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State AG Josh Shaprio urges landlords to hold off on evictions

The state’s top law enforcement official is telling landlords not to evict their tenants during the coronavirus state of emergency.

Public health officials say they are liable to spread the coronavirus or contract it themselves if unable to find refuge in sustainable housing.

In a March 30 letter to the state’s leading residential trade association, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro urged them to suspend evictions and give Pennsylvanians the chance to recover economically.

The latest reports show more than 830,000 residents have filed for unemployment insurance benefits in the last two weeks. That’s more than 10% of the Pennsylvania workforce, an increase from previous weeks that mirrors the exponential surge in COVID-19 cases.

“With millions of Pennsylvanians following Governor Wolf’s direction to stay at home, it is critical to public health that rental evictions cease for the duration of this emergency,” Shapiro wrote. “Without stable housing, Pennsylvanians may be forced to find temporary alternatives, moving from place to place and adding to the public health threat. We must not increase the risk of exposure by helping COVID-19 spread through our communities.”

The letter was addressed to Lee Stivale, chairperson of the Pennsylvania Residential Owners Association; Dan Berger, board president of the Pennsylvania Apartments Association; Michael Vitali, legislative committee chair of the Mortgage Bankers of PA; and Rose Stancato of the Pennsylvania Association of Mortgage Brokers.

Shapiro compelled landlords to “pledge not to institute any eviction proceedings against your tenants or mortgage-holders who have been impacted by this crisis, either medically or financially, for some additional time period after our courts are re-opened for eviction proceedings.”

“We cannot let this economic crisis contribute to the public health emergency,” the letter states.

Justin Henry is the regional reporter for the Central Penn Business Journal and the Lehigh Valley Business. He can be reached at jhenry@bridgetowermedia.com.

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