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EMMA WILSON v. CITY PHILADELPHIA BOARD LICENSE & INSPECTION REVIEW (12/30/74)

decided: December 30, 1974.

EMMA WILSON, APPELLANT,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA BOARD OF LICENSE & INSPECTION REVIEW, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, in case of Emma Wilson v. City of Philadelphia Board of License & Inspection Review, No. 3385 November Term, 1972.

COUNSEL

Sharon K. Wallis, for appellant.

Nicholas Panarella, Jr., Assistant City Solicitor, with him James M. Penny, Jr., Assistant City Solicitor, John Mattioni, Deputy City Solicitor, and Martin Weinberg, City Solicitor, for appellee.

Judges Mencer, Rogers and Blatt, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Blatt.

Author: Blatt

[ 16 Pa. Commw. Page 587]

This is an appeal from the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County affirming a decision of the Philadelphia Board of License and Inspection Review (Board) which had upheld the lifting of a certification that the premises leased by Ms. Emma Wilson, appellant, were "Unfit For Human Habitation."

The subject premises were certified unfit for human habitation on October 14, 1971 following an inspection conducted by the Department of Licenses and Inspections (Department). Thereafter the appellant began paying her rent into an escrow account in accordance with the Rent Withholding Act.*fn1 This Act provides that when a dwelling is certified as unfit for human habitation the rent shall be held in escrow and shall be payable to the landlord when the dwelling is certified as fit for human habitation at any time within six months from the date

[ 16 Pa. Commw. Page 588]

    of the unfit certification. If, at the end of six months, the dwelling has not been repaired and certified as fit for human habitation the money held in escrow shall be payable to the depositor.*fn2

On March 27, 1972, which was within the six-month time period provided in the Act, the Department reinspected the subject property and removed the unfit certification. Ms. Wilson then appealed the removal of the unfit certification to the Board which held a hearing and rendered an adjudication affirming the Department's action. Upon her subsequent appeal to the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County pursuant to Section 7 of the Local Agency Law, Act of December 2, 1968, P.L. 1133, 53 P.S. § 11307, that court affirmed the Board's adjudication and an appeal to this Court followed.

Where the court below took no additional evidence, as was the case here, we must affirm the adjudication of the local agency unless we find that constitutional rights have been violated, errors of law have been committed, or findings of fact necessary to support the adjudication are not supported by substantial evidence. Section 8 of the Local Agency Law, 53 P.S. § 11308(b). Elko v. Civil Service Commission, 16 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 102, 329 A.2d 320 (1974). The credibility and weight to be accorded the evidence is, of course, a determination solely within the discretion of the local agency. Mettee v. Civil Service Commission, 6 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 82, 293 A.2d 147 (1972). In this case, the Rent Withholding Act confers authority upon the Department to establish standards so that the terms "unfit for human habitation"

[ 16 Pa. Commw. Page 589]

    and "fit for human habitation" may be applied uniformly within the Department's jurisdiction. Depaul v. Kauffman, 441 Pa. 386, 272 A.2d 500 (1971). In Philadelphia the Department has established a rating system whereby each housing code violation is assigned a fixed number of points. If the points accumulated against a given property exceed a designated total, the property is certified as unfit for human habitation. In a court approved stipulation, it has also been established in Philadelphia that the Department shall remove the designation of unfit for human habitation from any property where substantial compliance with the Philadelphia Code has been achieved. "Substantial Compliance shall be defined as such compliance with the Philadelphia Code so that no more than 20 points remain under the Point System. . . . Provided, however, that no such designation of Unfit for Human Habitation' shall be removed if any of the remaining Code violations present a danger to life or limb and/or involve the following types of violations: (a) Electrical (b) Plumbing (c) Heating (d) Water (e) Sewer (f) Roof (g) Windows (h) Fire (i) Drainage (j) Operation of Cooking Facilities (k) Rodent and Insect Infestation (l) Landlord -- ...


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