PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION RESOLUTON OPPOSING HOUSE BILL 365, PRINTER’S NO. 2490 AND ANY SIMILAR LEGISLATION ALLOWING REMOVAL OF INDIVIDUALS FROM RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY BY POLICE WITHOUT DUE PROCESS

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association has a long history of supporting Pennsylvania residents’ rights to notice and due process before being deprived of their shelter, and use of the court system to resolve disputes rather than use of “self-help”; and

WHEREAS, House Bill 365, Printer’s No. 2490 (“HB 365”) pending consideration in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, would allow the police to remove residents who are alleged to be squatters from residential properties based solely on “probable cause”; and

WHEREAS, HB 365 improperly shifts the careful, deliberate review of weighing the evidence of the resident’s legal right to occupy the property from the courts to the police, and deprives residents who are alleged to be squatters of the basic due process rights of notice and opportunity to respond; and

WHEREAS, HB 365 uses a probable cause standard instead of the standard used by the courts in ejectment cases, which is preponderance of the evidence; and

WHEREAS, “An elementary and fundamental requirement of due process in any proceeding which is to be accorded finality is notice reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections.” Mullane v. Cent. Hanover Bank & Tr. Co., 339 U.S. 306, 314 (1950); and

WHEREAS, while unlawful trespass can be a difficult problem for an owner to resolve, HB 365 would have unintended consequences for people with legitimate ownership or tenancy rights and it places vulnerable populations at risk of being removed from their homes without notice and opportunity to respond; and

WHEREAS, HB 365 would harm victims of domestic violence by giving abusers a way to unfairly assert economic control over their victims in that HB 365 would allow the abuser to call the police, allege that victim, whose name may not be on the deed but may have marital property rights in the home, is a “squatter” and the police could become unknowing pawns in a continuing cycle of abuse; and

WHEREAS, in Pennsylvania there are many instances where a person is a legal or equitable owner without having their names on a deed, and these situations are frequently referred to as tangled titles; and

WHEREAS, in Pennsylvania there are victims of deed theft, including notary fraud; and

WHEREAS, all these occupants with legitimate claims to title or tenancy would face quick, and inappropriate removal from their homes if HB 365 becomes law; and

WHEREAS, HB 365 would permit unscrupulous landlords to circumvent the eviction process where there is an oral lease or a lost written lease and the landlord asserts that the legitimate tenant is a squatter.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association opposes House Bill 365, Printer’s No. 2490, or any similar legislation that would allow legitimate residents to be summarily removed from their homes without due process of a final court order issued in an eviction or ejectment action after notice and opportunity to respond.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Board of Governors authorizes the Chancellor and/or the Chancellor’s designee(s) to communicate the Philadelphia Bar Association’s position opposing House Bill 365 and any similar legislation to the Governor, the General Assembly, the legal community, and the public and take whatever action is necessary to effectuate this resolution.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATON
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: September 24, 2019