In June 2021, Rochelle Walensky, Director of the CDC extended the eviction moratorium until July 30, 2021.  At that time, the intention was to allow any further extensions absent an unexpected change in the trajectory of the global pandemic.  Enter stage right the Delta variant which has increased the number of COVID-19 cases across the United States.  As a result, the CDC has extended the moratorium until October 3, 2021 to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/communication/Signed-CDC-Eviction-Order.pdf).  The CDC Order issued on August 3, 2021 (“Order”) is not a blanket extension of the pre-existing Order.  

The Order is limited to those areas experiencing “substantial transmission”.  The Order however states that if landlords are not currently in a “substantial transmission” county but later receive the “substantial transmission” designation then landlords must comply with the mandates of the Order.

So what does that mean for landlords in Pennsylvania?  With 29 counties currently designated “substantial transmission” the moratorium continues for almost half of the state.  

Coverage under the CDC Declaration now requires the following criteria:

With the exception to past litigation challenging the CDC’s authority to issue said Orders, as the moratorium continued landlords have attempted ability to challenge the truthfulness of the tenant’s CDC declaration.  Prior to the Order there were a patchwork of state and local courts that permitted the challenges, but some courts have remained silent on whether it would permit such a challenge.  Some reasoning offered by local courts was that prior CDC orders did not speak to the landlord’s ability to challenge the tenant’s declaration.  The most recent Order now specifically states that nothing in the Order prohibits a landlord from challenging the statements in the CDC Declaration in court, as permitted by state or local law.

With this specific language now inserted in the Order, only time will tell on whether a new area of litigation is ignited because of the CDC’s continued extension of the moratorium.  

If you have questions pertaining to landlord-tenant matters, Robyn B. Eisen can be contacted at reisen@smgglaw.com or 412-227-0292.

HAVE YOUR RENTAL PROPERTIES BEEN NEGATIVELY AFFECTED BY THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC? YOU MAY BE ABLE TO RECEIVE RENTAL ASSISTANCE ON BEHALF OF YOUR TENANTS. CONTACT THE REAL ESTATE ATTORNEYS AT STRASSBURGER MCKENNA GUTNICK & GEFSKY TODAY TO GET STARTED ON THE APPLICATION PROCESS!

Due to the passage of a second federal stimulus bill in late December, Pennsylvania counties have begun accepting applications and disbursing funds for their Emergency Rental Assistance Programs (ERAP).  Funds from ERAP can be used to pay rent and utilities that is owed from March 13, 2020 through the present date.  To receive the benefits from ERAP an eligible household is defined as follows:

  1. Qualifies for unemployment or has experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19; and
  2. Demonstrates a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
  3. Has a household income at or below 80% of the area median as calculated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If eligible, funds are directly paid to landlord or utility provider.  Tenants can receive up to 12 months’ rent per household, however continued eligibility for the program will be required every three months.  Allegheny County has created a great resource page at https://covidrentalrelief.alleghenycounty.us with recorded town halls and trainings for landlords and staff on the application process for EARP.

Beaver, Butler, Fayette are running their EARP programs with DHS and applications are being submitted through the PA DHS COMPASSS system at https://www.compass.state.pa.us/Compass.Web/RAP/Application.  Washington County is running its applications through https://myblueprints.org/emergency-rent-and-utility-assistance/ and Westmoreland County is running its applications through http://www.theunionmission.org/erap.

For more information, please contact Robyn B. Eisen at 412-281-5423, reisen@smgglaw.com or through our website at https://www.smgglaw.com.

With increased cases of COVID 19, most industries are holding their breath as to how these cases will continue to affect their businesses.  This is especially true for residential landlords.  Since this past March there has been a mix of federal and state moratoriums restricting landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent.  The most recent moratorium on residential evictions was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  The CDC’s order entitled “Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19,” which took effect upon publication in the Federal Register on Sept. 4, declares a national moratorium on certain residential evictions in the name of protecting the public health. See 85 Fed.Reg. 55292 (Sept. 4, 2020).

The creation of Order established a protection for a certain category of tenants, so long as they executed a Declaration Form asserting their qualifications as a “covered person.”  Once a tenant provides the declaration, the text of the order states that a landlord shall not “evict” the tenant from residential premises. See 85 Fed.Reg. at 55296.

While the CDC Order was issued to protect tenants, the ambiguities of the CDC moratorium have left the state courts to issue a patchwork of local Administrative Orders interpreting the moratorium and putting new process in place at the Magisterial District Court and Court of Common Pleas levels.  The result?  Unequal access by landlords to challenge the truthfulness of the CDC Declaration.

