City of Harrisburg, PA
Dauphin County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Harrisburg by Ord. No. 19-1970. Amendments noted where applicable.]
CROSS-REFERENCES
Authority: see 35 P.S. § 1700-1.
Unsafe buildings: see Ch. 8-101.

§ 8-507.1 Suspension of duty to pay rent.

[Ord. No. 31-1977]
Notwithstanding any other provision of law or any agreement, whether oral or written, whenever the Director of Building and Housing Development (Director), through the Bureau of Codes Enforcement (Bureau), certifies a dwelling unfit for human habitation, the duty of any tenant of such dwelling to pay, and the right of the landlord to collect, rent shall be suspended without affecting any other terms or conditions of the landlord-tenant relationship until the dwelling is certified as fit for human habitation, as provided for hereinafter, or until the passage of six months from the date of such certification, whichever occurs first.

§ 8-507.2 Determination of fitness of dwelling for human habitation. [1]

The Director or a designee shall establish in writing a system to be utilized for the purpose of determining whether or not a dwelling is fit or unfit for human habitation for the purposes of this chapter. Said system shall set forth in detail conditions or a combination of conditions which render a dwelling fit or unfit for human habitation. The criteria utilized in establishing said system shall be consistent with the provisions of International Building Code Section 115 as contained in Chapter 8-101 of the Codified Ordinances and the International Property Maintenance Code as contained in Chapter 8-107 of the Codified Ordinances.
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1-303).

§ 8-507.3 Duties of Bureau of Codes Enforcement.

A. 
It shall be the duty of the Bureau of Codes Enforcement to inspect dwellings within the City to determine whether any such dwellings are unfit for human habitation in accordance with the criteria established by the Director as provided in § 8-507.2 and Chapter 8-101 of these Codified Ordinances. Upon making such a determination, the Bureau shall immediately prepare a written report substantiating its finding and submit said report to the Director.
B. 
Upon written request of a tenant, the Bureau shall inspect a dwelling for the purpose of determining whether it is unfit for human habitation. In the event of such request, the procedure set forth in Subsection A shall be followed.
[Ord. No. 31-1977]
C. 
Any reports, certifications, or written determinations required under this chapter shall be directed to the landlord and the tenant at their last known addresses by certified mail, return receipt requested.

§ 8-507.4 Certification of fitness of dwelling.

A. 
Upon the receipt by the Director or designee of reports from the Bureau relating to the unfitness of a dwelling for human habitation, and whether or not the tenant of such dwelling is current in the payment of rent to the landlord, the Director shall promptly consider the reports and, based on the contents thereof or any additional information obtained by the Director, determine whether such dwelling should be certified as being unfit for human habitation.
[Ord. No. 31-1977]
B. 
If a certification is issued signifying that a dwelling is unfit for human habitation, the Director shall immediately direct to both the landlord and the tenant copies of the report of the Bureau which substantiates the finding that the dwelling is unfit for human habitation, as well as a copy of the certification, together with a notification which shall advise both the landlord and the tenant that, until the property is certified as being fit for human habitation by the Director, at the election of the tenant, the right of the landlord to collect rent shall be suspended, and, until further notice, all rental payments shall be directed to the bank or trust company approved by the City for the purpose of holding such rental payments in an escrow account.
C. 
In any case where the Director proceeds pursuant to this section and a determination is made that the dwelling is fit for human habitation, the Director shall immediately notify the tenant, in writing, of the determination.
[Ord. No. 31-1977]

§ 8-507.5 Appeals; hearings.

