What is the Eviction Diversion Program?
In Philadelphia, in order to legally evict a tenant a homeowner must first complete the Philadelphia Eviction Diversion Program. While there are limited exceptions, § 9-811. Eviction Diversion Program requires reasonable good faith participation in eviction diversion before filing an eviction under any circumstances except where an eviction is necessary to prevent threat of imminent harm by the person being evicted including physical harm and harassment.
The program requires sending a Notice of Diversion Rights to the Tenant, advising of them of their option to participate in the program. The Notice must be sent by USPS Certified Mail and confirmation of mailing must be submitted to the City of Philadelphia to obtain approval for the program.
What if I Want Possession Only?
The Eviction Diversion Program is a legal requirement for landlords seeking possession of the property based on termination of the term, nonpayment of rent and breach of lease. While the EVDP used to apply exclusively to landlords suing for back rent, in January 2022 the statute was amended to encompass all evictions except those required to prevent imminent physical harm and harassment. Therefore, virtually all landlords must complete the EVDP before filing for eviction.
How Do I Apply for Eviction Diversion Program?
In order to apply for the Philadelphia Eviction Diversion Program, the landlord must submit proof of mailing of Notice of Diversion Rights and complete an application for diversion with the City of Philadelphia Diversion Program. Once the application is accepted a city mediator will contact the landlord and tenant to schedule a meeting to discuss possible non-trial resolution (i.e., eviction diversion). A meeting will be scheduled within forty-five days of applying for the diversion program.
Some cases are not scheduled for mediation and referred for further “good faith participation” between landlord and tenant before an eviction is filed. After completion of the forty-five day requirement for mediation, a landlord may proceed with filing an eviction.
What Happens at the Eviction Diversion Meeting?
If the City of Philadelphia schedules a mediation the landlord and tenant must participate in reasonable good faith. The landlord or his agent must call in to the conference prepared to negotiate a possible resolution of the situation.
This may include negotiating an agreement between the landlord and tenant to “pay and stay” at the Property. The agreement may include an agreed date for the tenant to vacate in consideration for deferral of eviction proceedings. In some limited situations, a landlord may offer the tenant cash to vacate the property and avoid an eviction. The agreement is memorialized by a housing mediator who sends a copy of the mediation to all parties involved.
Is the Eviction Diversion Agreement Legally Binding?
No. If the tenant breaches the eviction diversion agreement the landlord must file an eviction and proceed through the courts to obtain a writ of possession. Therefore, a landlord cannot legally enforce an Eviction Diversion Program Agreement.
What Happens if I File for Eviction before Eviction Diversion?
According to § 9-811 a landlord who files for an eviction without completing diversion may have his case dismissed before the hearing. Moreover, tenant who is served with an eviction before completion of the diversion process may use failure to complete eviction diversion as an affirmative defense to the eviction. According to the statute the Courts may also sue sponte dismiss causes of action that do not comply with the EVDP. Therefore, if you file to file for eviction diversion you may lose the case in court.
How Long to Evict With Eviction Diversion Program?
Before COVID-19 an eviction in Philadelphia took approximately six to eight weeks from start to finish. Since inception of the diversion program, the average time to process an eviction in Philadelphia has increased to approximately four months. Not all the time is attributable to the EVDP, as increasingly there are longer delay in scheduling a lock out as the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office has increased the amount of time to process an alias writ of possession. Therefore, it is reasonable to estimate that the eviction diversion program has added forty-five days to the time frame to evict a tenant in Philadelphia, PA since pre-pandemic.
Can I Hire An Attorney to Complete Eviction Diversion?
Yes. Our Philadelphia Landlord/Tenant Lawyers are standing ready to complete the eviction diversion process. Similarly, it may be possible to delegate the entire matter to an attorney from start to finish. In some cases you may simply contact us to start the process, and we will call you when the lockout is scheduled. While not all cases run so smoothly and some require witness testimony it may be possible to schedule remote (i.e., zoom) testimony with advance notice. Therefore, most of the eviction leg work can be delegated to an attorney to resolve on your behalf.
If you are seeking to evict a tenant contact a Philadelphia / Landlord Tenant attorney at 267-535-9776 to schedule a free legal consultation of your matter. You may also email relevant documents (i.e., lease, certificate of rental suitability, lead safe certificate, etc.) to our firm’s website. We will contact you to schedule a consultation. Mark D. Copoulos, Esquire has nearly fifteen years of legal experiencing resolving evictions in Philadelphia county and the surrounding areas. Our firm can assist you regain possession of your property and remove the unwanted occupants with minimal intervention on the part of the property owner.