Ms. C, a survivor of domestic violence, was referred to the Civil Justice Clinic by Community Legal Services last spring when she was facing the loss of her home at an upcoming eviction hearing in Philadelphia Municipal Court. Ms. C’s housing is subsidized through the federal Housing Choice Voucher program so she also faced the potential loss of her housing subsidy if evicted. Her primary goal was to remain in her home because she felt most safe there; seven years prior, she had obtained an emergency transfer to this location in response to the domestic abuse she suffered.
Ms. C faced this possible loss of her refuge due to her landlord filing an eviction action against her for non-payment of rent. In fact, Ms. C had been purposely withholding the rent because her stove had stopped working. Despite repeated notice to her landlord, the Housing Authority, and the City’s Licensing and Inspections Office, her stove remained unrepaired until a few days prior to the hearing date. Yet her landlord still tried to recover over $4,000 in rent, late fees and attorney’s fees from Ms. C.
CJC student Cody Wilcoxson ’18 investigated the facts and researched the law. Cody identified the implied warranty of habitability as a defense and discovered that the landlord’s claim for attorney’s fees was in violation of the lease. Though prepared to litigate the matter, when Cody arrived at court, he found opposing counsel amenable to settling the case. During extensive negotiations, Cody discovered that the landlord had entered into two separate leases: one that was approved by the Housing Authority, and one that actually violated the HUD regulations. Because Ms. C’s number one priority was to stay in the unit and maintain a positive relationship with the landlord, Cody negotiated an agreement under which Ms. C would keep her home and pay a reduced sum on an affordable installment plan.
Ms. C recently completed the installment plan and the judgment against her was vacated. She continues residing in the apartment where she feels most safe and secure.