Legal Updates

Coronavirus Rent Protections

TO OUR VALUED CLIENTS AND FRIENDS

Since March 16, 2020 the world has been upended by the coronavirus pandemic.  According to Philadelphia City Council 1.9 million Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment assistance; 120,000 Philadelphians have applied for unemployment; there is a backlog of 5,000 eviction cases; and the city must cut approximately $649 million dollars from its budget.  According to the Council the crisis is exacerbated because 24.5% of Philadelphians live in poverty, almost half the city population is renters, and more than half of renters pay more than 30% of their income to rent.  Bill No. 200305 Section 1.

Following the tragic murder of George Floyd protests and looting has also taken place.  We support the righteous protests of those fighting for social justice and stand with you against racism, abusive police tactics, and lawlessness.  We will continue to provide zealous, effective, and reasonably priced representation to the People irrespective of creed, color or religion.

PROPOSED RENT PROTECTIONS

Right now Philadelphia City Council is debating several bills that will change Philadelphia eviction law.  The proposed ordinances would have a massive impact on Philadelphia landlord/tenant practice.  While the bills are not currently enacted several of these ordinances may pass soon.  The passage of these bills will generally stall the eviction process and make it more difficult to evict for nonpayment of rent.  Here is a general outline of the proposed bills.  Most of the bills will have an impact on Philadelphia landlord tenant law until at least May 2021.

Bill 200305 (Hardship Agreements) (Proposed Bill)

Bill 200305 is currently before Philadelphia City Council.  Under the proposed bill landlords are required to give “hardship notices” to tenants before taking them to eviction court.  The notice must be served on the tenant thirty days prior to taking eviction action.  The bill also provides for a moratorium for all evictions due to nonpayment of rent until at least August 31, 2020.  After August 31, 2020 residential tenants who pay ongoing rent and a portion of the back-rent owed cannot be evicted for at least nine months.  Tenants who are on a mandated hardship payment plan cannot be evicted for nine months or until they fall at least four months behind on their payment plan.  The effect of the bill would be to add at least one (1) month to the eviction process for landlords and substantially end evictions for nonpayment of rent on residential leases until May 2021.

Bill 200304 (Illegal Lockouts) (Proposed Bill)

Bill 200304 is also before City Council.  The proposed bill heightens penalties for self-help eviction.  Under the bill landlords may be subject to ninety (90) days incarceration for changing locks without due process.  The bill also provides tenants with punitive damages of $2,000.00 plus attorneys fees if they prove in-court they were evicted through self-help.

Bill 200302 (Late Fee Waiver) (Proposed Bill)

This proposed emergency housing protection would waive all late fees on commercial and residential leases until May 2021.  Landlords would be unable to collect late fees for nonpayment of rent irrespective of their lease terms.

Bill 200295 (Moratorium) (Proposed Bill)

This proposed emergency ordinance would halt evictions for any basis until August 31, 2020.  The ordinance as proposed applies to commercial and residential leases.  Therefore if this ordinance passes in city council landlords cannot start an eviction of any tenant in Philadelphia, PA until September 2020.

Bill 200294 (Diversion) (Proposed Bill)

This proposed ordinance would legally require all landlords to engage in government imposed mediation before proceeding with an eviction in Philadelphia, PA.  Pursuant to the ordinance landlords are legally mandated to sit-down with a government mediator to discuss a resolution to their landlord/tenant issues.  The landlord cannot proceed with eviction until he has participated in this mediation, unless there are no mediators available within at least thirty days.  The effect of the ordinance would be to add at least one (1) month to the time frame for a current eviction in Philadelphia, PA.

Right now there is a moratorium on all evictions in Philadelphia, PA until July 10, 2020.  Therefore if you are a landlord with a tenant who has defaulted on rent there is no avenue for relief.  If the proposed ordinances are passed landlords may have no ability to remove delinquent tenants from their properties until at least September 2020.  Even after September landlords may be legally required to give tenants up to nine months to repay rent owed.  Much of the rent will likely be forgiven during mandatory diversions and mediations.  Finally, if a landlord decides to take actions into their own hands through self-help eviction they may be criminally prosecuted or subject to punitive damages in civil court.

UNWAVERING LANDLORD/TENANT LAWYERS

Our firm has a steadfast commitment to Philadelphia landlord/tenants in all eviction matters.  Whether you are a tenant seeking to enforce your rights, or a landlord seeking possession our firm is available to provide zealous and diligent representation.  With the proposed changes in Philadelphia eviction law, now more than ever it is critical you have an experienced and aggressive advocate on your side.  Contact the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos for a free no-obligation consultation on your Philadelphia real estate matter.  Our firm stays current on the latest changes in the law and will ensure that your legal objectives are achieved in a reasonable time frame.  For more information on the proposed ordinances and their passage into law continue to monitor our website.  We will keep you posted as developments arise.