The state Attorney General’s Office said in a filing Friday that a Philadelphia landlord’s attempt to evict tenants after his property manager allegedly stole their rent money is an illegal lockout and violates a coronavirus-related moratorium on most residential evictions.

Lawyers with Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office on Friday filed a petition to intervene in the lawsuit filed by the landlord — a developer with projects across Philadelphia and Los Angeles — against more than a dozen tenants of the Moscow & Monica apartment complex in North Philadelphia, just west of Fishtown. A hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday.

Tenants living in the complex told The Inquirer earlier this month that they made a verbal lease agreement with the complex’s former property manager, Frank Sanders, but did not sign a lease. Oral leases are considered legal agreements in Pennsylvania.

The building’s owner, Gagandeep Lakhmna, said in court papers those tenants were wrongfully living in the building and requested their ejectment. A new building manager recently deactivated residents’ key fobs and turned off some units’ utilities, a move that constitutes an illegal lockout. State and city law requires landlords to obtain court approval to remove tenants.

In a statement through an attorney, the complex said Sanders “allowed people to occupy apartments without a valid lease” and “put their payments in his own pocket.” Sanders has not responded to requests for comment.

“To protect our tenants,” it said, “we had no choice but to restrict access to the apartments to only tenants and their guests. We are working to resolve this matter with the help of law enforcement.”

In its filing Friday, Shapiro’s office contended that Sanders’ representation as a property manager to reach oral leases with the tenants makes those agreements binding under state law. The filing says that while the complex has alleged the tenants engaged in illegal activity on the premises, no police reports were made.

The filing also says the lockout violates the city’s eviction moratorium, which lasts through the end of March, and “could subject Pennsylvanians to periods of homelessness and greater exposure to the coronavirus.”