HARRISBURG, Pa. — Governor Tom Wolf on Thursday extended a statewide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions until August 31. Some landlords claim they are owed thousands of dollars in rent, but renters argue this hasn’t been easy for them either.
Wendy Macias, 17, said her family has fallen three months behind on rent after her father lost his job due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It has really been hard on my family, and families around my neighborhood, to pay their rent up to date,” said Macias, who lives in Reading, Berks County.
Macias said her family tried to work out a payment plan with their landlord, but instead, he threatened eviction. She is the oldest of four siblings and said none of them feel safe in their own home.
“My younger siblings are scared we’re going to get evicted, especially with our landlord threatening us,” she said.
The moratorium on evictions provides some relief for families, like Macias’, but some advocacy groups argue more needs to be done.
“We’re happy that families, like Wendy’s, are not going to be evicted next week, but what’s going to happen after August 31?” questioned Patty Torres, organizing director for Make the Road Pennsylvania, an advocacy group for the working class in Latino communities.
A 55 member coalition, led by Make the Road PA, sent a letter urging Governor Tom Wolf to extend Pennsylvania’s eviction moratorium indefinitely. The organization warned the state about a massive wave of evictions and homelessness if it was not renewed.
Landlords argue they are owed thousands of dollars in rent. Some have had to pay out of pocket for services that rely on rental payments.
“We pay plumbers, electricians, landscapers and contractors. Everyone in some manner is affected by this crisis. They keep saying we’re all in this together. We’re in the same storm, but we’re in different boats,” said Rita Dallago, executive director of the Pennsylvania Residential Owners Association.
The state is using $175 million dollars of federal coronavirus relief money for rental and mortgage assistance. It will cover up to $750 per month in rent per family and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency began accepting applications on July 6.
The program is meant to help both tenants and landlords during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it may not be enough to cover the full rental amount in many cases.
“In the Harrisburg area, a two-bedroom townhouse on average is renting for $1,200 to $1,300 a month. If you’re renting a single dwelling, with say three bedrooms and two baths, you may be paying $2,000 or more a month in rent,” explained Dallago. “That adds up quickly.”
Dallago said tenants can receive the rental assistance for up to six months and the landlord must be in agreement to accept that payment. After six months is up, she said the landlord cannot evict the tenant for an additional 60 days.
The ban on foreclosures and evictions does not cover tenants who damage property or break the lease for reasons other than nonpayment. Visit the PHFA’s website to learn more about rental assistance through the CARES Rent Relief Program.