A new countywide order extends protections for tenants facing eviction until Feb. 12, or nearly two weeks beyond a federal moratorium expiring at the end of January.
The order from Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas President Judge David Ashworth was filed Tuesday and applies to tenants who have claimed protections under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A new federal stimulus bill signed in December extended the CDC moratorium for an additional month — from Dec. 31 to Jan. 31.
Under the federal rule, protections are extended to tenants who have tried to obtain government rent assistance, who earn less than $99,000 a year and have experienced substantial loss in income due to the COVID-19 pandemic that prevents them from paying rent in full.
By signing the declaration, tenants claim that they would likely become homeless or be forced to live in cramped living conditions if evicted.
The protections do not apply if a tenant has engaged in criminal activity, threatened the health of other residents or caused damage to the property, among other disqualifying factors.
Landlords restarted filing complaints against tenants when the state’s eviction moratorium ended at the beginning of September.
The CDC order provides protections from the final possession of the property — eviction — by the landlord. However, the order does not stop landlords from filing complaints and, in Lancaster County, complaints can still make their way through the court system.
A tenant contesting an eviction must provide a signed copy of the CDC declaration to the magisterial district court at any time prior to their removal, according to Russ Glass, court administrator.
In an October amendment, Ashworth provided a way for landlords to challenge a signed CDC declaration if they believed the tenant was not truthful when claiming CDC protections.
If a challenge is filed by a landlord, the magisterial district judge must schedule a hearing within 15 days to determine the validity of the tenant’s claims.
There were 167 new landlord-tenant fillings in Lancaster County in December.