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EDITH DANIELS v. PHILADELPHIA FAIR HOUSING COMMISSION (07/24/86)

decided: July 24, 1986.

EDITH DANIELS, APPELLANT
v.
PHILADELPHIA FAIR HOUSING COMMISSION, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County in the case of Edith Daniels v. Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission, No. 123 September Term, 1984.

COUNSEL

Leslie M. Gerstein, for appellant.

Steven K. Ludwig, Assistant City Solicitor, with him, Flora Barth Wolf, Chief Assistant City Solicitor, and Barbara W. Mather, City Solicitor, for appellee.

Judges Rogers and Palladino, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Palladino.

Author: Palladino

[ 99 Pa. Commw. Page 157]

Edith Daniels (Appellant) appeals from an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County which affirmed a decision by the Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission (Commission) requiring Appellant to assume responsibility for the payment of her electricity and gas bills. We affirm.

Appellant rents an apartment in the City of Philadelphia. The lease agreement between Appellant and her landlord runs from month to month, and specifies that Appellant is responsible for the payment of her utility bills. Initially, the landlord did not enforce this provision of the lease and paid the utility bills herself. On December 1, 1983, however, the landlord sent Appellant a letter notifying her that, thirty days hence, she would have to begin paying her own utility bills. Appellant then filed a complaint with the Commission, alleging that the landlord had increased Appellant's rent in violation of Section 9-804(1)(c) of the Philadelphia Code (Code), which prohibits a rent increase while violations of the Code exist within the premises.*fn1

[ 99 Pa. Commw. Page 158]

The Commission determined that the landlord had not increased the rent, but was merely enforcing the provisions of the already-existing lease. Accordingly, the Commission ordered Appellant to begin paying her gas and electric bills herself. On appeal, the court of common pleas took no additional evidence and affirmed the Commission's decision on the basis of the record.

On appeal to this Court, Appellant contends that the Commission erred, as a matter of law, in holding her responsible for the payment of her utility bills, because the landlord had waived the lease provision by initially paying those bills herself, and because enforcement of the lease provision while there are housing code violations on the premises violates Section 9-804(1)(c) of the Code. Appellant argues further that the decision of the court of common pleas is not supported by substantial evidence, because no transcript of the hearing before the Commission was made and the record is otherwise inadequate.

Pursuant to Section 754(b) of the Local Agency Law,*fn2 our scope of review is limited to a determination of whether constitutional rights were violated or an error of law committed, and whether necessary findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence. Porter v. Board of School Directors of the Clairton School District, 67 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 147, 445 A.2d 1386 (1982).

With respect to the question of whether the landlord waived her right to enforce the lease provision concerning payment of utility bills, we note that, under the general principles of contract law, a party who has made a waiver affecting an executory portion of a contract may retract the waiver by ...


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