Senators Announce Legislation to Prohibit Use of Private Contractors in Enforcing Evictions

EvictionImage via Pennsylvania Senate Democrats

PHILADELPHIA, PA — In response to the shooting of a Philadelphia resident by a private contractor during an attempted eviction, Senators Nikil Saval (D–Philadelphia County) and Sharif Street (D–Philadelphia County) this week introduced legislation to ensure that public offices, not private entities, are tasked with serving and enforcing writs of possession, alias writs, and other orders stemming from Landlord-Tenant cases.

In Philadelphia, the Municipal Court grants authority to a private law office, known as a Landlord Tenant Officer, to perform evictions. The law office receives millions of dollars in eviction-related fees to contract and “deputize” private security officers to conduct onsite lockouts.

“The use of private contractors creates a system in which an operator enters a home with no regulation, no oversight, and no accountability,” said Senator Saval. “Evictions are already violent, dangerous, destabilizing events—for the household and for the surrounding community. We cannot allow this arrangement to continue for a moment longer. The forced removal of a person from their home is an area of grave public concern and must be subject to democratic control.”

“Housing is dignity and security, and these tenets should exist throughout the process,” said Senator Street. “It is absurd to allow private entities to use force to evict vulnerable people from their homes. Our proposed legislation will ensure that public offices, not profit-driven entities, are responsible for enforcing writs of possession and other orders related to Landlord-Tenant cases. It’s time we put the wellbeing and safety of our communities first.”

In most jurisdictions across Pennsylvania, the County Sheriff or other public offices are responsible for handling evictions. In allowing for the use of private contractors, Philadelphia is an outlier. While the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office is empowered to do this work and regularly performs evictions and ejectments in cases that are resolved in the city’s Court of Common Pleas, most eviction judgments rendered in the city’s Municipal Court are enforced by the private Landlord-Tenant Officer.

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The forthcoming legislation amends Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Code to clarify that courts throughout the Commonwealth cannot appoint private companies or individuals to perform evictions.

The full co-sponsorship memorandum can be read here.

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