Harrisburg, PA. (WHTM) — Despite a moratorium on evictions, Pennsylvanians can still be forced out of their homes.
“People are scared, in disbelief, and shocked. They didn’t think it could happen,” Caleb Cossick said.
Cossick is a volunteer with Greater Harrisburg Tenants United. The group formed earlier this year to help tenants in Dauphin County know their rights. When the pandemic hit, the group created a hotline (717-461-2096) to help renters in Dauphin County and Harrisburg that were facing eviction. Cossick is answering calls almost daily.
“We try to provide advice on legal protections from eviction and what should you do if you have been taken to court,” Cossick said.
What the group has found is the CDC moratorium on evictions does not protect everyone.
“It only covers eviction for non-payment of rent. It does not cover lease expiration, lease termination, any sort of violation of the lease, whether it is petty or severe,” said Cossick.
“There are a number of holes in the eviction moratorium,” Phyllis Chamberlain said.
Chamberlain is the Executive Director of the Housing Alliance of PA, which works to increase access to safe and affordable homes
“Certainly it is the right of landlords to make choices about who lives in their housing, but we are hearing more and more stories when people are unable to pay rent that landlords are using the fact that they can just not renew a lease as a way to force a person to move on,” Chamberlain said.
The Housing Alliance of PA says some landlords have been forgiving rent and working with tenants to help keep them in their homes but it is not something every landlord can afford.
It is estimated more than 230,00 Pennsylvania households are facing possible eviction. While new federal rent relief is on its way, it is not clear when it will arrive. Many families are relying on the moratorium on evictions to stay in their homes.
The CDC moratorium on evictions expires at the end of the month. It is possible it could be extended.
There is also an effort at the PA state capitol that would extend the state moratorium on evictions.
“If the CDC or state legislators were willing to extend the ban to cover the expiration of the lease or any reason that is not the fault of the tenant it would help. If it is a no-fault scenario like my lease just expired, it’s really just kind of egregious to allow that to occur,” Cossick said.