Efforts to stave off evictions during the coronavirus pandemic at the local, state and federal level have made for a confusing situation for thousands of Philadelphia tenants struggling to pay rent.
A Pennsylvania moratorium on eviction actions expired Monday, clearing the way for nearly 1,800 evictions previously in progress to resume in a city that sees close to 20,000 annually. But an announcement late Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could put a federal hold through the end of the year on many of those evictions starting Friday.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia’s eviction diversion program, which aims for mediation before a new action is filed, took effect Monday, and the city is offering another round of rental assistance.
Legal experts and housing advocates say tenants should be ready for the worst-case scenario as local governments figure out how to implement the federal rule.
More details on evictions in Philadelphia, where more than a quarter of residents lived in poverty before the pandemic, a number that is expected to rise:
Hearings for delayed eviction actions were scheduled to resume Thursday in Philadelphia. The court agenda for the housing division appeared to be empty in the morning, and a copy of a mandatory declaration to participate in the CDC program appeared on the court’s website. A phone call seeking clarification was not immediately returned.
And landlords who already received a writ of eviction from the court that had been stayed during the pandemic were going to be allowed to begin tenant lockouts Tuesday.
Housing advocates and legal experts have said it’s uncertain how the CDC’s announcement will affect those plans.
A group of people protesting evictions tried to block the court entrance Thursday afternoon where those evictions hearings would normally take place. City officials said that there were 17 arrests, and that those protesters would be civilly cited for failure to disperse.
The CDC stay applies only to evictions filed because of nonpayment of rent related to COVID-19 — either loss of income for illness, pandemic-related business closures, the need to take leave to take care of someone who became sick and a few other scenarios. It requires an individual income of less than $99,000 and proof of the loss of income.
“The CDC order might not prevent several of the steps in the eviction process. And until we know that, people still need to plan to be engaged and be prepared for trying to prevent evictions,” said Vik Patel, a staff attorney in the housing unit of Community Legal Services.
Get your CompTIA A+, Network+ White Hat-Hacker, Certified Web Intelligence Analyst and more starting at $35 a month. Click here for more details.