Are Fair Housing Rules being Broken in the Mt. Pleasant Community of Tredyffrin? How Can we Help these Residents?

If you have been following the St. Davids Golf Club and the ongoing sidewalk saga, you have probably seen Christine Johnson, who has attended and spoke out at recent Board of Supervisors meetings.  A passionate Mt. Pleasant resident, Christine has been very vocal in her support of sidewalks and of her Panhandle community.  I have written several posts concerning the struggles of Christine and her neighbors re college housing and associated planning and zoning issues; and police enforcement (primarily noise and speeding concerns in the community). 

Back in the fall at a Board of Supervisors meeting there was agreement to conduct meetings between Mt. Pleasant neighbood members and township representatives including the police, zoning officer, township engineer and supervisors.  Informal discussions were held and a town hall meeting was planned with the residents in mid-December.  Unfortunately, that meeting was cancelled due to snow.  Another town hall meeting date was chosen for early 2010 but again that meeting needed to be cancelled due to snow. 

As far as I know, a third date has not been chosen for the town hall meeting. This ongoing situation is frustrating for Christine and her Mt. Pleasant neighbors . . . as the problems with college rentals and zoning issues remains unsolved. I am committed to providing updates and to continue to shine light on Mt. Pleasant’s challenges until we can reach a resolution on their problems.

Christine in her quest to research and better understand her rights as a resident of Mt. Pleasant community has reached out to the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia.  Based on the information that Christine is providing below, there has been some stretching of the fair housing laws by some of the landlords in the advertising of college housing in Mt. Pleasant. 

I know that Tredyffrin Township does not have specific zoning regulations that deal with college rentals as do some of the neighboring municipalities.  As a first step, I think we need to get the town hall meeting back on the schedule and then start working on helping the Mt. Pleasant folks.  I think Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Kichline are onboard to represent the Board of Supervisors; can I appeal to help find a new date for the town hall meeting?

     Violating Fair Housing Laws

According the the Fair Housing Act,  you cannot discriminate against families.  Shouldn’t famillies have the chance to  live in Mt. Pleasant?  I’m sick of seeing our houses advertised as “Rental – Student Approved”  “Student Approved House” “Villanova Student Rental” “College Rental” “Great for College Students” etc, etc, etc.

When describing your rental, please be aware the misuse of a phrase can, however innocently used, be in violation of federal fair housing laws. The list below is fromHousing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) www.homeny.org:

The following list of words and phrases are considered to be in violation of the federal fair housing laws when used in advertising of the sale or rental of housing because they may indicate a preference, limitation or discrimination to the ordinary reader. This list is not all-inclusive but should be used as a guide and example of unacceptable language.

  1. Max 2 people, 3rd extra charge
  2. Great for one
  3. 1 Person pref.
  4. ideal for couple
  5. ideal for working couple
  6. ideal for adults
  7. Suitable for couple
  8. In quiet adult community
  9. perfect for working single
  10. adults pref.
  11. ideal for 2 adults
  12. professional & students only
  13. looking for professional
  14. mature adults
  15. professional couple pref.
  16. 1 person pref.
  17. employed couple or single
  18. ideal for a single
  19. employed male/student
  20. ideal for students
  21. ideal for single person /couple
  22. perfect for students
  23. suits 1-2 employed adult/student
  24. Ideal for male/female
  25. great for students
  26. no pets or children
  27. max 2 people
  28. ideal for single female
  29. working single
  30. male/female suitable for one
  31. 2 bedroom maximum/2 person occupancy
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20 Responses

  1. Not sure i understand the concern — is Ms. Johnson thinking that landlords are shunning families? Certainly based on where Mt. Pleasant is located, students are a natural target audience. Walking distance to Cabrini and not very far by car from Villanova. Are landlords not renting to families? I think in this economy, it would be wise to try to fill the house. Students are not typically an appealing tenant in a family neighborhood– and zoning laws can be in place that prohibit more than a certain number of unrelated people living in the house to encourage families– but if they don’t bar that in Tredyffrin, then students are a somewhat dependable source of income as the schools near MP are private universities that have woefully inadequate campus housing, so would come with people prepared to pay rent. Mt. Pleasant is not near much public transportation, it’s not “walk to work” located, and it’s quite a hall to the nearest schools too — so I’m not sure it’s all that attractive as a family rental. I’d like to understand this problem in context. Thanks for addressing it Pattye.

