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Do not pay rent to a landlord if the heat is inoperable or shut off.

We are now in the depths of heating season.   All landlords in Philadelphia are required to provide a working means of heating your living space during October through April (May-September if the temps drop below 60F).

This batch of tenants have been trying to live in sub-20F temperatures until Thursday they finally had enough and started calling TV stations.  PGW had shut off the gas to the building back in April when the landlord did not pay PGW $60,000 worth of gas.  The rental building is owned by Emmanuel Freeman–the same dude who ran Germantown Settlement into the ground.

They could have had their heat back on a hell of a lot sooner if they had just stopped paying rent in October when heating season starts.   Landlords suddenly get motivated to do things when the rent checks disappear.

You may pay for heat separately to PGW or it may be included with your rent.  Regardless, if the heat is shut off because the landlord is responsible for paying the bill and hasn’t done so, or the furnace is not working and the landlord has yet to fix it the landlord is not entitled to your rent.

Sure, a landlord can threaten you with eviction.  That threat won’t work.   In Landlord-Tenant Court, no landlord can be allowed to proceed with their eviction case if they are not providing a means of heat to their tenant.   Space heaters are not acceptable except during the period while the heating system is actively under repairs.   If no attempt at a repair is being made, then no attempt at paying rent should be made.

What Should You Do

Call 311 immediately and report the no heat situation.   These are priority calls.  Someone will be sent out to measure the heat in your building.  If it is below standards, the Landlord will be receiving a fine from the City of Philadelphia.

Prepare a written notice to your landlord via e-mail or US Mail (postcard or letter).   Tell him this: “Hi [Landlord].   I am just writing to inform you that until the heating system is restored I will be withholding December/January rent in escrow in the amount of $XXXX.XX.   The funds will be surrendered to you as soon as the heating system is restored.  Thanks!”

Keep a copy of that notice.

You need to transfer your rent payment into an escrow account.   So go to your bank and open a temporary savings account and transfer the money to there.

If you don’t have a savings account or you don’t have access to banking you can take out money orders made out to your landlord and hold on to them until he has complied.

Is the Heater Fixed?  Pay The Rent Immediately

Don’t continue to withhold the rent for any other reason if the landlord fixes the heater.   Withholding rent over damage disputes is a bit more of a pain in the ass, but stopping rent over no-heat is easy and you hold all the cards.

So the moment that heater is fixed you need to surrender the rent money.

What If My Landlord Threatens Me With Landlord-Tenant Court?

All threats are nothing until the landlord actually files for eviction for non-payment of rent.  Until he actually does, ignore the threat.

The eviction process takes over a month and requires paper notices to be sent to you.   When you get the notice there will be a court date to show up at Municipal Court.    Attend the hearing.

Remember that I told you to keep a notice of withholding rent that you wrote to the landlord?   Hang on to it.   You need to show it to the judge.  This tells the judge when you detected the problem and when you told the landlord there was a serious problem.

A court clerk will call your name at the time of the hearing.   State “present” when your name is called.   You will be asked to go into an arbitration room off to the side of the court room.  You do not need to do this but you can if you want.  Don’t settle for anything without the heat working.   You can stand up anytime in the courtroom and tell the clerk that you’re “finished” with arbitration and would like to hear the case now.   That’s when you inform the L&T judge about the lack of heat.   No judge is going to grant the landlord’s request for unpaid rent when there is non-functioning heating in the building.

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In what seems ages ago now, long before any primary votes were cast, Donald Trump pinned the blame for the crisis on one actor: Mexico and the southern border.   Everyone laughed this off as yet another xenophobic tirade of his after his other disparaging remarks about that country.

But most everyone agrees that Trump’s assertion is correct, at least if you want to limit it to declaring where street heroin comes from.   Politifact rated his statement “fact”.   Nearly all the heroin that’s lying around your junkie neighbor’s home was grown domestically in Mexico (approx. 45%) and the rest from countries further south.

