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July 10, 2014, 8:35 am

PHA updates leases

Rent collection key component

 

The Philadelphia Housing Authority has updated the terms of its leasing agreements for public housing residents, giving itself greater powers to evict, and imposing higher penalties for late rent payments.

Changes apply to leases for more than 13,000 households that rent housing owned and operated by the agency. Under new terms, effective April 1, the fee for late payment of rent was increased from $10 to $20; PHA now also has the authority to give less than 30 days’ notice to vacate for health and safety reasons, drug-related or violent criminal activity, or if a member of the household is convicted of a felony; terminate the lease of a family absent from a unit for more than 30 calendar days in a calendar year, unless they have notified the agency; take family members off the lease if they are absent for more than 30 calendar days in the calendar year, down from the old limit of 180 days; reduces the time limits for guests to 15 consecutive days or 30 cumulative days within a 12-month period. The old limitation was 30 consecutive days and 90 cumulative days; changes in family composition have to be reported within 15 days of the date of the change, a reduction of one-half.

According to a statement from the housing authority, leases have not been updated for about 20 years.

“The housing authority and our residents have to work together so we can maintain our properties at the highest level, and ensure a safe environment for all,” said Michael P. Kelly, the agency’s administrative receiver/executive director.

Keith Caldwell, executive general manager of housing operations for PHA, said the lease revisions were made after consulting with residents, resident leadership, and Community Legal Services. The agency held 16 community meetings to inform residents of the changes and receive their feedback.

“We have to sustain the property and to do that, you have to make sure folks are doing the right thing, and that they are being held accountable,” he said.

Rent collection is especially important in light of federal funding cuts. PHA collects an estimated $25 million in rent from its residents annually.

The lease changes do not affect housing choice voucher (Section 8) recipients, or those who live at PHA’s newer, tax credit sites, which are privately managed and have different leases.