A review of the 67 judicial districts reveals a handful of counties that address the CDC moratorium and how it affects current landlord-tenant procedures.  Additionally, certain counties provide remedies for landlords to challenge the truthfulness of the Declaration Form.  By certain counties allowing landlords to challenge the truthfulness of the Declaration Form, it allows the moratorium to protect those truly defined as a “covered person.”  A majority of the judicial districts however are silent as to the landlord’s ability to challenge the Declaration Form, thus leaving landlords frustrated in scenarios where the tenant may not truly be a covered person and are allowed to remain in their apartment with little to no consequence.

With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing and the lack of any additional economic stimulus packages available will the CDC Moratorium be further extended? If it is, will the state Courts address the inequitable remedies currently created amongst the local counties?  Only time will tell.

For assistance in navigating this issue and other residential landlord questions, please do not hesitate to contact Robyn B. Eisen at reisen@smgglaw.com

In Pennsylvania, sellers of a residential property are required by law to disclose the condition of the home before an agreement of sale is signed.  68 P.S. § 7301 et seq.  The Real Estate Seller Disclosure Law (“RESDL”) applies to most residential real estate transactions in Pennsylvania.  68 P.S. § 7302.  However there are number of exceptions were disclosures do not have to be made.  One of those exceptions are transfers by a fiduciary in the course of the administration of a decedent’s estate, guardian, conservatorship or trust.  68 P.S. 7302 (a)(1).

Often a Seller who is acting as a fiduciary hears about that exception and thinks that no further action needs taken on his/her part.  This is not case.  The fiduciary still needs to acknowledge his/her position as a fiduciary and assert that he/she is not required to fill out the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement (“Disclosure Statement”). Unfortunately, the fiduciary is not quite off the hook!  Before the fiduciary executes the Disclosure Statement, there is an exception to the exception…

If the fiduciary has knowledge of a material defect in the house, the fiduciary must disclose.  A common law duty still exists by the fiduciary to disclose the defect.  There is no blanket exception from a duty to disclose a known material defect when selling a home.  Knowledge of a material defect must always be disclosed to a prospective buyer.

For any questions regarding the Real Estate Disclosure Law, please feel free to contact Robyn B. Eisen at 412-227-029 or reisen@smgglaw.com.

*Co-Authored by Robyn B. Eisen and Christopher J. Azzara

The new CARES Act, H.R. 748, enacted into law on March 27, 2020, imposes restrictions on foreclosures and evictions and provides for loan forbearance relief if the building is financed in part with US government assistance (HUD or FHA) or through mortgages purchased by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac (most home loans).

CARES Act Section 4022 – Foreclosure Relief

Foreclosures on all federally-backed mortgage loans are stayed for a 60-day period beginning on March 18, 2020. Borrowers are eligible for up to 180 days of forbearance on payments for federally-backed mortgage loans provided they have experienced a financial hardship related to the COVID-19 emergency. Applicable mortgages include those: (1) purchased by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, (2) insured by HUD, VA, or USDA, or (3) directly made by USDA. The authority provided under this section terminates on the earlier of the termination date of the national emergency concerning the coronavirus or December 31, 2020.

CARES Act Section 4023 – Forbearance of Residential Mortgage Loan Payments for Multifamily Properties with Federally Backed Loans.

Borrowers are eligible for up to 90 days of forbearance on payments for multifamily borrowers with a federally backed multifamily mortgage loan who have experienced a financial hardship. Borrowers who receive a forbearance may not evict or charge late fees to tenants for the duration of the forbearance period. Applicable mortgages include loans to real property designed for 5 or more families that are purchased, insured, or assisted by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or HUD. The authority provided under this section terminates on the earlier of the termination date of the national emergency concerning the coronavirus or December 31, 2020.

CARES Act Section 4024 – Temporary Moratorium on Eviction Filings.

For 120 days following March 27, 2020, landlords are prohibited from initiating legal action to recover possession of a rental unit or to charge fees, penalties, or other charges to the tenant related to such nonpayment of rent where the landlord’s mortgage on that property is insured, guaranteed, supplemented, protected, or assisted in any way by HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the rural housing voucher program, or the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.  Notably, this section contains no requirement that a tenant’s nonpayment is due to a COVID-19 hardship.

For questions, please feel free to contact Christopher Azzara at 412-227-0271 or cazzara@smgglaw.com; or Robyn Eisen at 412-227-0292 or reisen@smgglaw.com.