Eviction Day: Between the state moratorium and the CDC order, landlords file flurry of cases

Allegheny County and Pittsburgh are working through thousands of applications for rental assistance, as landlords file 181 evictions in a day

by Rich Lord

Update (9/4/20): Allegheny County President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark issued an order instructing district judges on the handling of eviction filings in the wake of an order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a landlord attempts to file an eviction against a tenant who has declared that he or she falls under the income limits and income loss guidelines in the CDC order, the judge may hold an initial status conference to “give the parties an opportunity to also consider available rental assistance,” according to Clark’s order. Other than that, the judge is instructed to stay the case until the expiration of the CDC order, set for Dec. 31. In such cases, judges are not to issue writs or orders of possession — which tell the tenant to get out or be removed by a sheriff — until after the CDC order expires.

More eviction cases were filed on Tuesday than in the prior two months combined, as landlords took advantage of a gap between various pandemic-driven limits on those court actions.

The 181 new eviction filings — coming amid various decisions by the state, the Allegheny County courts and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — may be a hint of things to come. They also raise questions about how such actions will be processed by courts in the midst of an ongoing pandemic and a fluid regulatory situation.

“I think it is confirmation of all of our worst fears during this pandemic: That the floodgates were going to open as soon as a moratorium ended, and we are going to see more evictions than we ever saw before,” said Megan Stanley, director of the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations, and a member of an informal working group of civic leaders that has been trying to reduce evictions.

The 181 eviction cases, tallied by Carnegie Mellon University’s Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment [CREATE] Lab, include concentrations of more than 10 in the McKees Rocks area, the Clairton area, Penn Hills, the Coraopolis area, and the City of Pittsburgh’s western and northern neighborhoods.

News of the disparate impact of evictions elsewhere in the country has people who fight homelessness “quite worried about the potential of there being an increase in the number of older women of color, and people in general being evicted because of COVID,” said Brian Matous, homeless services supervisor for shelters, street outreach and the day program at Pittsburgh Mercy’s Operation Safety Net.

Operation Safety Net has faced challenges placing people booted from Valmar Gardens in Penn Hills, he said, and is worried about facing “an influx of people. … The shelter system is pretty full.”

Police in Penn Hills enter the last occupied building in Valmar Gardens, asking residents to leave, on June 19, 2020. The residents were eventually given more time to prepare to move. (Photo by Rich Lord/PublicSource)




Eviction Day: Between the state moratorium and the CDC order, landlords file flurry of cases


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