Some Philly landlords refuse to rent to tenants based on their income — and it's illegal

For rent sign.
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Public Interest Law Center has filed complaints against a number of Philadelphia landlords who they say are discriminating against potential tenants based on their source of income, which is against city law.

"Nobody knows about this. Nobody knows about source of income discrimination," said George Donnelly, an attorney at the center. 

The group filed complaints with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations against three landlords who they say refuse to rent to tenants because they want to pay rent with Section 8 vouchers. 

"The housing voucher program was put in place so that low-income families could have access to safe, decent affordable housing on the housing rental market. So when landlords refuse to rent to them, it really defeats the purpose of the program," Donnelly said. 

The Fair Practices Ordinance forbids landlords from discriminating from people based on their source of income, including rental assistance. But last year, the Urban Institute issued a report that shows 67 percent of landlords discriminate in this fashion. 

"That's when you know you have a systemic widespread problem," Donnelly added. 

Damages include a retraining order and a fine. But Donnelly says the Public Interest Law Center is also hoping to educate tenants about their rights and to let landlords know they can't turn someone away because of a vouicher.