A. 
Whenever any person is aggrieved by the administration of this chapter, such person shall have the right to request and have a hearing before the Building and Housing Code Board of Appeals ("Board"). The proceedings before the Board shall be in accordance with the provisions set forth in Chapter 8-501, except as otherwise provided in this section.
B. 
If any person so aggrieved desires a hearing, he or she shall, within five days after receiving any notification from the Director, as provided in § 8-507.4, advise the Board in writing of his or her request for a hearing.
C. 
After any such hearing, the Board shall issue a written order, based upon written findings of fact, affirming or revoking the certification of the Director. The Board shall immediately direct a copy of its order to both the landlord and the tenant.
D. 
The hearing before the Board shall be held and an order issued by the Board, all within 30 days from the date on which the Board received the request for a hearing from any aggrieved person.
E. 
If the Director certifies that a dwelling is unfit for human habitation, the duty to pay rent by the tenant shall remain suspended during the pendency of any proceedings before the Board, as well as during the pendency of any appeal from an order of the Board, but in no event longer than six months from the date of such certification. The suspension of the duty of the tenant to pay rent shall terminate upon the revocation of a certification of the Director which is final in nature. Upon such a revocation, the duty to pay rent shall be renewed, and any rent which was paid to an escrow agent shall be paid to the landlord, less any amount used to pay the cost of making the premises fit for human habitation or for the payment of utility services for which the landlord was obligated but refused or was unable to pay.
F. 
If the Director determines that a dwelling is fit for human habitation, the duty to pay rent shall continue during the pendency of any proceeding before the Board, as well as during the pendency of any appeal from an order of the Board thereon. However, the duty to pay rent shall terminate upon the revocation of the certification of the Director which is final in nature, and such suspension of the duty to pay shall continue for a period of six months from the date of any such revocation which is final in nature, subject to the provisions of § 8-507.8.
[Ord. No. 31-1977]

§ 8-507.6 Use of funds in escrow account.

A. 
Any funds deposited in escrow may be used for the purpose of making a dwelling fit for human habitation and for the payment of utility services for which the landlord is obligated but which he or she refuses or is unable to pay. All such payments shall be made at the direction of the Director or designee. Escrow funds may not be used for the purpose of making the dwelling fit for human habitation during the pendency of any appeal, unless the landlord and tenant agree to the use of such funds.
B. 
The landlord, the tenant, or the Bureau may submit to the Director requests for the payment of escrow funds for the purpose of the performance of work which will assist in making a dwelling fit for human habitation. Such requests shall be accompanied by a written description of the work to be performed, as well as a written estimate of the cost thereof, prepared by the contractor who is to perform said work.
C. 
If the landlord, tenant or Bureau requests the payment of escrow funds for the purpose of performance of work which will assist in making a dwelling fit for human habitation, the Director shall determine whether the contemplated use of such funds will assist in causing the dwelling to be fit for human habitation. Written notice of the determination of the Director shall be given to the landlord and the tenant, and in the event that the determination is favorable relative to the intended use of said funds, the notice shall set forth the specific purpose for which such funds are to be used, as well as the amounts thereof. Such notices shall be directed to each party by certified mail, return receipt requested. Any person who is aggrieved by the determination of the Director may request a hearing by the Board, and such hearing and all matters relating thereto shall be held in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 8-501.
D. 
If a determination is made that the contemplated use of escrow funds will assist in causing a dwelling to be fit for human habitation, and a hearing by the Board is not requested as aforesaid, or in the event a hearing is requested and a determination which is final in nature is made which provides that the funds are to be used as requested, then, in that event, the Director shall notify the contractor who is to perform repairs to the dwelling that the expense for the repairs will be paid from the funds in the escrow account.
E. 
The Bureau shall inspect any repairs made to a dwelling, the expenses for which are to be paid from the escrow account, prior to the time at which any funds are paid to a contractor. The Bureau shall then report to the Director whether the repairs were completed in a workmanlike fashion. The inspection and report must be made prior to the date on which any funds are paid to the contractor. The Director or designee shall not have a duty to pay the contractor unless said repairs were completed in a workmanlike manner.

§ 8-507.7 Rent deposited in escrow account.

During any period when the duty to pay rent has been suspended and the tenant continues to occupy the dwelling, the rent withheld shall be deposited by the tenant in an escrow account in a bank or trust company approved by the City, which escrow account shall be the subject of an agreement between the City and the bank setting forth the conditions and terms of the escrow agreement.

§ 8-507.8 Duration of suspension.

A. 
The suspension of the duty of the tenant to pay rent to the landlord shall begin on the date on which the dwelling was certified as unfit for human habitation and shall continue for a period of six months or until the dwelling is certified as fit for human habitation, whichever is sooner. Such suspension may be renewed for successive periods of six months, pursuant to subsequent certification by the Director in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
[Ord. No. 31-1977]
B. 
Where the duty of the tenant is suspended and the tenant at any time thereafter during the suspension of said duty refuses to pay or discontinues paying rent into the escrow account for a period of 15 days after the withheld rent was due, the suspension of the duty to pay rent shall be ended automatically on the 15th day after the rent was due, and it shall again be the duty of the tenant to pay rent to the landlord. In such event, any funds remaining in the escrow account shall be paid to the landlord.

