After Councilmember Helen Gym introduced a resolution calling for a temporary moratorium on evictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, Philadelphia municipal courts will not execute any evictions in the next two weeks.
The stay on evictions is scheduled to start Monday, March 16 and it implies that scheduled evictions will not move forward for half a month, and people will be allowed to stay at their houses for that period.
However, the court will continue to hear new cases and operate as usual with about 100 eviction cases scheduled to be heard Monday by a judge in municipal court.
An e-mail sent by the court late Sunday night states that “the landlord-tenant officer’s office (…) will remain open to process new work.”
Philadelphia’s landlord-tenant court is usually extremely crowded, especially in the early morning and early afternoon. This is a strong reason to consider the recommendation of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention against any gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks
According to Rachel Garland, a managing attorney with Community Legal Services, a nonprofit that represents low-income tenants in the courtroom, there are 566 evictions scheduled in the Municipal Court’s Courtroom 3 this week.
Garland explained that is necessary to protect the people who are in vulnerable conditions. “None of this is enough,” said the attorney. “When the court fails to take action and put in effect an eviction moratorium, we are putting our most vulnerable at risk. We are forcing people to choose between defending their homes in court and all of the medical advice we are getting from experts.”
Brian Abernathy, the city’s Managing Director said that all the work to fight the spread of COVID-19 is managed through “deep poverty and making sure we have appropriate services for our most vulnerable populations.”
Elsewhere in the city, the Philadelphia Housing Authority suspended all evictions for 30 days, starting on Friday, March 13. The agency is postponing all court appointments for residents who are facing charges of failure to pay rent.
The authority will also offer hardship waivers to residents who lost a job or suffered a pay cut because of the pandemic.
City utilities like Philadelphia Gas Works and the Water Department suspended utility shutoffs in response to the virus spread.