Pottstown Rental Inspections Challenge Proceeds

POTTSTOWN PA – A lawsuit against the borough of Pottstown that claims it engaged in “unconstitutional rental inspections” of homes will proceed to the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, attorneys said in a statement Monday (Jan. 6, 2020), after the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania overturned a lower court ruling to the benefit of their clients.

Lawyers from the Virginia-based non-profit Institute for Justice – representing Pottstown tenants Dottie and Omar Rivera, landlord Steve Camburn, and residents Thomas, Kathleen, and Rosemarie O’Connor – reported the Commonwealth Court vacated and remanded “a lower court’s ruling in favor of Pottstown in a lawsuit challenging the borough’s rental inspection ordinance.” It also reversed trial court orders “denying discovery to the Pottstown residents who challenged the law.”

The result, the institute claims, allows the lawsuit to proceed on remand, and ensures “residents will have a full record of how these inspections are actually conducted.”

The lawsuit was first filed during March 2017 in the Court of Common Pleas, naming the borough and its director of licensing and inspections, Keith Place, as defendants. It alleges Pottstown had no probable cause to conduct an inspection of the Rivera’s home, despite passage of a 2015 borough ordinance requiring biennial inspections of rental units.

Commonwealth Court rejected the borough’s argument that, in order for tenants to challenge the law, they would must first submit to rental inspections, according to institute attorney Rob Peccola. “To require Tenants to endure the inspections before challenging the inspection requirement would render Tenants’ Article I, Section 8 privacy rights illusory,” the Court declared.

“We are thrilled that the Commonwealth Court has recognized the Pennsylvania Constitution’s strong protections of property rights,” Peccola added. “Pottstown’s rental inspections regime is a way to get around constitutional protections for privacy rights, and we look forward to litigating this case based on the facts.”

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