Illegal or “Self-Help” Evictions happen when landlords attempt to remove tenants from their homes illegally without proper court authority. For example, a landlord might change locks on the tenant’s apartment or turnoff the utilities to try and force the tenant out. These actions cause many tenants in the City of Philadelphia to experience a housing crisis by way of eviction.
In an effort to combat the crisis, the Illegal Evictions Action Team was created. This group consists of representatives from various organizations collaborating on ways to prevent Illegal Evictions and provide resources to City residents. The working group consists of individuals from the following organizations:
AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Citizens Police Oversight Commission (CPOC)
Community Legal Services
Fair Housing Commission
Health, Education and Legal Assistance Project: A Medical-Legal Partnership (HELP:MLP)
Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc. (JAMS)
Homeless Advocacy Project
Legal Clinic for the Disabled
Office of Attorney General
Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity
Office of Criminal Justice
Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Office of Homeless Services
Office of LGBT Affairs
Office of Criminal Justice
Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations
Philadelphia Legal Assistance
Senior Law Center
Office of Special Advisor to the Commissioner – PPD
Tenant Union Representative Network
Philadelphia Housing Action
The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia
Utility Emergency Services Fund (UESF)
The Illegal Evictions Action Team is divided into subcommittees to strengthen the group by working according to backgrounds of expertise. The team’s goal is to provide relief and assistance to tenants by implementing recommendations and advocating for reforms to improve police response to Illegal Evictions. The subcommittees include the following:
- Community Based Response – Responsible for building a network of community organizations across the City. Information such as educational flyers containing information on tenants’ rights and resources when facing Illegal Evictions is handed out to community organizations for distribution in neighborhoods.
- Police Department – Responsible for working with the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) for input regarding policies and procedures to be implemented to improve PPD responses to Illegal Eviction scenarios.
- Education – Responsible for education courses facilitated at faith-based organizations in various neighborhoods across the City. Provides a range of resources needed when facing Illegal Evictions.
- Licenses and Inspections – Responsible for issues regarding licenses and inspections and establishing contacts.
Tenants are advised to contact the Police when an Illegal Eviction occurs; however, some City residents have made complaints regarding how the Police handle the evictions. Some Police Officers may not follow the Philadelphia Police Department Directive which defines Self-Help Evictions and provides clear direction that police personnel will enforce laws prohibiting the evictions. The Illegal Evictions Action Team assists with educating and providing resources to ensure Directives are followed to prevent Illegal Evictions.
CPOC has a unique position with the Illegal Evictions Action Team as the independent civilian oversight agency for the Police Department. This strengthens our ability to not only provide education to Police Officers, landlords and tenants, but to improve the relationship between the community and the PPD. Self-Help Evictions can be complicated and understanding the role Police Officers play in the process is crucial to resolution. The Illegal Evictions Action Team was created to bring together representatives from CPOC and other organizations to educate parties and provide service to assist with resolving the Self-Help Evictions.
For more information on PPD’s responsibilities, you can access the Police Department’s Directive 3.17 Prohibition Against Self-Help Eviction Practices here.