Housing and Utilities

Landlord/Tenant Issues

Tenants have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their residences, and the obligation to pay rent to the landlord. Similarly, the landlord has the obligation to provide a safe and secure premises and the right to collect rent. Tenants unable to afford to pay rent should contact a case manager to inquire about eligibility for a rent subsidy. A tenant who fails to pay rent can be evicted, but the landlord must take certain legal steps. To begin the eviction process, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant to move by a specific date. If the tenant does not move, the landlord can file an eviction complaint in court.  If the landlord wins in court, the tenant has 10 days to appeal the court’s decision, and remain in the residence. A tenant who does not appeal has a minimum of 21 days to move.

To file an appeal, a tenant may be required to put any money owed in an account with the court. The court has special payment plans for low-income tenants. The tenant must keep paying rent into the court’s account every month, while the appeal is pending. Failure to keep paying the rent will cause the appeal to be dismissed. A landlord cannot change the locks, shut off the utilities, or evict a tenant in any way without getting a court order. Tenants illegally locked out should call 911 to ask for the police assistance in getting back into the premises. Once the police determine that the lockout is illegal, they should order the landlord to allow the tenant to enter the premises immediately. A landlord who refuses can be arrested.

Tenants with health problems who are unable to pay their utility bills may request a “medical certification” form from the gas or electric company to keep the service on. The tenant’s health care provider must complete the form certifying a qualifying medical condition. The certification should provide the tenant with enough time to resolve any unpaid bills or get on an alternative payment plan.


The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) season has been extended– LIHEAP cash and crisis grants will continue to be accepted though April 26, 2013. For more LIHEAP info, click here.

                (posted 4/3/13)

PA Superior Court Backs Tenant’s Rights. Click here for more info.

                 (posted 4/1/13)



Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program: Homeowners who are at least three months delinquent on their mortgage may be eligible for assistance through HEMAP (Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program). They will be directed to a local counseling agency for help completing a HEMAP application. They should take all paperwork regarding their mortgage delinquency with them to that meeting, including an Act 6 notice, if they have received one. Homeowners interested in more information about HEMAP may contact toll-free during weekday business hours at 1-800-342-2397. More information also is available online at www.phfa.org/counseling/hemap.aspx. Or call us for assistance Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at (215) 587-9377.

Financially Interdependent Persons: Did you know a City of Philadelphia law allows property transfers between same-sex domestic partners to be tax-exempt? You are a Financially Interdependent Person, or FIP, if you are living together with someone as a single household and, for at least six months, have agreed to “share the common necessities of life and to be responsible for each other’s common welfare.” That could also include a family member, such as a cousin. Information is available below; for help with a transfer, call us at (215) 587-9377 between 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. To learn more, a copy of the law is here, the final regulations are here, forms are here and here, and some helpful background is here. (Note: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not recognize an exemption for property transfers between Financially Interdependent Persons, and so the transfer will be subject to the 1% Realty Transfer Tax imposed by the state.)

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program: Senior citizens and people with disabilities who live in Pennsylvania are encouraged to apply by June 30, 2012 for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program, which provides rebates of up to $975 to residents who meet program criteria. Free application assistance is available at Revenue district offices (listed in the government section of local phone books), local Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers and state legislators’ offices. For more information, click here, or call, toll-free, 1-888-222-9190.

HIV & Housing Advocacy Manual  
Includes copies of medical certifications needed to continue medically-necessary utility service. (See Appendix F, G.)

Philadelphia Police Department’s Citizen Information Bulletin on Illegal Lock-outs

Partners for Good Housing a publication of Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections outlines the responsibilities of owners, tenants and landlords for maintaining houses and apartment in a safe and clean condition.