Fox Prevails for Pittsburgh Apartment Association in City Housing Ordinance Challenge

March 17, 2020 – Press Releases

Representing the Apartment Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh, Fox Rothschild attorney Bill Stang successfully prevented the City of Pittsburgh from enforcing a 2015 “source of income” ordinance that would have forced all residential landlords to participate in and comply with the requirements of the federal Section 8 housing program.

Shortly after the ordinance was passed, the Apartment Association obtained an injunction that barred the City from enforcing it and, subsequently, an order from the Court of Common Pleas finding that the ordinance was invalid. The City filed an appeal, but in an en banc decision, the Commonwealth Court affirmed the trial court’s determination that the City’s source of income ordinance was invalid because it places affirmative duties, responsibilities and requirements on private businesses and employers, such as residential landlords.

The City appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and in a 2019 decision, the Supreme Court remanded the case to Commonwealth Court for reconsideration in light of a recent Supreme Court case interpreting the Home Rule Charter Law.  On remand, Stang argued that the “business exclusion” in the Home Rule Charter Law limits the City’s power to regulate businesses absent some “express statutory authority.” 

The Fox attorneys also asserted that there was no express statutory authority empowering the City to require that landlords participate in the Section 8 program and comply with its regulations, including lease language, rent charge and notice requirements.  The Commonwealth Court again accepted the Apartment Association’s arguments.  The Court explained, “[w]e agree with the Apartment Association that the Ordinance here ‘exemplifies the very essence of the invasive regulations that [the Business Exclusion] is designed to prevent, and strictly prohibits.’”

“We’re not aware of any other instance in the country where a source of income ordinance was found to be invalid,” said Stang. “We’re pleased with the decision and believe it is the correct interpretation of the law.”