Landlords who want to evict tenants for not paying rent must attend mediation and apply for rental assistance until Aug. 31, according to an order by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that extended a Philadelphia court mandate.
Since April 1, the Philadelphia Municipal Court has required landlords seeking to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent to enter Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program, seek rental assistance, and to wait 45 days before filing in court.
Philadelphia has been nationally recognized for the program, and the U.S. Justice Department cited the municipal court order in a letter to state supreme court chief justices urging the use of eviction diversion and rental assistance to prevent mass evictions.
The municipal court mandate could not continue without permission from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Patrick F. Dugan, the municipal court’s president judge, requested and was granted that permission on Wednesday.
The court has authorized more than 2,000 lockouts in pending cases, and more than 900 lockout orders are “imminently to be served” at the end of any applicable eviction bans, Dugan wrote in his request to the Supreme Court. Although Philadelphia’s eviction ban expired Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide ban for eligible renters remains in effect through July 31.
“This pre-filing diversion program has been successful and has facilitated judicial management of landlord tenant cases,” Dugan wrote in his request to the Supreme Court.
He added, “It is anticipated the court will be overwhelmed with filing of eviction cases based on nonpayment of rent and that the continuation of the Philadelphia Municipal Court Diversion Program will enable the court to manage the backlog of evictions and the anticipated filing of claims for possession based on nonpayment of rent while both landlords and tenants seek to utilize” rental assistance.
Dugan said about 25,000 applications for rental assistance are pending review by the city.
More than 2,300 pairs of landlords and tenants have met with mediators and housing counselors through the city’s diversion program since it launched in September. As of June 25, about 57% have reached agreements or agreed to keep negotiating. The program is focusing on helping landlords and tenants get rental assistance.