Freeze on evictions nearing an end in York County and around state

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

As Pennsylvania's moratorium on evictions nears its end on July 10, some of York County's 19 magisterial district judges said they expect an initial flood of new landlord-tenant filings, while others aren't sure what to expect.

"Since the beginning of the month, when we got our furloughed staff back and have been operating under somewhat normal conditions, we have received numerous calls regarding the filing of landlord-tenant cases," Dallastown-area District Judge Scott Laird told The York Dispatch. "So we expect a multitude of them being filed."

Laird's office handles about 600 landlord-tenant actions a year, which is a high number for a York County district judge office, he said.

"We're actually pretty used to it, quite frankly," Laird said. "The difference is going to be that they might not be as spread out as they have been in the past. If that's the case, we'll handle them."

An illustration of an actual eviction notice placed the door of the home of its recipient in Lower Windsor Township, Thursday, June 25, 2020. Image has been altered to blur out personal information. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The state Supreme Court halted all evictions for failure to pay in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Four days before that prohibition ended on May 11, Gov. Tom Wolf issued his own statewide moratorium, which ends July 10.

Federal freeze: A federal eviction moratorium as part of the CARES Act remains in place until the end of July, but it affects only properties that have any tie to the federal government. That includes landlords with Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae mortgage loans, landlords who accept federal money for Section 8 housing and all Housing Authority properties.

In the meantime, York County's working constables are waiting to see whether the end of the state's eviction moratorium means they will be able to resume some of their regular work, according to Constable Chuck Green, president of the York County Constables Association.

Between the eviction moratorium and the fact that prison inmates are "attending" their preliminary hearings by videoconference rather than being physically transported, constables have suffered financial hardship, he said.

York County's ongoing judicial emergency, in effect through Aug. 31, allows such hearings to be held without defendants being there in person, to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

"The landlord-tenant (case stoppage) and the transport situation, those two things are the meat and potatoes for me and for a lot of other constables," Green said. "We're waiting to see what happens ... but we really don't know what to expect."

Red Lion-area District Judge John H. Fishel said he also expects a glut of new landlord-tenant filings on July 10, but he predicted the number will return to normal for his office after that.

Fishel also noted that York County President Judge Joseph C. Adams, who declared the county's judicial emergency, could extend it with regard to prisoner transports.

York City District Judge Ron Haskell II said he's not sure whether his office will see a flood of new landlord-tenant filings on and after July 10, but he noted he will "prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

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)

Responsibility, compassion: Fellow York City District Judge James Morgan told The York Dispatch he's hoping his office doesn't see a plethora of new landlord-tenant cases — and not because his staff isn't capable of handling them.

Morgan said he's hopeful tenants who were behind on rent have been responsible enough to catch up on their overdue balances, and he's also hopeful that landlords have compassion for tenants struggling with hardships, "especially when there are children involved."

He said a large number of his landlord-tenant cases are brought by the Housing Authority of the City of York. None of those cases can move forward until the end of July, per the federal CARES Act.

More:Older tenant evictions now moving forward in York County, but not new ones

Laird also said he's hoping tenants behind on rent have taken steps to catch up on what they owe, considering the COVID-19 pandemic has given them extra time to deal with their financial issues.

An illustration of an actual eviction notice placed the door of the home of its recipient in Lower Windsor Township, Thursday, June 25, 2020. Image has been altered to blur out personal information. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Green said he and fellow constables don't really know what to expect.

"Some of the landlords I've talked to said their tenants were able to get caught up," he said.

It generally takes about six weeks from start to finish for a landlord-tenant eviction case, according to Green.

Fishel said that tenants who receive possession notices, also known as eviction notices, have 10 days to vacate their homes after a constable posts a final eviction notice.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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