HARRISBURG – A pandemic-prompted pause on evictions will last two more months, thanks to an executive order signed Thursday by Gov. Tom Wolf.

Evictions have been halted due to an order by the state Supreme Court, but that order is due to expire Monday, Wolf said.

His executive order extends the moratorium on evictions until July 10.

“At a time when people need to stay home to protect their health, they should not have to worry about losing their homes,” said Wolf. 

“Ensuring that people can remain in their homes will help them to better protect their loved ones. It gives families the comfort of knowing they will have a place to live while all of us work together to fight COVID-19 and prepare to move Pennsylvania forward.”

The move coincides with a variety of other state initiatives, including an agreement negotiated by Attorney General Josh Shapiro with the Pennsylvania Apartment Association, a trade group representing landlords, that calls for landlords to waive late fees and arrange payment plans with tenants who have suffered financially due to the pandemic and the business closings it triggered.

“We know it’s critical for public health, and for our economic recovery, that people stay in their homes during this emergency,” Shapiro said.

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, meanwhile, has stopped foreclosures and evictions and is allowing homeowners with a PHFA mortgage to pause payments if they are having financial trouble because of the virus outbreak.

Marlynn Orlando, the CEO of the Pennsylvania Apartment Association (PAA), said her organization typically dislikes government mandates but understands why Wolf issued the order.

Her organization had already been recommending to its members – mostly larger apartment complex owners – that they hold off on evictions until at least July 15, a date set by the federal emergency relief bill for property owners with Freddie Mac- or Fannie Mae-backed mortgages who wanted to postpone mortgage payments.

In a statement, the PAA said the agreement was intended to help both landlords and tenants weather the economic crisis.

“Renters who can pay their rent, should pay their rent – it gives landlords more flexibility to work with residents who are facing financial hardship,” Orlando said.

Wolf said keeping as many people as possible in their homes is important as the state tries to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and get the economic reopening. His announcement came a day before the state begins to relax social distancing restrictions in 24 counties in northcentral and northwestern Pennsylvania. Wolf said he plans to announce where the next areas of the state will be able to relax restrictions.

“We cannot be evicting people and defeat this virus,” he said.

Shapiro said he doesn’t anticipate that there will be a rush of eviction filings when Wolf’s order expires in July.

He added: It also doesn’t mean that people will immediately be put out on the street if they’re behind on their rent.

“On July 10, that doesn’t mean folks who are going to get evicted, get evicted,” he said. 

John Finnerty is based in Harrisburg and covers state government and politics. Follow him on Twitter @CNHIPA.

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