No escape from gas liens for Philadelphia landlords

John K. Ross, Short Circuit: “When tenants fail to pay gas bills, Philadelphia’s municipal utility allows debts to pile up for years without notifying landlords, then puts a lien on the property—effectively making the landlords liable for the debt. When landlords complain, the utility tells them to file a complaint with a state agency that has no jurisdiction to address their complaints. Third Circuit: No due process problem here.” [Augustin v. City of Philadelphia]


  • To a certain extent, the case is undoubtedly correct. What’s the utility supposed to do? The problem is that it makes mistakes, and recording a lien on someone’s property by mistake should be a very serious problem in a country where property rights are protected.
    Any situation where there is deliberate indifference or willful misconduct should result in prosecution–but that won’t ever happen.

  • It looks like any landlord should serve a notice to issue a writ of scare facias every year as a matter of course (maybe when they do annual taxes). If there is no lien, then no harm, no foul for the landlord. If there is, then the utility has to act within 15 days and the landlord finds out about it. Granted, it could result in a lot of paperwork. Of course, the landlord would have to be prepared to pay the bill if there is one.

    • scire fascias, but your version is much scarier.


      • Oh well, it was abolished by statute in my state over 100 years ago so I don’t have to worry about it either way.

  • Here, here, fascists could use a good scare now and then…