COVID-19 Effects on Residential Landlord-Tenant Laws in Pennsylvania
Many families will likely feel the financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic for months, or even years, to come. This is particularly true for the 110 million Americans who rent their home. Before the pandemic, nearly a quarter of Americans had no savings at all, and an additional quarter had less than three months of expenses in savings – much of which is likely already gone for most families.
Eviction Protections & COVID-19
This scenario leaves many renters in the state of Pennsylvania at-risk for eviction due to nonpayment of rent. Up to this point, renters have been protected from eviction by the CARES Act eviction protection moratorium, which banned landlords from filing an eviction, issuing a Notice to Vacate, charging late fees, or issuing any other penalties related to nonpayment of rent. The federal protections afforded by the CARES Act have lapsed, and landlords can begin filing eviction cases – including those for nonpayment of rent – on August 24, 2020.
And while the Governor of Pennsylvania signed an executive order on July 9 extending these eviction protections, they will also lapse on August 31, 2020. Moreover, these protections are only for individuals who have not received assistance from the PA CARES program or those who have not already received relief through any of the federal moratorium programs or judicial orders.
Pennsylvania Eviction Information
The expiration of these eviction protections likely means that may Pennsylvania residents may be at risk for eviction over the coming months. The eviction process can be confusing, and many tenants may not know what to expect, what resources are available to help them avoid eviction, and what their legal rights are. Knowing your rights is key to ensuring you can make informed decisions for you and your family, the following information provides an overview of some common questions that tenants may have.
Q. I am unable to pay my rent. Are there any financial assistance resources available?
A. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency administers several programs that can help those who are unable to make rent payments, including PA CARES, which is a program that was implemented to help those facing financial hardships directly related to the pandemic.
Q. If I was unable to pay during the eviction moratorium, do I still owe back rent?
A. In most cases, the renters will still be responsible for the rent that accumulated during the moratorium. Some landlords may be able to provide some rent relief, and many will understand that their tenants will be unable to come up with the full amount due. It is a good idea to attempt negotiating a resolution to nonpayment with your landlord as soon as possible to avoid eviction. They may be open to a rent deferral, reduced payments, a payback period, or an extension of the lease. In many instances, these arrangements can be a win-win as renters avoid eviction, and landlords minimize their financial losses.
Q. Are all evictions covered by the federal and state moratoriums?
A. No, the eviction moratoriums within the CARES Act and in the executive order signed by the governor or Pennsylvania only apply to evictions related to nonpayment. All other reason evictions, such as those for violations of lease terms or illegal activity, may proceed.
Q. Can my landlord evict me without going to court?
A. No, your landlord must legally abide by the proper procedures for eviction. These procedures are in place to ensure that tenants have an adequate amount of written notice and that they have the right to appear before a judge before being forced to vacate a property.
Q. My landlord is threatening to change the locks and/or keep my personal property as a result of my inability to pay rent. Can they do this?
A. No, landlords may not legally change the locks or keep your personal property. They are required to provide you with ten days after an eviction for you to let them know that you want to come and get your property. They must hold onto it for thirty days so that you have an opportunity to pick it up. If you do not pick up your personal property within thirty days, the landlord may then dispose of or sell your property.
The D’Intino Law Firm is here to help navigate these questions and more. With a trusted Philladelphia real estate lawyer backing your best interest, you will be able to let a professional take the lead and make sure that your rights are no being violated. Call our office today at 267-491-1111 and take the next steps to knowing your options.