outside of Philadelphia. They are used to protect against disturbances of peace. To carry a gun, they must complete additional training.
All eviction schedules will be made available through weekly emails to any tenant action group or other interested party, as well as tenants that make inquiries one week in advance. The dates and times of evictions also will be placed on the municipal court's docket, allowing tenants to gain this information through their lawyers or by calling the landlord-tenant office.
All landlords must submit information to the landlord-tenant office before evictions are scheduled so that potential issues that may occur during an attempted lockout can be addressed beforehand. If an unexpected issues arises, including an escalated conflict, deputies must stop the eviction. The eviction will be rescheduled once the issue is resolved.
Eviction fees will increase from $145 to $350 to cover the cost of hiring and training additional officers, as well as insurance.
City Councilmembers Jamie Gauthier and Kendra Brooks have called for a new eviction system in the aftermath of three tenants being shot by private contractors hired by Landlord Tenant Officer Marisa Shuter since March. They released a joint statement criticizing the new protocols.
"We appreciate that the landlord-tenant officer provided her contractors with safety and de-escalation training, and thank the municipal court for their partnership," the statement said. "However, we made it clear to the landlord-tenant officer and the court that contracting with constables is not an acceptable long- or medium-term solution to Philly's reckless eviction process. Outsourcing evictions to armed constables elected in municipalities outside of the city does not ensure public accountability to Philadelphians, nor does it satisfy the need for robust government oversight.
"In order to protect the safety of everyone involved in the eviction process, any permanent solution must guarantee accountability, oversight and notification of the date and time of eviction to every tenant. Tenants, housing experts, and our fellow councilmembers have made clear that these basic, common-sense reforms must be achieved in order to prevent the violence inherent in the operations of the landlord-tenant office."
The new protocols come as the landlord-tenant office also is facing legal action.
In July, Angel Davis, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was shot during an eviction at the Girard Court Apartments in Sharswood, filed a lawsuit against the landlord-tenant office, the officer who shot her, and the owners and managers of the property.
This week, Latesa Bethea, who was shot during an attempted eviction at the Grace Townhomes in Port Richmond, also filed a lawsuit against Shuter, her former landlord and the deputy that shot her.