    • In reading the list of words and phrases disallowed or at least perilous, I am appalled at the political correctness of MOST of these expressions. I own properties not in this township and have to indicate that one of them is only suitable for up to 3 people. So I guess I am discriminating against groups or 4 or more. Do they have a advocacy group? Basically I am telling larger groups that the place is too small for more. Folks.

      I agree with Township Reader in asking what are we trying to accomplish? Discrimination against landlords? College students? How about some common sense in controlling the tenants? How about keeping both the tenants AND landlords responsible? Is there a maximum occupancy rule in Tred?

  2. and another thought… what is the ethnic and racial composition of these students? can they file discrimination charges no matter the answer to my question?

  3. Below is an ad that is currently posted on Craigslist.org. This is not in Mt. Pleasant but further down Upper Gulph Road, I believe right past Old Eagle School Rd. In addition to violating Fair Housing Laws it’s very misleading, as there is no such thing as a “student approved” home in Tredyffrin Township.

    $2400 / 4br – 4br, 2bath student rental near campus (5xx upper gulph) (map)
    ________________________________________
    Date: 2010-02-02, 4:29PM EST
    Reply to: hous-hrmeh-1582941448@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
    ________________________________________

    student approved home w/4br and 2 baths recently renovated; parking and more

    5xx upper gulph rd (google map) (yahoo map)
    • Location: 5xx upper gulph
    • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

    PostingID: 1582941448

  4. If it is not student approved, it shouldnt say so. But if it is not illegal to house students, is it then student approved?

    If it just says student rental, what’s wrong with trying to target your marketing?

  5. Christine – i do NOT understand the problem. Why is it any kind of problem to try to attract students.? I think “student approved” means that they will rent to students — it’s not violating any local ordinance. For instance — at the beaches in NJ — Avalon allows group rentals, Stone Harbor does not. It’s an ordinance — so ads in SH say No Groups. These ads don’t say “no families” — but if the neighborhood is concerned that there are too many students, you can always seek an ordinance allowing a maximum of 4 unrelated people in the house (or however many bedrooms). As a landlord, I want a good tenant first, but in this economy, I want a paying tenant. Can you explain the reason behind your research on fair housing?

    • What is illegal is that landlords are violating our zoning ordinance and charging exorbitant rents.

      We are discriminating against families.

      Tredyffrin’s Zoning Ordinance limits the number of unrelated occupants in
      a housing unit to 3. BUT IT’S NOT BEING ENFORCED. I have 5 student
      rentals across the street from me. 995 Mt. Pleasant Avenue has 4 students, 985 has 5, 967 has 5, 961 & 957 I’m unsure of, but there are at least ten
      cars parked there each morning. The Township is well aware of this. Landlords are taking advantage of the fact that they can demand a much higher rent to a group of college students than they can to a family.

      The average cost for a college rental in Mt. Pleasant is $2400/month. The market would not bear these rates, if Tredyffrin had an enforceable
      housing ordinance. ( Go on realtor.com and see what kind of house you can
      get in Tredyffrin for $2400. ) The rental rates would have to come down
      and this would at least allow some families to compete for housing. We’ve got
      a great school system, why wouldn’t a family want to rent here?

      BTW – We have a couple rentals on the Upper Merion end of Mt. Pleasant
      Avenue but these are not rented to students. You know what a landlord
      told me when I asked him why he didn’t buy one of the houses on the Upper
      Merion side? He told me that he was only interested in Tredyffrin. That like
      Radnor, Upper Merion enforces their housing ordinance.

      In addition to a housing ordinance, Radnor also has an open container law,
      an enforceable noise ordinance and has the balls to cite folks for public
      urination, underage drinking and disorderly conduct.

