A FEW landlords have been sued for allegedly presenting illegal “rental purchase agreements” to their tenants.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office alleged that the father-son duo rented out homes that were in dire need of repairs without disclosing the details to the tenants.
At the heart of the lawsuit is that Joseph F. John and Joseph F. John II rented properties that were infested with insects, missing pipes and appliances, and plagued with plumbing problems.
Tenant complaints about this ailing conditions were allegedly ignored by the landlords.
The tenants were also allegedly charged illegal late fees and interest rates related to the illegal “rental purchase model,” the lawsuit says.
John Sr. is also accused of sexual harassment, including intimidating his female tenants and sometimes interacting with them shirtless or in their underwear.
He allegedly showed up at these tenants’ homes uninvited and left them with inappropriate sexual comments and unwarranted touching.
According to the lawsuit, he told a tenant, “If you were a single mother, we could have arranged the rent differently.”
Some of the tenants who felt threatened by the landlord’s practices told investigators that the elderly landlord often displayed a gun when they came to his home to make payments.
“The gun was always on the table,” one tenant remarked.
The lawsuit alleges that the illegal activities have been going on for more than a decade.
The father and son own more than 50 properties across the state, many of which were acquired through tax sales and needed major repairs to be hospitable, the lawsuit says.
“These landlords target low-income tenants and subject them to illegal fees and conditions while simultaneously requiring consumers to pay cash in person, often in harassing circumstances,” Attorney General Michelle Henry said in a news release.
“Every Pennsylvanian has the right to safe and comfortable living conditions, and my office will not tolerate landlords who exploit vulnerable residents,” she added.
The lawsuit seeks reimbursement for tenants, costs and civil penalties.
The office has also requested an injunction preventing landlords from entering into residential leases.
“This lawsuit seeks to create a fairer, safer and more lawful situation for tenants who rent from defendants,” the press release states.
Last week, a judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the Johns from initiating evictions without court approval and from entering occupied properties without tenants’ permission.
A hearing on September 18 will determine whether the injunction will remain in place after the court rules on the case.
The US broadcaster “Sun” asked the defendants for a statement, but their connection was interrupted.