Confusion over how federal eviction moratorium applies to Pa. impacting renters

PITTSBURGH — The federal government announced a moratorium on evictions nationwide, but there is plenty of confusion over how it applies to Pennsylvania, if it even does at all.

Pa.'s eviction moratorium ended Aug. 31, but the CDC announced it would extend a “nationwide” eviction ban through the end of the year.

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The new federal moratorium requires renters to make under $99,000 per year, have a loss of wages due to the pandemic and exhaust all other resources for assistance.

Gov. Tom Wolf is calling on the state legislature to extend the state’s own moratorium and amend Pa.'s rental and mortgage relief program to help more people during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is absolutely no reason why any Pennsylvanian under any circumstance should struggle for housing," Wolf said.

However, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which manages Pa.'s Rental Relief Program, is bracing for a possible surge in eviction notices. The agency said the need is great, but it’s been a challenge.

It has received 26,500 applications from renters asking for a total of more than $70 million, but only a fraction of them -- only about 2,600 -- have been approved so far for about $4 million.

And because of a limit on assistance, many landlords are not willing to participate.

“We can’t make assistance available without the landlord being involved,” said Bryce Maretzki, who works with the agency. “It’s capped at $750 per month per tenant for a max of six months. In many places -- Allegheny County being one -- rent is $1,000, $1,500. So, the landlords aren’t willing to take only $750 from a tenant who may owe twice that."

The current program prevents landlords from pursuing the balance from tenants, so Wolf is calling for changes to increase the cap to a county’s fair market rent value to encourage more landlords to apply.

The state has more than $145 million left in rental assistance. Right now, the deadline to apply is Sept. 30, but the governor is asking the legislature to extend that to Oct. 30.

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