Throughout the pandemic, both landlords and tenants paid close attention to Pennsylvania Governor Orders regarding evictions. Rights on both sides were impacted, most notably by a series of eviction moratoriums. To prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the wake of the Delta variant, the CDC recently extended its moratorium until October 3, 2021. What does the moratorium mean for evictions in PA?
The biggest change in the extended CDC moratorium is applicability, as the Order is limited to counties with “substantial and high levels of community transmission.” Across the U.S., the CDC Data Tracker provides an integrated view for every county in the country, classifying each as low, medium, substantial or high, in terms of:
At the time this blog was published, two-thirds of PA’s 67 counties were listed at substantial or high levels of transmission.
The CDC Order goes on to note that if and when a county crosses this transmission threshold, it is then subject to the Order effective on that date. Additionally, if a county that was covered by the Order no longer experiences substantial or high transmission levels for 14 consecutive days, the Order no longer applies unless they meet the criteria at a later date.
If a lease expires during the CDC moratorium, the tenant may not be evicted by the landlord; however, they should complete a signed declaration to their landlords.
In presenting a signed declaration, the tenant is stating the following about themselves:
If you are a landlord, are you totally precluded from evicting a tenant during the moratorium?
As noted by the CDC: These persons may also still be evicted for reasons other than not paying rent or making a housing payment.
Here are several examples of reasons a landlord may evict a tenant during the moratorium:
In summary, yes there is some recourse for landlords, and tenants must continue to follow the law and seek to make at least partial payments while remaining in their homes. When the moratorium is lifted, landlords can still collect any and all unpaid rent, as rent remaining due and owing.
The CDC moratorium does not apply to commercial renters and owners or those living in hotels. Additionally, the CDC moratorium does not prohibit foreclosure on a home mortgage.
Tenants who falsely sign a declaration may be charged, as noted above. Pennsylvania launched an Emergency Rental Assistance Program to help PA tenants.
Landlords are subject to high penalties, fines up to $250,000, as well as jail time up to one year, for violating the moratorium. Should a larger rental entity evict tenants during this time, they may face penalties up to $200,000 per violation, or up to $500,000 per violation if the violation results in a death.
These are trying times for both landlords and tenants. No matter which side you find yourself on, please consult with legal counsel if you believe you’re a victim in this relationship, and the opposing party is in violation of the moratorium.
Attorney Kellie Rahl-Heffner is an experienced arbitrator and mediator. In addition to her family law practice, she also represents individuals and property owners in landlord-tenant matters including lease disputes, eviction filings, and property maintenance.