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Attorney general sues landlords over defective homes leased on unlawful terms

Attorney general sues landlords over defective homes
Attorney general sues landlords over defective homes 02:51

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (KDKA) -- Pennsylvania's attorney general is suing a father and son landlord duo for their alleged illegal treatment of tenants and consumers with "rent to own" agreements at more than 50 homes in Greene and Fayette counties. 

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General said property owners Joseph F. John and his son Joseph F. John II lease homes that aren't habitable and "rent to own" homes without a full disclosure of any defects in the homes. According to the lawsuit, the homes are in disrepair, often with missing pipes and appliances, leaking and damaged roofs and windows, insect infestations and malfunctioning plumbing. 

The Johns charge unlawful late fees and charge "rent to own" consumers unlawful interest rates, the attorney general's office said. 

The lawsuit alleges consumers are required to pay in person with cash and some are harassed or intimidated. The attorney general's office accuses the father of subjecting female tenants to lewd comments and sexual advances during some in-person transactions. 

The attorney general's office said the court granted its request for an ex parte preliminary injunction to protect consumers currently in the John's homes by allowing consumers to pay by check or money order in the mail, prohibiting the defendants from entering properties without prior consent from tenants and prohibiting the defendants from beginning eviction proceedings without court approval.

A hearing set for Sept. 18 will determine whether the preliminary injunction will be continued until the final disposition of the case. 

The attorney general's office said it's also seeking restitution for tenants and costs and civil penalties. The state is also seeking a permanent injunction that would prohibit the Johns from engaging in any installment land contracts and similar transactions in Pennsylvania. 

"These landlords target low-income tenants and subject them to illegal fees and terms, while also requiring consumers to pay cash in person, oftentimes under harassing circumstances," Attorney General Michelle Henry said. "Every Pennsylvanian has the right to safe, secure, and comfortable living conditions, and my office will not tolerate landlords who prey on vulnerable residents."

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