By: Steven M. Williams
In a recent case, the Commonwealth Court struck down a Pittsburgh ordinance that would have required landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers from tenants. In Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh v. Pittsburgh, the Court concluded that the Ordinance can not stand because it violated Pittsburgh’s Home Rule Charter.
In 2015, the City enacted Ordinance 2015-2062, which expanded the fair housing protected classes in the City to include “source of income.” The Ordinance defines source of income as “all lawful sources of income or rental assistance program, including . . . all forms of public assistance including . . . the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.” In its analysis of the case, the Court considered all of the requirements that a landlord must meet to participate in the Section 8 Program, such as getting approval before increasing rents, revising leases to included mandatory language, removing notice to quit waivers, and accepting a mandatory cure period in the case of nonpayment of rent, to name a few.
The Court noted that the Ordinance effectively required that all landlords participate in the Section 8 Program, whereas before the Ordinance was enacted, participation was wholly voluntary. As a result, the Ordinance created and imposed upon landlords “duties, responsibilities and requirements,” which is prohibited under the Home Rule Law.
It is unknown whether the City will appeal the Commonwealth Court’s decision. But, at least for now, landlords in Pittsburgh are not obligated to participate in the Section 8 Program or accept Section 8 vouchers. This could change if the City appeals.
Landlords are cautioned, however, that this decision is limited in its effect and does not mean that landlords across Pennsylvania are entitled to refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers. Specifically, the Court did not rule that municipalities cannot require landlords to participate in Section 8 Program. In fact, some do. Rather, the Court merely determined that the Ordinance violated the Home Rule Law. Thus, the Court’s decision only impacts landlords in the City of Pittsburgh.