By Salvia Yi, Esq.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has entered an order extending the statewide judicial emergency in response to COVID-19 through April 30, 2020. Accordingly, any eviction, ejectment or other displacement of an individual’s residence based upon failure to make a monetary payment is stayed until after April 30, 2020, or longer depending on your judicial district.
As a result, this means that no eviction complaints may be filed by a landlord against a tenant at this time and any pending evictions (awaiting a hearing, writ of possession, forcible writ) are put on hold until after April 30, 2020. Compliance with this Order is fairly simple given that most Pennsylvania courts are closed.
It is important to understand that this Order should not be interpreted as a green light for tenants to forego their rent payments, since failure to pay rent on time can result in additional costs to the tenant such as late fees and penalties. More importantly, once courts are back in session, landlords may commence an eviction complaint and seek the back rent, late fees, and in some cases attorneys’ fees and court costs owed.
On March 30, 2020, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro issued a letter urging landlords to go a step further and refrain from initiating eviction proceedings for “some additional time period after our courts are re-opened for eviction proceedings.” Therefore, although landlords may initiate eviction proceedings after April 30, 2020, they are encouraged to negotiate resolutions with their tenants if they are able.
If your tenants have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and are struggling to make rent payments, consider offering a payment plan in order to allow them time to recover. Despite the fact that it may be difficult for some landlords to maintain a steady income during this time, the cost of instituting eviction proceedings against otherwise compliant tenants can be costly. Since eviction proceedings will only incur additional costs, it is worth it to attempt negotiations with your tenants in order to best serve everyone’s interests.
Gawthrop Greenwood and its team of lawyers will continue to review legislation and governmental decisions as they unfold, as we are committed to providing guidance to our clients. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us at 610-696-8225.