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Rental evictions restart at month’s end

Evictions can legally begin at the end of the month, said area landlords and city officials.

Landlords who’ve been asked to hold off on issuing eviction notices can begin the process on Aug. 31.

On May 7, Gov. Tom Wolf imposed a four-month moratorium on evictions and amended it later to apply to tenants who have not paid rent and other amounts owed, or who have stayed beyond the lease end date.

The moratorium did not apply to tenants who commit other defaults of their leases.

For the city rental property managers, it’s back to business as usual, and time to catch up on lost income.

“Landlords have been forbidden from enforcing the contracts that they have,” said Jennifer Ruelens, co-founder of One Focus Property Management.

Ruelens, who is president of the Greater Williamsport Landlords Association, said landlords didn’t get a reprieve due to COVID-19 pandemic impacts as tenants did.

Landlords must pay their taxes, mortgages and expenses and tenants can leave, she said.

“This leaves the landlord without three to four months of rent and burdened with a turnover and economic uncertainty in leasing,” Ruelens said.

City Council has restarted a housing needs committee that meets regularly and discusses issues such as rentals, landlord-tenant issues, housing stock and homelessness.

However, not much can be done from a city government perspective, said Stephanie Young, former

director of the city Department of Community and Economic Development, who recently retired.

The city department applies for and receives U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds in the form of Community Development Block grants. These are used mainly for home rehabilitation and home buyer assistance but social agencies are referred to by the workers at City Hall, Young said.

Wolf said tenants need time in the midst of the pandemic.

He said the extension on the moratorium was to “help families know they will have a roof over their heads and a place to live while all of us fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ruelens said almost all of the tenants that she oversees are law-abiding and faithfully pay their rent on time.

Wolf’s ban on foreclosures and evictions does not cover a tenant who damages property, breaks the law or breaches the lease in some other way aside from nonpayment of rent or overstaying a lease.

Social service agencies that provide help to the homeless or those about to become homeless, such as American Rescue Workers and STEP Inc., say they anticipate more use of their agency resources after the eviction moratorium ends.

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