Housing Code Violations
How the Building Construction and Occupancy Code is Enforced
The City enforces the Building Construction and Occupancy Code by sending inspectors to examine housing conditions. The Department of Licenses and
Inspections is authorized and directed by law to conduct such inspections at reasonable times. Inspectors must show proper identification. The inspector will secure a warrant from a court if the owner or tenant refuses to allow access.
When a violation is found, the Department notifies the responsible party – either the landlord, the tenant, or the homeowner. That person is told to correct the violation within a certain period of time.
At the end of that time, there will be a re-inspection. If the person has not corrected the violation, the Department lists the case for a hearing before the Municipal Court and the person is notified of the date to appear. The Municipal Court is empowered to fine the guilty party.
The Department is also authorized to correct any violations which are considered unsafe or hazardous, if the violations are not corrected. The City charges the cost of the corrections to the violator and, with the approval of the Law Department, can collect the cost by liens on the property.
The Department may also purchase and supply heat to tenants on an emergency basis between October and May when the heat does not meet the minimum requirements of the law.
DESIGNATION OF DWELLINGS AS “UNFIT FOR HUMAN HABITATION”
When the Department finds that any dwelling is a serious hazard to the health or safety of the occupants or to the public because it is unsanitary, vermin-infested, or lacking in the required facilities and equipment, the Department can designate the dwelling as “Unfit for Human Habitation”.
Any dwelling designated as unfit shall be vacated within a reasonable time specified by the Department. It shall not be used for human habitation until the hazard has been eliminated and the Department has removed the designation and given written approval for occupancy.
For Your Information:
* Persons who must vacate an unfit dwelling can request help in finding housing.
Contact the Office of Emergency Shelter and Services, 1340 Cherry Street,
Philadelphia, PA. Phone Number: 215-686-7150
SPECIAL NEIGHBORHOOD PROBLEMS
UNSAFE OR IMMINENTLY DANGEROUS BUILDINGS
When a neighborhood has buildings that are a serious hazard to the health or safety of the people living in them or to the public, a complaint may be filed with the Department of Licenses and Inspections and the building will be inspected. The Department may order the buildings to be vacated, secured from trespass, made safe by repairs, or demolished.
Owners are responsible for keeping all openings in vacant buildings sealed and the premises clear and free of debris. If the owner fails to meet this obligation, the Department may arrange to clean and seal the building and bill the owner for the costs.
The Department may also consider a dilapidated vacant building as “unsafe” and order it demolished. When a vacant building is demolished, the Department requires the contractor to maintain the structural and weather integrity of any adjoining party walls.
Sometimes neighborhoods are harmed by the conversions of houses into apartments or by undesirable commercial or industrial uses.
The City has a zoning ordinance that protects neighborhoods from these conversions and harmful intrusions.
In cases where a variance is required for a new zoning use, a Zoning Notice must be posted on the property, indicating that a public hearing will be held on the proposed use.
Citizens who believe that there is a zoning violation in their neighborhood should file a complaint with the Department of Licenses and Inspections.
For Your Information:
* To file a complaint, contact the Department of Licenses and Inspections’ Services and Operations Unit. Telephone Number: 215-686-2463
HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT OR AN APPEAL COMPLAINTS
If the landlord is not carrying out his or her responsibilities, the tenant should tell the landlord what the problems are. If the landlord fails to act, the tenant should report the
problem to the Department of Licenses and Inspections, Services and Operations Unit, by calling 215-686-2463 or go to www.Phila.gov and in “Select a Department” select Licenses and Inspections. On the Department’s home page select “Complaints”.
When filing a complaint, the person must give his or her name and/or address, the address of the property, and the nature of the complaint. A case will be generated and referred to the appropriate inspection unit.
If an inspector is unable to enter the property, he or she will leave a card. The recipient is required to call the number on the card to arrange for an inspection.
The Department does not divulge the identity of a complainant and will not accept anonymous complaints.
Any person who believes that the Department has erred in some action that has been taken or wishes to obtain a variance from the requirements of the Building Construction and Occupancy Code, may appeal to the Department’s Boards Administrator. The
Administrator is located at the following:
Municipal Services Building
1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
Call 215-686-2427 for more information.