Bucks County issues eviction stay for tenants seeking rent assistance
Bucks County Courts this week granted a temporary stay to some tenants who must pay rent back to landlords, just days before the federal moratorium on evictions expires on July 31.
President Justice Wallace Bateman Jr. on Thursday signed an administrative order staying evictions for up to 60 days for tenants who have asked the county for federal rent assistance. The order takes effect August 1.
Officials at the neighboring Montgomery County court were reviewing the Bucks order, but Friday did not have a similar one in place, county spokeswoman Kelly Cofrancisco said.
The order, which expires Dec.31, allows a tenant or landlord to submit a request to stay the eviction process to the local appeals court judge.
The application must be signed by a representative from Bucks County Housing Link, which administers the county’s emergency rental assistance program. The representative must certify that a request for assistance is pending.
District judges will also have the discretion to stay proceedings for 30 days if they are satisfied that a “good faith” application has been or will be submitted for BERA or a comparable program.
The stay would cover legal proceedings and foreclosure of tenants for non-payment of rent. The order allows evictions to be delayed for 30 days, but can be extended for an additional 30 days upon request. No stay will last more than 60 days.
The court cited the “potential negative impacts” on individuals, families and the general public following evictions of people unable to make timely payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for prolonging the moratorium locally.
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More than 1,000 Bucks County tenants are potentially at risk of becoming homeless when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s temporary ban on residential evictions expires at the end of the month.
The ban was implemented last year in response to the COVID pandemic and extended several times, most recently last month. It should not be extended again.
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Throughout the pandemic, some district magistrates have allowed homeowners to continue with possession judgments, the first step in the eviction process, while others have not heard cases while the ban is in effect. .
The moratorium does not prevent a landlord from initiating eviction proceedings, it simply prevents the tenant from being excluded from their accommodation for non-payment of rent.
Without suspension, tenants who have a judgment against them could be excluded from their homes within 10 days of lifting the moratorium and obtaining a possession order.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, 1,906 landlord-tenant judgments have been rendered in favor of plaintiffs in Bucks County, according to Robert Pollock, administrator of the Minority Court. It is not known how many are possession judgments, the penultimate step before a deportation can be enforced.
As of last week, at least 36 landlord-tenant cases were due to be heard on August 2, Pollock said. The county has no way of identifying how many of these cases involve COVID-19-related nonpayment evictions.
Nationally, about 1 in 7 renters did not catch up on rent during the pandemic, with racial minorities facing the greatest challenges, according to data collected between June 23 and July 5 by the Household Pulse Survey of the Census Bureau.
Bucks and Montgomery counties are each set to receive more than $ 50 million in federal pandemic assistance to prevent evictions of people who have fallen behind on rent due to COVID-19.
Eviction prevention funding, which is one of the top two federal pandemic relief bills, can reimburse up to 15 months of rent, utilities, late fees and other housing-related expenses as soon as possible. April 1, 2020. Individuals may also be eligible to have an additional three-month rent advance covered.
But Bucks County, like many others nationwide, has experienced a backlog in processing claims, leading to payment delays of four to six weeks since last month. Participating landlords must agree, as a condition of payment, not to evict a tenant.
Updated information on payment terms for BERA was not immediately available, but so far 858 households have received assistance – about half of those who have requested – with $ 7.78 million distributed, according to county officials.
Since the program began on March 1, Bucks County has received more than 1,600 completed requests for assistance. Another 714 requests were initiated but not submitted, said Jeff Fields, director of housing and community development for Bucks County, who oversees the BERA program.
Once nominations are submitted, they’re usually assigned for review within two business days, Fields said. He added that his office’s goal is to process requests in 30 days or less on average.
“It is safe to say that our processing time has improved due to the fact that previously submitted applications were not assigned for review within two days,” added Fields.
Bucks County has made great strides in reducing arrears since the CDC extended its moratorium on evictions last month, said Josh Goldblum, senior counsel for Legal Aid of Southeastern PA, which represents many affected tenants.
Legal aid attorney Tesla Thomas has noticed that his BERA-related cases are now going more smoothly, although some candidates remain in limbo.
“Everyone works hard,” added Thomas. “The good thing is that we have very accessible contacts when problems arise. “
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How to Get Rental Aid in Bucks and Montgomery Counties
For general information and frequently asked questions about the federal COVID-19 rental assistance program, visit the US Department of the Treasury website at home.treasury.gov.
Bucks County Emergency Rental Aid
More information about the program and an application is available at buckscounty.gov/828/Emergency-Rental-Assistance-BERA or call 888-50-BUCKS.
Applicants do not need to be in arrears of rent to apply for the program, and the program can provide up to three months of advance rent for those who qualify.
Montgomery County Rent and Emergency Utilities Coalition Program
More program information is available at yourwayhome.org/eruc, call 2-1-1, or text your zip code to 898-211.