CJP’s housing practice focuses on systemic litigation and advocacy to protect the rights of low-income tenants and homeowners across Pennsylvania. This includes, but is not limited to, fair housing litigation, litigation to protect the rights of subsidized housing tenants, mobile home park litigation, litigation and advocacy to prevent mass displacements, lead paint advocacy and litigation, tax equity litigation, and consumer housing litigation. Some recent examples of our work include the following:
Butler et al. v. Sundo et al., U.S. District Court for the Western District of PA:
CJP filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a survivor of domestic violence who was experiencing domestic violence and stalking at her home. CJP also represented the Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh in the suit. The suit involved claims under the Fair Housing Act and the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practice and Consumer Protection Law, Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act and Landlord and Tenant Act. The FHA claims revolved around the landlord’s refusal to allow the tenant to terminate her lease early after she informed the landlord that she feared for her safety in the home, due to the continued threat of domestic violence and stalking on the premises. The plaintiffs alleged that the Landlord’s policy and practices violated the FHA, because they had a disparate impact on victims of DV, who are disproportionately female. In his Opinion denying Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, Judge Ranjan of the Western District of Pennsylvania found that survivors of domestic violence are members of a protected class under the FHA and that a facially neutral policy of refusing early lease terminations and of accelerating rent when tenants vacate early can have a disparate impact on survivors of domestic violence. This decision was the first in the Third Circuit to find that DV survivors are protected under the FHA and the first in the country to find that early lease termination policies can result in unlawful disparate impact discrimination.
Following the court’s decision on the Motion to Dismiss, the parties agreed to a settlement that included both monetary and equitable remedies, including the negotiation of a model lease provision to be added in all of the Defendants’ leases expressly permitting early lease termination in the event of domestic violence or stalking in the home.
Lingenfelter, et al. v. Barnyard Properties, Indiana Court of Common Pleas:
Residents at the Groundhog Mobile Home Park had no water from October 2019 to March 2020 due the park owner’s failure to maintain the water system. Plaintiffs moved for and obtained a preliminary injunction from the court, requiring Defendant to promptly repair the leaks in the water system using the services of a qualified professional. At the end of March 2020, the company retained by Defendant finished its work, which consisted of completely replacing all the water pipes in the park. The parties subsequently entered into a consent order requiring Defendant to maintain and promptly repair any future malfunction of the park’s water system and enjoining Defendant from attempting in any way to collect rent from Plaintiffs for the period from October 2019 through May 2020.
Skotch et al. v. Lackawanna County (Lackawanna CCP 2018):
We filed a lawsuit against Lackawanna County, challenging its method for assessing property taxes and seeking for the County to conduct a reassessment. We alleged that the way that Lackawanna County assessed its property taxes resulted in unequal taxation, including in owners of low value homes paying a disproportionate share of the tax burden. After several years of litigation, we and Lackawanna County agreed to the entry of a stipulated order requiring Lackawanna County to conduct a county-wide property tax reassessment. The reassessment, which will impact all of Lackawanna County’s approximately 100,000 properties, is now underway. We anticipate that the reassessment will help lower property taxes for thousands of over-assessed property owners, especially the owners of lower-value properties.
US ex rel. Freedom Unlimited et al. v. the City of Pittsburgh et al., U.S. District Court for the Western District of PA:
This case was filed to redress the City of Pittsburgh’s alleged non-compliance with three critically important conditions of payment under the federal Community Development Block Grants program. Following extensive litigation, including before the Third Circuit, the parties eventually engaged in settlement discussions and reached an agreement, approved by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Court. Under the settlement agreement, the City of Pittsburgh will, among other things:
- Hire (in consultation with the Plaintiffs) an independent expert to monitor, assess, recommend, and implement changes to the City’s Citizen Participation process, which will continue through at least the preparation of the City’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan for FY 2025-2029;
- Issue an Executive Order affirming the City’s commitment to spend CDBG funding only on eligible activities, including that the City will not use CDBG funding for regular street paving;
- Provide the Plaintiffs an opportunity and process to review and object to the eligibility of any CDBG-funded activity for a three-year period, with any disputes being submitted to HUD for its final determination;
- Support all reasonable efforts from the Plaintiffs and their constituents to expand the City’s Inclusionary Zoning policy into their neighborhoods; and
- Commit to achieving the goal of developing 1,000 new affordable housing units in the City in seven years, including units with three or more bedrooms and rents affordable to families at or below 50% of area mean income in higher-opportunity neighborhoods that are not concentrated by race or poverty, through the City’s Housing Opportunity Fund (“HOF”).
Chambers v. McFarland, Middle District of Pennsylvania:
CJP worked with MidPenn Legal Services on a case involving sexual harassment in a Low-Income Housing Tax Credit property. CJP filed a hostile environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment lawsuit against the property’s maintenance manager, the management company, and the landlord under the Fair Housing Act. In denying Defendants’ motion to dismiss, the District Court affirmed that sexual harassment that occurs in a person’s housing is unlawful sex discrimination. CJP then reached a settlement in the lawsuit. As part of the settlement, the landlord and management company agreed to implement an anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy, which CJP drafted, and to provide comprehensive training for its employees regarding fair housing.
Roosevelt Building Litigation:
In January 2023, CJP filed an emergency injunction to prevent the immediate, unlawful displacement of tenants at the Roosevelt Building in Pittsburgh. After the building was partially damaged by a fire, the landlord attempted to displace all of the tenants during repairs without offering alternative housing. We successfully sued to prevent the tenants from being evicted with no place to go. The litigation is ongoing at this time. Press coverage is available here.
Cornerstone Residence, Inc. v. City of Clairton et al.:
We represented a non-profit corporation which sought to operate a recovery home for individuals suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. The City of Clairton initially denied an occupancy permit to operate this home in a single-family home, a former church rectory, based on a zoning ordinance provision which would limit this use to an industrial zone. We successfully obtained Common Pleas and Commonwealth Court decisions holding that the City of Clairton should have granted an occupancy permit.