By: Steven M. Williams and Carl L. Engel
Earlier this year, we wrote about the recent Commonwealth Court case, Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh v. Pittsburgh, in which the Court struck down a Pittsburgh ordinance that would require landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers from tenants because it violated Pittsburgh’s Home Rule Charter. We are writing again to provide an update on an important development in this case.
In 2015, Pittsburgh enacted Ordinance 2015-2062, which expanded the fair housing protected classes in the City to include “source of income.” The Court observed that before the ordinance was enacted, a landlord’s participation in the Section 8 program was wholly voluntary, but that the ordinance effectively required that all landlords participate in the Section 8 Program. As a result, the Court found that the ordinance created and imposed upon landlords “duties, responsibilities and requirements,” that are in violation of the Home Rule Charter.
In April, we covered the City of Pittsburgh’s Petition for Allowance of Appeal that asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to review the Commonwealth Court’s decision.
On September 9, 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted the City of Pittsburgh’s appeal and vacated the Commonwealth Court’s order. The Supreme Court instructed the Commonwealth Court to reconsider its order in light of the Supreme Court’s earlier decision in Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Ass’n v. City of Pittsburgh. In that case, which was decided in July 2019, the Supreme Court reviewed two Pittsburgh ordinances, each of which imposed obligations on businesses to determine if they violated the Home Rule Charter. The Supreme Court determined that if a state-wide law exists that grants the City the power to impose obligations on businesses, then the City could enact ordinances consistent with that state-wide law.
In the Apartment Association decision, the Commonwealth Court did not analyze whether there was a state-wide statute that allowed the City to enact the ordinance regarding Section 8 vouchers. The Supreme Court’s order to the Commonwealth Court makes clear that it wants the Commonwealth Court to review its prior decision and determine whether a state-wide statute exists that would support the City’s ordinance. We will continue to monitor this case and provide an update when the Commonwealth Court issues a new decision.
Cohen Seglias attorneys regularly represent landlords in all aspects of their businesses, including fair housing. For more information, or with questions regarding this case, please contact Steve Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717.480.5302 or Carl Engel at email@example.com or 267.238.4758.