By Shira Holtz

The Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act (Act 90) was passed by the state of Pennsylvania in 2010 to crack down on neglectful landlords and properties that are unsafe or against code. It gives cities the ability to deny certain permits to landlords if they own a property with serious code violations or a “nuisance” property. A lien, which means taking possession of someone’s property until their debt is paid back, can also be placed on a landowner’s assets if they own a nuisance property.

It also outlines creating a designated housing court, which makes it possible to more quickly prosecute landlords that have allowed their properties to fall out of code. There is currently a major backlog of cases which means it can take months for a housing case to come before a judge. As of May 5, 2021, Allentown City Council has proposed the creation of a housing court.

As a whole, the act describes ways to stop landlords from neglecting properties and prevent them from increasing the number of out of code properties. This bill passed with “yes” votes from all members of the PA general assembly, but it’s up to each city, including Allentown, to utilize it on their own.

Under the current system, if tenants call the city over property concerns, they run the risk of their home getting tagged as uninhabitable which could leave them scrambling for new housing. Essentially, this encourages tenants to not report major issues since they can’t guarantee that they’ll continue to have a place to live. Act 90 could be crucial in holding landlords accountable while protecting their tenants. First step for Allentown? They need to digitize their inspection records to allow the city to identify problem landlords, something the city says they are working on.

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