By Blair Haney
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium was extended until January 31, but without further action by the president or Pennsylvania’s governor, local renters face eviction notices in coming days, and potentially homelessness, sickness, and death. [Note: Since this article was published, the CDC eviction moratorium has been extended until March 31.]
The potential for mass evictions is high once the moratorium ends. Pennsylvania lost 1.1 million jobs since March and only regained 57 percent of those jobs. People of color, female, and older workers were hit hardest by unemployment.
“Don’t be embarrassed, there are many renters in your situation. Pay your rent if you can; the worse action is to freeze and do nothing,” Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania (LASP) Managing Attorney Joshua Z. Goldblum told Bucks County Rising.
According to Goldblum, “there was $150 million allocated for rent and mortgage relief under the federal CARES Act funds this spring, Pennsylvania only distributed $54 million to renters and homeowners. The remaining funds were used by the state to plug up holes in its budget.”
Pennsylvania renters are protected from eviction due to non-payment of rent per the CDC moratorium. However, renters must submit a form to the owner and they are responsible for the back rent. The CDC provided an FAQ to help renters navigate the moratorium.
Goldblum suggests that if you are behind in rent and will face eviction, do these 5 things now:
- Reach out to your landlord and stay in constant communication. Tell the owner where you stand financially, and ask if they will work out a payment plan. Get the payment plan in writing. Landlords are likely to work with you if you make a partial payment, set up a plan, and stay in regular communication.
- Contact local organizations for assistance. The Bucks County Housing Link (800-810-4434) and Bucks County Opportunity Council (215-345-8175) provide housing assistance. These organizations provide social services and some financial assistance.
- If served for eviction you should contact a lawyer. The Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania provides legal assistance for low-income residents. If you do not qualify, they will refer you to some options. Responses are slower due to remote work so get on it early, leave a message, and follow-up.
- Stay persistent in seeking help. Don’t give up, don’t despair. Answer your phone, even from numbers you do not recognize. Leave messages then follow-up. All organizations are receiving higher then usual requests for assistance but resources do exist and these groups want to help.
- Do NOT miss a court date and be familiar with your rights. You are guaranteed to lose if you do not go to court. You can file an appeal if you receive a judgement; you have 10 days to file and must put up funds (instructions for filing an appeal). An appeal will give you more time to find housing or to make full payment. If you do not file an appeal, you can be locked out on the 21st day after judgement. If this happens, be sure to inform your landlord in writing that you want to be able to pick up your possessions. They will have to put in storage.
Both sides are anxious to make the living arrangement work. “Landlords are in the rental business, not the eviction business. Evictions are expensive so most will want to work with you,” commented Goldblum. He reminds renters to communicate regularly, seek help from any and all organizations, and learn your rights as a renter.