By Jenna Stockfeder
In Allentown, landlords are leaving tenants in substandard living conditions and are driving rent through the roof as a result. It is being compared to a war between tenants and landlords over rent wages, and it has left a nagging relationship between them that is causing tension. According to the city council, the root of the problem is that many people are not aware of their rights as tenants and this is the main reason why the war rages so fiercely. According to Julian Kern, the president of the Allentown Tenant Association, renters are suffering and are moving to find cheaper rent.
According to the Eviction Lab, 1.78 households in Allentown are evicted every day and 2.79 in 100 renter homes are evicted each year. Renters are faced with poor living conditions. At the same time, they are being asked to pay exorbitant rent for perhaps the smallest of amenities. Negligible landlords are subject to laws that have been enacted. These laws aim to punish bad landlords but reporting a landlord runs the risk of getting evicted due to unsafe conditions. The landlord licensing bill ultimately costs $75 a year for each rented apartment or house. This small fee would cover the cost of four additional code inspectors who would be assigned to rental properties; However, these laws are not strictly enforced. But Allentown is still working to better track bad landlords. Recently, Allentown officials announced they plan to use a software program called EnerGov. When Energy Gov goes live, it will be able to conduct real-time inspections that are scheduled allowing an updated status on the conditions of rental properties. When this software is available, it might be helpful to determine whether or not a repair is needed immediately or in the near future, for instance. In a post on Facebook, a tenant complained that her security deposit had been taken from her due to paint chips on the walls, a damaged carpet, and a bullet hole in the wall that was not repaired by the previous tenants. It is possible for her to take legal action against the negligent landlord to get her money back.
“The goal in Allentown is to educate renters about their rights, and to continue to advocate for better rental conditions as well as push for action to be taken against absentee landlords and slumlords who are exploiting renters,” said Kern. When renters don’t know their rights, they can end up in difficult situations. For example, an Allentown tenant posted to the Allentown Tenants Association Facebook group explaining how their landlord had sent a repairman to their apartment without previous notice. That repairman came unannounced into their home and then reported that the apartment was cluttered to the landlord. If the tenant had known her rights she could have denied the service since she was not given 24 hours notice. It was reported by another tenant that her landlord had taken her security deposit as a result of chipped paint, damaged carpet, and a gunshot hole, all of which were left behind by their previous tenant. If anyone is facing the issue of negligible landlords the first step is to document the issue by sending the landlord a letter via certified mail stating what the issues are and how they affect your living situation. Tenants are also encouraged to learn their rights. After a reasonable amount of time is given to fix the issues further legal action can be taken. There are a number of ways that you can get legal assistance such as contacting North Penn Legal Services, which provides free legal advice, or the Allentown Tenant Association, which can provide direct assistance.