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NEPA Landlord Tenant Homeowner Association Blog



Commentary on issues regarding property rights, this blog relays information on events past, present, and into the future in Northeast PA (USA). While facts are presented, an opinion may be thrown in the mix to make things more interesting. Corrections are welcomed by using the comments -  as long as we see documents to back it up.

As far as the comment part of this blog, we appreciated hearing from people literally all over the world! We generally don't publish the comments though because this is a local blog. Even so, comments published are rare unless they add to the story or a correction is needed and information sent was confirmed. Glad you're enjoying it though! We STILL have some freedoms here and intend to exercise them at will!

Kingston misuses the 1966 City Rent Withholding Act

Kingston, PA.

Solicitor Mattern compared the principle to the current law "WARRANTY OF HABITABILITY" that allows tenants to deduct expenses caused by landlord negligence from property rent to their recent ordinance (from what we've heard - a first in the Commonwealth), to force a tenant to pay rent to the local government because of a Property Maintenance Code Violation.

While on the surface this seems like a good thing, it can and may in the end hurt the tenant. If Kingston simply adopted and enforced the tenant's right to withhold rent paying for repairs (an option), there would be no issue. That's a part of the Warranty Of Habitability. If the furnace quits in the winter and the landlord does nothing, a tenant has the right to have it fixed and apply the rent money towards repairs keeping warm. All Kingston needs to do is stand behind the law if it goes to court.

What this recent ordinance does is expose the tenant to possible PII violations covered under federal and state laws.

PII stands for: Personally Identifiable Information. In the age of ID theft, the last thing tenants need is their personally identifiable information un-encrypted and unattended in a government office or as e-files that could be compromised. This could be state and federal violations in the making.

We have yet to discover just how Kingston, Pa manages the PII issues.

According to Federal and State laws:

Personally Identifiable Information is:

 (1) An individual's first name or first initial and last name in combination with and linked to any one or more of the following data elements when the data elements are not encrypted or redacted:

 (i) Social Security number.

 (ii) Driver's license number or a State identification card number issued in lieu of

 a driver's license.

 (iii) Financial account number, credit or debit card number, in combination with

 any required security code, access code or password that would permit access to an individual's financial account

SO, when a tenant pays in the form of a check, Kingston may obtain additional information it wouldn't otherwise have.

It may be a driver's license number, or other linking information.

The check routing number, account number as well as the address is on the check.

Do they keep a hard copy of the check or driver's license?

Do they redact the numbers?

How do they protect the information when it is a hard copy?

When converting it to a file - e-file, do they restrict access to the folder on a share drive? 

Do they email it, if so encrypted?

Do they have a program to shred/delete the information after a certain period?

This information is enough to cause major damage in the case of a breach (a way too often occurrence) and exactly why laws were passed to protect PII. On the surface, Kingston is setting itself up for a lawsuit because no where public (to our knowledge) have they specified just how they will protect this extra information for individuals who rent and it is they who will suffer in the event of identity theft.

Another consideration is if the tenant bounces a check - does Kingston report this to credit bureaus? Who pays the bank fee? Do they arrest the tenant? And what if the tenant doesn't pay? Does the city take the expense of not only moving to evict the tenant, but store the personal property as well??

Technically, the tenant doesn't have a contract with Kingston - so payment is voluntary. 

Seems as if maybe the Kingston solicitor didn't think this through.

This is most likely where the idea came from:

"The landlord/Tenant act of 1951: Section 250.206. Statement of Escrowed Funds

Whenever an agency or department certifies that a dwelling is uninhabitable and a tenant elects to pay rent into an escrow account established under the act of January 24, 1966 (1965 P.L. 1534, No. 536), referred to as the City Rent Withholding Act, it shall be the duty of the certifying agency or department to submit a monthly statement of escrowed funds to the landlord affected by first class mail."

If an agency CERTIFIES that a dwelling is uninhabitable - why are the tenants still there? This is one of those outdated dumb laws you hear about - still in effect such as "A special cleaning ordinance bans housewives from hiding dirt and dust under a rug in a dwelling."

1 comment | Add a New Comment
1. To: Air Jordan | March 26, 2015 at 04:22 AM EDT

The SPAM didn't work. Nice try though!

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