Eviction moratorium ends leaving some Philadelphia families on edge

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The legal profession expects a flood of landlord-tenant cases with the end of the eviction moratorium, which lapsed Monday.

Next week, landlords can begin locking out tenants, leaving financially-strapped families on edge.

"We've seen a lot more calls coming in," said Rachel Garland, with Community Legal Services, a nonprofit that helps low-income residents deal with landlord-tenant issues for free.

She said Philadelphia tenants have a bit more relief ahead.

Tuesday marked day one of the Philadelphia's Eviction Diversion Program, which allows tenants if they prove a COVID-19 hardship, can prevent eviction until the landlord and tenant enter into mediation.

"You do have to fill out a certification form and send it back to your landlord. So, that certification form, you can either find it on the Fair Housing Commission's website, or you can find it on our phillytenant.org website," Garland said.

"Landlords don't really want to evict tenants. That's not what they're looking to do," said Paul Cohen, a landlord attorney and General Counsel for the Philadelphia Landlord Association.

He says the onus shouldn't fall squarely on landlords.

Cohen says a large portion of landlords are small mom and pop operations with low margins, including landlord Eddie Edge.

Edge has 12 units in West Philadelphia and investment income is down big, but he's decided to forgive past rents that couldn't be paid.

"I run really small margins. I am not living the high life. Cut 20% and I am out of profit. Anything more I am digging into savings," he said.

Legal professionals say - for now - the courts are going to be inundated with landlord tenants issues pre-COVID since the courts closed in mid-March. But a flood of court cases is expected late this year and into 2021.

Tenants who need help can call the Philadelphia Tenant Hotline at 267-443-2500 or the diversion program's website.
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