A number of mainstream journalists have now wondered about a possible correlation between Trump support in rural Pennsylvania counties and the election results last month.   While I suspect few people consciously drove to their polling place for the first time simply because of the heroin scourge, I do suspect that the dramatic uptick in heroin overdose deaths further and further away from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia might tell a story.

So let’s start off with some data from the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency that I found.

Upswing Overdose Counties Also Swung To Trump

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The chart shows our state’s change in the drug-related overdose death count by county.    Two particular areas of Pennsylvania jump out at me when I look at this: the suburban counties around Pittsburgh, particularly Butler, Westmoreland, Washington and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area of Lackawana County.

Now let’s look at the map of how Trump won our state from this Inquirer graphic:

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Out of all the counties in Pennsylvania that were critical for Hillary Clinton to win her lackluster vote turnout in Lackawanna County was by far the most crippling and Trump won neighboring Luzerne County.   There was a 100% increase in drug-related overdose deaths from 2014-2015 in Lackawanna County and a 42% rise in Luzerne.

ODs are Not Just a Plague Among the Young

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Pennsylvania has long been known as a state dominated by “people of a certain age”.  When it comes to drug overdoses the age fallout of deaths doesn’t plummet until late into the 50s.  Beyond teenagers and the elderly, the bulk of Pennsylvania’s working-age adults are the most afflicted with ODs.  For females the most likely overdose death will be a woman in her early 40s.

This Is A Very, Very, White Problem

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This is probably the most striking of all graphs there is about our state in the DEA packet.   Drug overdoses are a very white problem.  Even in Philadelphia the bulk of the OD cases are white.  Overall as a state the drug ODs are closely matching Pennsylvania’s own racial demographics which makes this epidemic quite a white problem.

More Deaths From ODs in Pennsylvania Than Car Crashes, Guns

The motor vehicle fatality rate for Pennsylvania is 9.3 deaths per 100,000 people (Institute for Highway Safety, 2015).

In terms of gun-related deaths, that’s 10.5 deaths per 100,000 people (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2013).

Now let’s look at the drug overdose death rate in each Pennsylvania county:

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More than half of our state is struggling with overdose death rates above 20 per 100K, which is an extremely high figure.   That’s a high enough death rate that if you don’t know a relative or a friend who has kicked the bucket from a drug overdose in the last few years, chances are quite good you will know someone personally quite soon—assuming of course you have white friends.

So basically, a scourge that was mostly limited to Kensington ages ago has now spread all over the entire state.  It was easy to write-off drug ODs when it was some problem for the “inner city”.   But coroners in every PA county have spare bodybags lying around and see a need for more, and more law enforcement officers in counties that rarely ever see violent crime are now having to learn how to dispense Narcan, the life-saving opiate antidote-buzzkill that brings junkies back from the brink.

I suspect that these rural Pennsylvania counties are not liking the drug plague they’re living under all that much.   Is it symptomatic of other social ills that’s tipped so many of their residents into an addiction cycle?   Well, of course it is.   But that’s where the problem needs to be studied further and most data that you can find is spotty and incomplete.

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It’s that time of year again for our 3rd annual pop-up art market at the Druid’s Keep in Northern Liberties! This is a night market at a local bar with great drink specials and affordable art from local artists in the Northern Liberties, Fishtown and Kensington area. Philly photography, gypsy flea market finds, home decor, jewelry, Philly street art merch and clothing, fantasy drawings, poetry and illustration, wearable weavings, tattoo style wood block paintings, and more! Works will be reasonably priced with many items under $25-$50, and all artists can take either cash or credit!

visit www.sarahrado.com for more info

Event info:

Date/Time: Saturday, December 10th, 2016 from 6-10pm (some artists will be hanging out later)

Location: Upstairs at the Druid’s Keep, 149 Brown St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

(Brown St and Hancock St)

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