      **********************************************************
      Imagine it’s 1am on a weeknight at the beginning of September, it’s balmy outside, you have to get up
      for work at 5am, it’s your daughter’s first day of high school, the smell of weed is
      coming in through your bedroom window from a group of kids smoking pot
      across the street, three guys just urinated in your front yard all over
      your sons toys because you had the audacity to ask them to quiet down, a
      cabbie is honking his horn, music is blaring, carloads of partygoers have
      been coming and going all night, there are now well over 100 college
      students drinking in the street and in the yards of nieghboring houses,
      throwing empty beer cans and bottles…shouting…every other word is the
      F-Bomb…

      What sort of response would you expect from the authorities? I was told to close my windows.

      **********************************************************

      • Anon, what you describe is terrible. I agree you need support from the police and the Township. Less than patient people would take matters into their own hands. No way to live..

        • I keep telling everybody that if this continues, I will be the one getting arrested!! ( I hope I’m joking)

          The noise hasn’t been so bad for the last few months. Maybe it’s the cooler weather or maybe the kids finally realized that they’re living next to people who have to get sleep in order to survive, to go to work, to care for their children. Thankfully, one of the landlords finally evicted a really rowdy group. They ripped the front door off the house during a drunken fight!

          It’s really terrible at the end of August into September when we get new groups in and it starts all over.

  6. I’m confused. Saying “no pets” is a violation of equal housing? Why isn’t a landlord allowed to prohibit pets? Dogs can be noisy and destroy property (scratch wood floors, pee on carpets). I love dogs, but I wouldn’t want them if I were a landlord.

    Equal housing laws make sense for people …but pets? Can someone explain that?

    (I am glad I am not a landlord!)

    • Confused… as the liberal elite continue to produce lawyers at an alarming rate, with more of them and less really to do, we get regulations, lawsuits and headaches that really make commerce difficult if not impossible. Just watch daytime TV and see the ads,
      So it is difficult to be a landlord, for sure, and it is made harder by holier than thous with law degrees and not much else except a desire to suck the lifeblood out of our society. We need about 20% of the lawyers we have, and maybe that is too much.
      Then these lawyers get elected to government , stay for life, get corrupted if not already so, and create havoc for us. Terrorism from within. Well be careful out there… slip and fall and you have your yearly income. Smile!!! Spring is in the offing

  7. If Tredyffrin has an ordinance of max 3 unrelated people, then I would think that is a cause to come to the supervisors with — why it’s not enforced? Somehow, with all the talk about OLK, I cannot fathom them wanting to think of Tredy. as a home to rowdy drinking pot-smoking college kids. Especially if the reference to Radnor and UM is verifiable. So let’s use government for what it is — creating and preserving quality of life. I don’t see how Ms. Johnson can be FOR sidewalks to the east and yet want to limit student rentals. Let’s fix the real problem — failure of enforcement. IF the enforcement is flawed because it’s Mt. Pleasant, then shame on all of us and let’s fix it. I’m all for high rents if a landlord can get it — that’s free market — but not if it’s by breaking the law and looking the other way. Where’s John Petersen when a real problem needs fixing? (Sorry Chet — it takes a lawyer to fight a lawyer)

    • “Where’s John Petersen when a real problem needs fixing?”

      he’s probably busy trying to figure out a way to blame the ‘violation of fair housing laws’ on kampf and the TTRC.

    • Sidewalks would be obviously be ok along this road. Anyone who says that folks don’t walk, jog, run, bike along this road don’t spend much time on it.

      I am more concerned that the BOS did not hold St. David’s to their agreed upon development plan.

      Will we continue to enforce our sidewalk ordinance?

      -Elite Properties LP had to build sidewalks when they renovated the old Mt. Pleasant School on Upper Gulph Rd.
      – the First Baptist Church on Upper Gulph Rd. is required to have sidewalks in their plan for a new church
      – F & H Main Line has to build sidewalks as part of their agreement to build 9 new houses at the bottom of Henry Avenue
      – FEBA & Associates has to build new sidewalks (as well as a ADA ramp) along the corner of Upper Gulph & Fairview Ave. as part of their agreement to build two twins.

