August 10th, 2021

How does the CDC Moratorium Impact Evictions in PA?

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?

What’s new in the latest CDC moratorium?

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: 

  • new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 persons in the last 7 days, and
  • percentage of positive SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic nucleic amplifications tests in the last 7 days

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. 

What do you do if you fear eviction?

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:

  1. Have used best efforts to obtain all available governmental assistance for rent or housing;
  2. Meet income requirements, no more than $99,000 annually in 2020 (or no more than $198,000 jointly) or expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2021 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return); was not required to report income in 2020 to the IRS due to requirements; received an Economic Impact Payment;
  3. Are unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours or work or wages, a layoff or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
  4. Are making best efforts to make timely partial rent payments that are as close to the full rent payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses;
  5. Do not have alternate, appropriate housing means and would otherwise likely become homeless; and
  6. Reside in a U.S. county experiencing substantial or high rates of community transmission, as defined by the CDC.

Can a landlord evict a tenant during the CDC moratorium?

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:

  1. Engaging in criminal activity while on the premises
  2. Threatening the health or safety of other residents
  3. Damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk of damage to property
  4. Violating any applicable building code, health ordinance, or similar regulation relating to health and safety
  5. Violating any other contractual obligation, other than timely payment of rent or similar housing-related payment

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. 

What are penalties for violating the moratorium?

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.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.