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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Luxury apartment buildings are going up, rents are going up, and guess what else? Evictions are going up as more and more people are being tossed out of their apartments for non-payment of rent.
“We have a crisis in housing in this city. Poor people are being forced out of the city,” said Mel Packer, an affordable housing advocate.
Recently-elected District Justice Mik Pappas ran on a platform of stemming that tide by making landlords more accountable in court.
“There are good actors on the side of lessors and there are bad actors on the side of lessors, and what I promise to do is give great defense to the rights of all parties involved in each case,” Pappas said.
But those lessors, or landlords, are crying foul. They are filing complaints the Court Administrator’s Office saying Pappas has come down squarely on the side of the tenants — continuing or postponing cases, not granting evictions, and when he does evict, not requiring the tenant to pay the back rent owed.
“These are people who have been in arrears for months and months and months at a time,” said James Eichenlaub, of the Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh. “This isn’t someone who hasn’t paid last months rent.”
The landlords cite more than a dozen cases where they say Pappas is not following the law, not moving to evict even when tenants are seven or eights month behind in rent.
“Be an advocate for the tenants then, if you want to do that sort of thing,” said Eichenlaub. “But you’re a judge now. You have to be a neutral party in those cases.”
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According to Neighborhood Legal Services, evictions topped 13,000 in Allegheny County in 2016 and were on a pace last year to be the most in a decade.
Pappas says he’s merely demanding that landlords provide his court rental agreements, accurate property records and demonstrate cleanliness of their units.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to covert some of these possibly bad actors into good actors,” says Pappas.