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Crime, law & justice

File a complaint about unfair rental practices

Due to COVID-19, the Fair Housing Commission is holding its hearings online. If you have questions about the process, contact the commission at (215) 686-4670.

The Philadelphia Fair Housing Ordinance protects tenants against certain unfair rental practices by landlords. If you believe that you have been a victim of unfair rental practices, you can file a complaint with the Fair Housing Commission.

Not all complaints can be accepted by the commission. Some actions by your landlord may be unfair and possibly illegal, but they may not be considered unfair rental practices under the Fair Housing Ordinance.

Likewise, if your landlord filed a complaint in municipal court before your Fair Housing complaint is filed, the commission is not permitted to accept your complaint.

Who can file a complaint

Philadelphia residents may file a complaint to the Fair Housing Commission. In most cases, you need to live in the property at the time of your complaint and hearing.

The Fair Housing Ordinance covers Section 8 housing, but not Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) or Housing and Urban Development (HUD) properties.

Types of unfair rental practices

Common illegal actions by landlords include:

  • Terminating a lease or changing its terms when a property is cited for a code violation.
  • Terminating a lease due to an incident of domestic violence or sexual assault, or based on a tenant’s status as a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
  • Terminating a lease of less than one year without good cause.
  • Retaliating against a tenant for exercising a legal right.
  • Attempting to evict a tenant without first going through the court process.

You can learn more about unfair rental practices on the Fair Housing Commission’s website. You can also refer to Chapter 9-804 of the Philadelphia Code.

How to file a complaint

1
Gather your documents.

It’s helpful to have:

  • A copy of your lease. (Verbal leases are also accepted.)
  • All written documents between you and your landlord. For example, this might include:
    • Letters and proofs of mailing.
    • Emails.
    • Receipts for repairs that you made.

You may also want to gather:

  • Rent receipts (or proof of a rent withholding account or escrow account) for the last three months. In most cases, your rent needs to be current or you need to have a current withholding account.
  • Utility bills.
  • Certified postal receipts.
  • Your six-digit Licenses and Inspections service file number.
2
Complete the intake form.

If you need help filling out the form, contact the Fair Housing Commission at (215) 686-4670 or fairhousingcomm@phila.gov.

3
Submit your intake form by mail, fax, or email.

You can mail your form to:

Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission
The Curtis Center
601 Walnut St., Suite 300 South
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Alternatively, you can fax your form to (215) 686-4684 or email it to fairhousingcomm@phila.gov.

4
Sign a formal complaint.

As a part of the intake process, you’ll speak with a member of the Fair Housing Commission staff. If your case is accepted, you will be asked to sign a formal complaint.

What happens next

Arranging a hearing

You and your landlord will receive a copy of the formal complaint by mail. You’ll also receive a hearing notice with the date and time when you are to appear before the Fair Housing Commission.

If your landlord files against you in court after you’ve put in a complaint with the Fair Housing Commission, contact our office and fax us a copy of the court notice you received.

How the hearing works

At the Fair Housing Commission hearing, the commissioners will listen to testimony from both the tenant and the landlord. Both sides can present evidence, such as letters and receipts, as well as witness testimony.

The tenant and the landlord may have an attorney present. After both sides have presented their case, the commissioners will decide if an unfair rental practice occurred. The commissioners will then issue an order based on the evidence presented at the hearing.


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