A landlord accused of discriminating against two gay renters when he evicted them from their Fairhill apartment has denied any wrongdoing.
The attorney for J.H., owner of an apartment building on the 3400 block of North Lee Street, recently filed a reply in federal court to his former tenants’ lawsuit, which alleges the landlord violated their civil rights because they were in a same-sex relationship.
J.H. maintains the men voluntarily left their apartment because it allegedly wasn’t up to code.
The men lived in the apartment from February-July. In a 27-page suit they filed in October, the tenants, named as “John Doe” and “James Roe,” allege the landlord told them they couldn’t live there together because other tenants and their children might complain about hearing them having sex.
They also accuse J.H.’s wife, C.H., for harassing them because of their relationship.
“Plaintiffs were not evicted by defendants,” stated J.H.’s reply, filed Nov. 30. “Rather, plaintiffs left on their own accord when [they] learned that the premises had been inspected by the City of Philadelphia and [that it had] determined that the premises were in violation of the Philadelphia Code because it was an alleged converted single-family dwelling that had allegedly been converted into a five-unit ‘rooming house’ without a zoning-use permit.”
J.H. also claims Roe breached a verbal rent agreement when Doe moved in with him, and that the men then “terrorized other occupants of the premises and forced all other occupants to vacate the premises due to [their] behavior.” The tenants later brought in a third roommate without the building owner’s authorization, according to the reply.
The verbal agreement originally stipulated that Roe would pay $450 in monthly rent, J.H. stated.
Roe and Doe claim they were forced to vacate and then rendered homeless. They are seeking an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and a requirement that J.H. adopt an LGBT-inclusive antibias policy. They have requested a trial by jury.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge C. Darnell Jones 2d.
Both Jon Taylor, an attorney for J.H. and C.H., and plaintiffs’ attorney Justin F. Robinette declined to comment for this story.