Since then, PCB has expanded beyond landlord-tenant disputes to advise students and community residents on a host of legal problems. Staffed completely by students and a lawyer adviser, PCB acts as an examiner and mediator on issues dealing with consumer complaints, landlord-tenant laws and other community issues. "We have dealt with merchant complaints, falsely advertised markdowns, scams, and occasionally mail fraud," said College senior Sarah Schwenzfeier, PCB's director. Complaints that deal with illegal acts, such as mail fraud, are usually turned over to the Philadelphia Police, the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Affairs or the post office. PCB is staffed by 14 administrative work-study students and 20 case-worker volunteers, who are trained to handle a variety of issues. Richard Lau, a College junior and assistant director of PCB, said that the group teaches all case workers basic landlord-tenant law, contract law, and techniques of handling cases. New volunteers are paired with returning workers for their first few cases. When a case involves legal issues, PCB workers refer to the state bar association for information. "We never want to say we can't help someone but we are not lawyers," Schwenzfeier said. "If it is not an issue we can deal with, we'll get the information or the name of a person who can help to them." Schwenzfeier said that PCB has a good relationship with city legal offices, which has helped the student group deal with the community. "We have a good reputation in the area so we find that most landlords are willing to talk to us," she said. Although 65 percent of the cases are student-related -- most of them landlord disputes -- many come from the surrounding community's residents. Each caseworker follows the case to its conclusion and each completed case is then reviewed by Lau or Schwenzfeier. PCB also conducts a Landlord-Tenant Survey comparing different off-campus living areas and landlords. The survey, which is published every other year, will be one of PCB's main projects this year. PCB has handled over 11,500 cases to date, and will see another 400 this year.Comments powered by Disqus
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