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Abdus Shahid v. Borough of Eddystone

May 22, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Savage, J.


In this pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff Abdus Shahid claims that the Borough of Eddystone ("the Borough") discriminated against him on the basis of his race, national origin and religion. He alleges that the Borough deliberately engaged in a nearly four-year-long campaign to prevent him from living in or renting out a property he owned in Eddystone because it did not want a Muslim from Bangladesh owning property in a "white area." The Borough denies that it violated Shahid's civil rights, contending that Shahid repeatedly violated Borough ordinances and that it properly enforced those ordinances against him.

We previously granted in part and denied in part the Borough's summary judgment motion.*fn1 We held that Shahid was barred by the Heck v. Humphrey and Rooker-Feldman doctrines from challenging the validity of his convictions for violating Borough ordinances.*fn2

However, we also held that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment on his remaining claim that the Borough denied him a certificate of occupancy and prevented him from renting the property because of his race, religion, and national origin.*fn3

A non-jury trial on Shahid's remaining claims was held on May 8, 2012.*fn4 Having had the opportunity to observe the demeanor of the witnesses and to assess their credibility, we issued findings of fact. Based on our review of the evidence, we conclude that Shahid has failed to establish that the Borough discriminated against him on the basis of his race, religion or national origin. Thus, we shall enter judgment in favor of the Borough and against Shahid.


Shahid is a naturalized United States citizen and a native of Bangladesh. On January 26, 2007, he purchased the property located at 1117 Eddystone Avenue, Eddystone, Pennsylvania, for $170,000. The property is a duplex located in a residential neighborhood. The property's previous owner, who was white, occupied the entire dwelling as a single-family unit. After purchasing the property, Shahid rented the building's first and second floors as separate apartments. He lived and continues to live in Brooklyn, New York, where he owns and manages fourteen apartments.

The premise of Shahid's discrimination claim is that the Borough used its certificate of occupancy requirement and other ordinances to prevent him from living in or renting out the property. He claims the Borough enforced these laws against him and not against white property owners.

The Borough's certificate of occupancy requirement, Borough Ordinance No. 612, requires a property owner to obtain a certificate of occupancy before occupying a property.*fn5

The requirements are more rigorous for residential rental property than owner-occupied property. The owner of an owner-occupied residential dwelling is only required to obtain a new certificate of occupancy when there is a change in ownership of the property, or a structural modification or addition to the property is made.*fn6 The owner of residential rental property must obtain a new certificate annually for each rental unit.*fn7 Additionally, the owner of residential rental property must report annually to the Borough the number of units occupied during the previous year and the names of the tenants in each unit.*fn8 The Borough provides a Residential Rental Property Tenant Notification Form for owners to comply with the reporting requirement. To obtain a certificate of occupancy, a residential rental property must comply with all applicable Borough codes and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania laws and regulations "pertaining to building, plumbing, electrical, zoning, health and safety, fire or fire prevention, [and] minimum housing standards . . . ."*fn9 The property may be required to pass an inspection by Borough officials before a certificate is granted.*fn10

Shahid never obtained a certificate of occupancy. He was convicted of renting the property without the required certificate in violation of Ordinance No. 612 in 2009 and again in 2010. Borough officials conducted inspections of the property on December 23, 2008, February 5, 2010 and September 26, 2011. Following each inspection, Shahid was issued a report listing numerous violations to be remedied before he could receive a certificate.

Shahid's Evidence

Shahid testified that from approximately May 30, 2007 until September 7, 2008, he rented one of the units to Joshua Taylor. According to Shahid, Taylor's mother, whom Shahid identified as a Borough "tax director" or "high-ranking" Borough official, lived with Taylor during that time. Shahid explains that she was not on the lease because she instructed him not to put her name on it. He eventually threatened to evict Taylor and his mother because they were four months behind on the rent. Shahid claimed that just before Taylor and his mother vacated the property, the mother stated specifically that the Borough would not allow a Muslim from Bangladesh to live or own rental property in that area.

Shahid alleged that the next day, September 8, 2008, Dallas Walters, the Borough's Code Official, arrived at the property to conduct another inspection. Shahid says that when he informed Walters that he planned to move to the property from Brooklyn, Walters informed him specifically that a Muslim from Bangladesh could not live or own property in that neighborhood because it was a "white area." He alleges Walters warned that the Borough Council knew Shahid's race, religion and national origin, and had a policy against allowing people like him to live in that neighborhood. Shahid says that Walters then placed notices reading "Keep Out: Uninhabitable" on the property.

Shahid testified that he was unable to rent the property after the September 8, 2008 inspection. He said that each time he came to the property to perform maintenance work, Walters would quickly arrive and threaten to have Shahid removed by the police. He testified that whenever he attempted to show the apartments to prospective tenants, Walters would arrive ...

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