Peters v. Wilkes-Barre

A challenge to Wilkes-Barre's "one strike" ordinance, which allows city officials to evict tenants immediately and prevent landlords from renting a property for six months if anyone - even a third party not on the lease - is suspected of illegal activity involving drugs or guns on the premises

Court/Assoc.: US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Attorneys/Firms: Witold Walczak, Sara Rose, & Scott Kelly (ACLU-PA); David Fine (K&L)

Legal Director Vic Walczak (left) and Legal Fellow Scott Kelly (right) with plaintiffs Tina Hall and Adam Peters.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit on January 22, 2015, on behalf of landlords and tenants whose rental properties were seized by the city of Wilkes-Barre under an ordinance that authorizes city officials to evict tenants immediately and prevent landlords from renting a property for six months if anyone is suspected of illegal activity involving drugs or guns on the premises, including third parties not on the lease. The so-called “one-strike” ordinance allows the city to close rental properties even if the affected landlord and tenants were unaware of the suspected activity. 

In April 2015, the city filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging that plaintiffs failed to state valid legal claims and the court should abstain from deciding the matter. In December 2015, the court rejected the city’s motion.

In August 2016,  the city of Wilkes-Barre agreed to stop enforcing its “one strike and you’re out” ordinance, which illegally authorized city officials to evict tenants immediately and prevent landlords from renting a property for six months if anyone is suspected of illegal activity involving drugs or guns on the premises, including third parties not on the lease.

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