Lincoln Financial Foundation holds educational seminar on eviction ahead of potential crisis
The hour-long webinar featured all Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians need to know about the resources available to keep them in their homes.
Up to this point, lawmakers across the country have been putting a pause on evictions as COVID-19 continues to control a large portion of life as the summer enters its twilight.
The virus, in addition to killing upwards of 175,000 people as of Aug.19 in the U.S., has also tanked the economy, resulting in millions of Americans losing their jobs in the last six months.
For those affected — and it’s in the millions — many monthly bills have become increasingly difficult to pay the longer the pandemic and its subsequent shutdown has dragged on.
While most utility companies have granted reprieves to those unable to pay their bills for things like water or electricity, landlords have only, for the most part, been banned from evicting anyone unable to pay their rent.
Throughout the last six months, job or not, rent has still been due at the end of every month.
That’s the case in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania-at-large as both city and state leaders have pushed an eviction moratorium back multiple times since March.
Right now, the moratorium is extended until Sept. 3 in the city and Aug. 31 for the rest of Pennsylvania.
That could change yet again as the deadline gets closer, but the Lincoln Financial Foundation is taking no chances as they organized an educational webinar on eviction on the afternoon of Aug. 18.
The webinar, featured as part of the foundation’s Community Connections Initiative, held a conversation between the Urban League of Philadelphia’s Andrea Custis and Community Legal Services Staff Attorney Kadeem Morris about everything Philadelphians and Pennsylvanians need to know about getting financial support for housing payments.
Both agreed that in times of crisis, the natural inclination, especially for those from underrepresented, unseen communities, is to not ask for help.
“Please do not feel ashamed,” said Custis. “You are not the only one struggling right now.”
Morris encouraged flipping the mindset on its head.
“Air on the side of asking for help and give us the opportunity to help you,” he said.
The webinar started with an explanation of the eviction process.
A landlord must first give the tenant notice of their pending eviction before anything else can happen. As part of the notice, a court complaint is included detailing why the landlord is taking the tenant to eviction court.
With the court complaint made, a court date is scheduled and a hearing happens. If the judge rules in favor of eviction, a tenant can appeal, which can prolong the process.
But if not, the tenant is served a writ of possession by the sheriff, meaning the sheriff can enforce the transfer of the property back to the landlord (an eviction). An Alias Writ of Possession is served if 11 days passes and the tenant still occupies the property — another warning of eviction.
If seven to 10 days passes after the alias is served, the sheriff could potentially lock out the tenant from their home.
The webinar made clear that anything other than that chronology constitutes an illegal eviction, but as someone who has worked in the courts for a number of years, Morris said that landlords still perform them.
That’s partly why Philadelphia passed the Emergency Housing Protections Act (EHPA) back in June.
The five-part legislation, which featured as the second talking point in the webinar, offers a slate of pre-emptive eviction protections:
- Extended the city’s eviction moratorium until Aug. 31 (PHA later set the date to Sept. 3)
- Waived late fees for rent until May 31, 2021 — any paid between March 1. 2020 and May 31, 2021 will be applied to future rent
- Allowed tenants to sue landlords for damages up to $2,000 as a result of illegal lockouts
- Created an eviction diversion program that lasts until December 31, 2020
- Allowed hardship payment agreements between tenants and landlords through Aug. 31, 2020
Beyond EHPA, the webinar also highlighted all the resources available to tenants of which there has been a lot to keep track of over the last five months.
First and foremost, if having trouble paying rent, Custis and Morris encouraged tenants to communicate first with their landlords about their difficulties.
The relief highlighted centered on Pennsylvania’s CARES Act allocation, which in Philadelphia has spawned a Phase 2 of an earlier emergency rental assistance program.
Those that applied and were accepted can still apply for phase 2. Rejected applicants are also encouraged to reapply as income limits are higher in phase 2. The program pays up to $750 per month towards rent for up to six months.
To stay updated on any eviction rulings (like another moratorium extension), tenants are encouraged to visit phillytenant.org.
This article is part of Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting