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Politics & Government
00000176-e6f7-dce8-adff-f6f771360000Keystone Crossroads: Rust or Revival? explores the urgent challenges pressing upon Pennsylvania's cities. Four public media newsrooms are collaborating to report in depth on the root causes of our state's urban crisis -- and on possible solutions. Keystone Crossroads offers reports on radio, web, social media, television and newspapers, and through public events.Our partner stations are WHYY in Philadelphia, WPSU in State College and witf in Harrisburg. Read all of the partner stories here.Pittsburgh’s WQED joins the collaboration as an associate partner. Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Judge Strikes Down Ban On Renting To Felons

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Lindsay Lazarski
/
WHYY

 

A Cambria County judge has overturned a borough's prohibition against renting to drug felons.

Judge Tamara Bernstein issued the ruling Thursday, more than four months after Darcy Smith sued the borough of Gallitzin.

Smith, 38, filed her lawsuit after getting an eviction notice upon moving into a new home with her three children. She'd been living elsewhere in the Gallitzin since her release from prison over a year prior.

Gallitzin is one of at least three communities in Pennsylvania where landlords cannot lease to people convicted of a drug felony within the past seven years . The other two are Sunbury, in Northumberland County, and Mifflinburg, in Union County.

Ruling details

Bernstein ruled the state's Sentencing and Parole Codes and Landlord-Tenant Act both supersede Gallitzin's ordinance.

She wrote that landlords can't evict tenants simply to comply with the borough's rules because a criminal record isn't one of three justifiable reasons laid out in the Landlord-Tenant Act: the lease expiring, tenant violation of its terms or nonpayment by the tenant.

Aside from that, Bernstein sided with the defense's contention that landlords who attempt to follow state law and Gallitzin's ordinance would face an undue financial burden. State law gives tenants the right to a hearing (absent in the Gallitzin ordinance) and requires at least two weeks' notice for evictions — during which time, the borough could fine $1,000 per day. 

Find more of this report on the site of our partner, Keystone Crossroads