Wolf won't extend state's eviction moratorium, office says

The Associated Press
FILE - In this May 20, 2020, file photo, signs that read "No Job No Rent" hang from the windows of an apartment building during the coronavirus pandemic in Northwest Washington. The pandemic has shut housing courts and prompted authorities around the U.S. to initiate policies protecting renters from eviction. But not everyone is covered, and some landlords are turning to threats and harassment to force tenants out. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration reiterated Monday that he will not extend his executive order halting evictions and foreclosures in Pennsylvania because of legal limits that prevent him from taking further action.

In a statement, Wolf’s office said it had explored the possibility that it could build off of the Federal Housing Administration’s Thursday extension of its national foreclosure and eviction moratorium through December.

“But after a thorough legal review, we have determined that the governor cannot extend the executive order to reach additional Pennsylvanians who are not benefiting from the federal extensions and a legislative fix is necessary in order to protect homeowners and renters from eviction,” Wolf’s office said.

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The Federal Housing Administration’s moratorium protects homeowners with FHA-insured single family mortgages.

Wolf’s office suggested that it is on thin legal ice while fighting a challenge to the existing executive order on evictions, although its explanation has raised questions about what exactly prevents him from extending the moratorium, which for almost six months has shielded renters from losing their homes for failing to pay rent during the pandemic.

Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have introduced a slate of legislation to extend the moratorium and provide other tools for tenants to stave off eviction and pay back what they owe in rent.

Like many Democratic and Republican governors and local officials around the U.S., Wolf imposed a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions to prevent people from losing their homes in the midst of the virus outbreak and widespread joblessness.

Housing advocates predict a rush to Pennsylvania’s courthouses and a wave of evictions once the moratorium expires Tuesday.

Wolf has urged the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to pass legislation to extend the statewide moratorium.

Republicans have said they will discuss the matter, but gave no promises.

Earlier Monday, Wolf had briefly made it sound like he might reverse himself and extend it. Asked at a news conference Monday morning in Harrisburg if he would, he replied, “you have to wait and see.”