West Philadelphia tenancy dispute heads to court


About a week ago, longtime Philadelphia housing activist Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture was given 30 days notice to move out of the West Philly home she has rented since 2019.

  • A day later, Nkrumah-Ture said the new owner and her family demanded she leave immediately, sparking a week-long argument which she says escalated into multiple intimidation tactics, including being locked up in her room and threatened with a gun.

Why is this important: Nkrumah-Ture’s claims, which have prompted multiple police visits and city involvement, spark calls for more tenant protections as Philadelphia’s rental aid runs out and its court owner-tenant is backlog with cases.

  • Community Legal Services (CLS) said there has been an increase in illegal evictions in Philadelphia in recent years.

Yes, but: Illegal evictions are difficult to track in Philadelphia because there is not much data available.

Driving the news: Nkrumah-Ture and his attorney, Vikram Patel of CLS, filed an emergency injunction in landlord-tenant court on Thursday against new landlord Alvan Morrison and other occupiers.

  • Her hearing is set for February 21, but she and Patel have filed a motion to push back the date.

State of play: The timeline of events, as told by Nkrumah-Ture and Patel, unfolded as follows:

  • More than a week ago, former owner Terence Small sold the property that Nkrumah-Ture leases to Morrison.
  • On February 5, Morrison gave Nkrumah-Ture 30 days’ notice to quit. The notice says Morrison will move into the property and Nkrumah-Ture will be considered a “roommate” who only rents out one room on a monthly basis.
  • Nkrumah-Ture’s version of the lease states that she is entitled to exclusive use of the property for one month, according to her legal complaint.

The next day, a man posing as the new owner’s brother demanded that she move out immediately. The family began to move in.

  • Morrison and others returned to the property over the next few days – and police were called multiple times.

Cellphone video footage provided to Axios captured several of the confrontations.

  • One from February 8 shows the man who identified himself as Morrison’s brother cursing Nkrumah-Ture and shaking his furniture.

Last Thursday, Nkrumah-Ture alleged that Morrison and members of her family locked her in her room and tried to cut off her internet service.

  • The same day, the police were called and Nkrumah-Ture and Patel filed the emergency injunction.

Between the lines: Nkrumah-Ture said his version of the lease was not the same as the one the landlord provided to police last week. It is still unclear why there are two versions of the lease.

  • Morrison declined Axios’ request for comment.

The context: Nkrumah-Ture told Axios that she knew Small wanted to sell the property for months and started a GoFundMe to raise funds for his impending move.

  • She filed a complaint with the Fair Housing Commission in January after discovering that Small did not have a rental license.
  • City recordings show Small has owned the property since 2016 but only obtained a rental license last month despite renting to Nkurmah-Ture for nearly two years.

What they say : Nkrumah-Ture said she was not leaving and had friends and other activists who took turns staying with her to ensure her safety.

City Council member Jamie Gauthier came to the house last week to mediate the situation and even called the city’s police commissioner for clarification on the matter.

  • She told Axios that “property and ownership matter no more than people’s well-being and how they are treated within our community.”

Small and the Philadelphia Police Department did not respond to requests for comment Sunday night.

To note : Axios attempted to reach Morrison for comment on several occasions.


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