      Believe me, I just might be the first person to let the developers in Mt. Pleasant know that they might be able to save a little money. That they shouldn’t have to build sidewalks. It’s the principle.

      And I have no problem living next door to college students…they have every right to live where ever they please…BUT… they must abide by same rules as everybody else and when these rules are broken there must be some consequence.

      Way back when I was 21, I went to a disco party over in Drexel Hill, it was in a quiet residential neighborhood. The neighbors called the police and every last one of us received a citation for disorderly conduct. I learned my lesson. I never partied in a family-oriented neighborhood again.

      • I spend a ton of time on this road and very few people walk in the area of the golf club.

        As far as bicyclist go, they are not allowed to ride on a public sidewalk. Most runners will not run on a sidewalk because of the curb cuts. A couple of weeks ago I saw a group of runners running down the Lancaster Avenue where sidewalks were available.

        I think as a matter of public policy the club probably should be required to build the sidewalk, but it will be a huge waste of money as it will rarely get used. I question the merits of creating additional impervious surface and removing a few trees and probably harming the remaining trees. I know I may be in the minority on who cares about those trees, I just like them.

  8. Christine

    That has to be awful. I hope you are calling the police often. It is outrageous that our zoning and other laws are not being enforced. I drive by the neighborhood often and frequently can see from the street that students are a problem.

    I find it interesting that you are such an advocate for the SDGC sidewalk. It seems that making the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood more convenient to Cabrini is not a great idea. All I can see are negatives for the MP neighborhood as there is really no place other than Cabrini to walk to the east. Can you explain why you want that sidewalk? Thanks for you commitment to the community.

  9. christine you are barking up the wrong tree with wanting to change ordinances and town hall meetings. This is a costly exspense to taxpayers. There are laws on the books and they should be enforced. simple enough. If someone walks out of trump towers and pees on my lawn, they don’t arrest donald trump they arrest THE OFFENDER. The developers and landlords are not the enemy here. You need to conduct your business with police if there is an incident; not drag everyone’s business into your personal agenda… developers and landlords are feeding their families like everyone else and are not a conspiracy against your neighborhood.

  10. Other neighboring municipalities have zoning – college rental ordinances in place (ex. Radnor Twp). These ordinances are very specific — they protect the college student (his/her parents), the landlord and the homeowners in the neighborhood. Tredyfrin Township DOES NOT have any specific zoning ordinances that deal with college rentals which is why speculators are purchasing the houses in Mt. Pleasant, turning them in to mult-family units and then asking rent (and receiving rent) that is probably 4 times what they would get renting to a single family. I understand the concept that a landlord can ask (and receive) as much they want from the students.

    The problem is that without any ordinance in place to govern these rentals . . . they can take a single family home and get 4 or 5 unrelated college students in to the same space. Without any , the college students make their rental in to party central which is not fair to the Mt. Pleasant neighbors. We all remember college days — parties could be 3 AM on Wednesday night as well as Saturday night. Difference is the neighbors are not also college students but adults who have to get up and go to work.

    It may be Mt. Pleasant today but it could be Devon, Berwyn, Strafford, Chesterbrook tomorrow. The township needs to have a policy/ordinances to deal with these college rentals. You are right it should be enforcement of the the ‘offender’ . . . the problem is there are no rules to restrict these single-family homes from becoming college dorms!!

  11. This is unfair and I feel that you are trying to discriminate against catholic students. There is a unique situation here with the fact that the colleges closest that we are talking about are catholic colleges. Limiting the number of students by landlords is religious descrimination under fair housing rules. Any change would be “unfair housing”. A landlord can’t ask occupation, religion, race etc. Any laws changed by tredyfrin township will be challanged in a court of law on this exact issue which is one of the basics our country was founded on. Tread lightly on people’s rights, tredyfrin or be prepared for a legal nightmare……

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