PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – A new court order in Allegheny County could postpone hearings for tenants unable to pay rent just as the statewide eviction moratorium is set to expire.
A judicial emergency was declared in the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania Monday. The statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures is set to end tomorrow.
The order acknowledges that both landlords and tenants can apply for rent assistance through programs like the CARES rent relief, but it takes time to apply for that aid.
According to the Allegheny County court order, if a tenant unable to pay rent says they have or are going to submit an application for rental assistance, the initial hearing will be used as a status conference instead.
If the decision is made to move forward with applying for rental assistance, a hearing can’t be scheduled until the application has either been granted, denied or withdrawn.
Applications for coronavirus-related rent assistance in Allegheny County can be found online.
Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf hinted Monday that he will reverse himself and extend Pennsylvania’s moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, which for almost six months has shielded renters from losing their homes for failing to pay rent during the pandemic.
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Wolf, a Democrat, last week said he does not have the legal authority to extend the moratorium beyond the end of August, and urged lawmakers in the Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass legislation to extend the statewide moratorium, which has been in place for more than five months.
He has since hedged as to whether, legally, it must end by Tuesday, and on Monday said he no longer stands by his decision to let it expire. Asked whether he would extend the moratorium on Tuesday, he said, “you have to wait and see.”
The state House of Representatives returns to voting session Tuesday and the Senate was scheduled to return next week. Republicans have said they will discuss the matter, but gave no promises.
Like many Democratic and Republican governors and local officials around the U.S., Wolf imposed a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions to prevent people from losing their homes in the midst of the virus outbreak and widespread joblessness.
On July 9, he extended the statewide moratorium until Aug. 31, saying renters needed more breathing room. A landlords group and individual landlords tried to get the moratorium overturned, but the state Supreme Court dismissed their suit.
Housing advocates predict a rush to the courthouse and a wave of evictions once the moratorium expires.
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