Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project: New Procedures in Philadelphia Municipal Landlord Tenant Court

No one ever said that Landlord Tenant actions in the Philadelphia Municipal Court were quick and easy, but new procedures now in place have greatly increased the amount of time a Landlord can expect to spend in court. On January 30, 2018, Mayor Kenney announced The Mayor’s Taskforce on Eviction Prevention, as well as the Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project. City Council earmarked $500,000 for the project which includes a tenant helpline and website, legal services and information, and financial counseling for tenants.

Below follows a summary of what the Philadelphia Eviction Prevention Project means in practice inside the Philadelphia Municipal Court.

Courtroom Navigator:
The Municipal Court has now appointed a “Courtroom Navigator.” The Courtroom Navigators are mainly representatives from the various tenant organizations, however, their stated role is to answer non-legal questions for any unrepresented party, including Landlords. In addition, the Courtroom Navigator may also refer an unrepresented party to other services for additional help. The Courtroom Navigator is present for all morning cases, excluding those scheduled on Wednesday. He or she is not present for afternoon cases.

Trial Commissioner’s Statement:
On the day and time of trial, the first person to speak is the Trial Commissioner. The Commissioner will read a two page statement, explaining the overall court process: the call of the list, the mediation process, and the right to trial. The Commissioner then gives directions to remain in the courtroom for further information if there is a non-compliance issue.

Next the Commissioner will call the list of cases for the day. If a case is marked as non-compliant the case is put on hold, and the parties are given a non-compliance notice explaining why the case is non-compliant.  Click Here To download: Trial Commissioner’s Statement

Non-Compliance Procedure:
A case is marked non-complaint when Landlords are without a Rental License and/or a Certificate of Rental Suitability. If you cannot produce those documents in court, you will not be able to proceed. Quite simply, if you do not have those documents you cannot collect rent in Philadelphia or obtain a judgment for possession.

If you have those documents, but they were not in effect for the entire time at issue, then you will be denied a portion of the rent. For example, if you filed an action for January through May rent, but you only obtained the Certificate of Rental Suitability on April 30, 2018, you will only be able to collect rent for the month of May.

If you have a non-compliance issue in your case, you must remain in the courtroom until the Judge explains the non-compliance issue. Afterwards, the court may permit mediation between the Landlord and Tenant, or their attorneys. If the Tenant is not present and the case is marked non-compliant, the case will remain on hold until the Judge reviews it. Once the Judge reviews it, the Judge may, depending on the circumstances, approve and enter a default judgment.  Click Here To Download: Notice of Noncompliance

Lawyer’s Disclosure:
If only one party is represented, the lawyer for the represented party must read a disclosure to the unrepresented party. That statement must be filled out, and signed by the unrepresented party and attorney, and then submitted to the court with any judgment by agreement the parties reach. Although often time-consuming, it is preferable to reach a judgment by agreement than to try a case because a judgment by agreement waives a Tenant’s right to appeal. In addition, the judgment by agreement gives the parties more control than they will have if they try the case before a judge.  Click Here To Download: Lawyers Disclosure

Judgment by Agreement Court Approval:
If you reach a judgment by agreement, an attorney employed by the court must verify all issues were addressed to each party’s satisfaction. The court attorney does so by reading a certification that all issues were addressed. The parties must sign this form.
Click Here To Download: Click Here To Download: Judgment By Agreement

The new procedures create a longer court day for Landlords, and may make it more difficult for you to reach a judgment by agreement with your Tenant. If you would like to read them ahead of time, copies of the forms discussed in this article are via the links above.

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