§ 8-507.9 Payment of escrow funds.

A. 
All sums paid into the escrow account, less any sum or sums utilized for the purpose of making a dwelling fit for human habitation or for the payment of utility services for which the landlord is obligated but which he or she refuses or is unable to pay, shall be paid to the landlord in the event the dwelling is certified as fit for human habitation within six months from the date on which it was certified as unfit for human habitation.
B. 
All sums paid into the escrow account, less any money utilized for the purpose of making the dwelling fit for human habitation or for payment for utility services for which the landlord is obligated but which he or she refuses or is unable to pay, shall be paid to the depositor of the escrow account if the dwelling has not been certified as fit for human habitation at the end of six months after the date on which the dwelling was certified as unfit for human habitation.
C. 
Notwithstanding the provisions of Subsections A and B hereof, no funds shall be paid to either the landlord or the depositor during the pendency of any proceedings before the Board or during the pendency of an appeal from an order of such Board. During the pendency of any such proceeding, the funds shall remain in the escrow account, subject to the terms and provisions of the escrow agreement and this chapter, and said funds shall not be disbursed to the landlord or the depositor, except after a final determination of the matter, at which time the funds will be disbursed in accordance with such determination.

§ 8-507.10 Request for certification of fitness.

At any time within six months from the date on which a dwelling has been certified as being unfit for human habitation, the landlord or the tenant may request in writing that the Director certify a dwelling as being fit for human habitation. The Director shall thereupon instruct the Bureau to inspect the premises to determine whether it is fit for human habitation. The Bureau shall prepare a written report to the Director substantiating the findings of its inspection. Based on said written report and any other additional information obtained, the Director shall certify whether or not said dwelling is fit for human habitation. Copies of said report and certification shall be directed to both the landlord and tenant at their last known addresses by certified mail, return receipt requested. Any party aggrieved by the determination of the Director may request and have a hearing before the Board, which hearing and all subsequent proceedings thereon shall be in accordance with the provisions of § 8-507.5 of this chapter.

§ 8-507.11 Negligent or willful conduct of tenant.

A. 
A dwelling shall not be certified as unfit for human habitation if the conditions responsible for such a determination are due to the negligent or willful conduct of the tenant, the tenant's agents or any person under the supervision or control of the tenant.
B. 
Where a dwelling has been certified as unfit for human habitation and a request is made by a landlord for a certification that the dwelling is fit for human habitation pursuant to § 8-507.10, such certification shall not be refused if, at the time of the request, the dwelling is unfit for human habitation because of conditions caused by negligent or willful conduct of the tenant, the tenant's agents or any person under the supervision or control of the tenant.

§ 8-507.12 Termination of tenancy where dwelling certified as fit.

Where, subsequent to the date on which a dwelling is certified to be fit for human habitation by the Director pursuant to § 8-507.10, the landlord thereof elects to terminate the tenancy of any person who was a tenant thereof on the date said dwelling was certified as being unfit for human habitation, other than for the reason that such tenant has violated his or her obligations as a tenant, including the obligation to pay rent at a rate no higher than that existing prior to the date of certification, then the landlord shall provide any tenant with written notice of the intention to terminate said tenancy at least six months prior to the date for termination, unless a lease between the parties provides for a longer period relative to notice of termination, in which event the longer period shall apply.

§ 8-507.13 Termination of tenancy where dwelling certified as unfit.

Where a dwelling is certified as being unfit for human habitation, and so long as the tenant thereof continues to pay the rent into escrow as provided in this chapter, the landlord shall be precluded from terminating the tenancy, and any notice of termination shall be ineffective and a nullity, other than for the reason that such tenant has violated obligations as a tenant, including the obligation to pay rent at a rate no higher than that existing prior to the date of certification.

§ 8-507.14 Delegation of authority.

Any duty conferred herein upon the Director of Building and Housing Development may be delegated in writing by the Director to any other official of the Department of Building and Housing Development, or, if no Director or Acting Director is in office, the Mayor may delegate to any official of the executive branch of City government the duties herein conferred upon the Director of the Department of Building and Housing Development.