COVID-19 Legal FAQs for Renters in
This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information. Your local city or county may have additional protections for renters.
This page was last updated on July 7, 2020. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.
Its information is taken from these sources:Penn. Governor eviction orderPenn. Supreme Court extension orderPenn. Supreme Court original orderPenn. utility orderPA Law HelpPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect Tracker
- Do Pennsylvania renters have any special protections during COVID-19?
Yes, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf prohibited evictions from being filed and extended any eviction court case deadlines by 60 days. This order only applies for eviction matters related to nonpayment of rent, or when the renter has overstayed their lease. It doesn't apply to evictions for other breaches of a lease.
This order went into effect on May 7, 2020. It is scheduled to end on July 10, 2020. On 6/29, the Governor announced a rental assistance program for tenants who lost up to 30% of their income or became unemployed. The program offers up to $750/month for 6 months.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has also issued a prohibition on utility providers from shutting off residents' utilities during the disaster period.
- What do the eviction protections mean for Pennsylvania renters?
Pennsylvania's protections mean that through July 10, 2020 in Pennsylvania, for renters who have not paid their rent or who have overstayed their lease:
- Your landlord cannot give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord cannot file an eviction claim in court against you.
- Hearings on eviction are suspended, and the court will not hear an eviction case against you.
- The court will not issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
- Law enforcement will not enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.
Renters who have breached their lease in other ways may still face eviction.
Pennsylvania's protections also means that renters' utilities cannot be shut off during the state of emergency period, even if you do not pay your bills.
- Do I still have to pay rent during COVID-19?
Yes, Pennsylvania renters still need to pay rent during the emergency.
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here for drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. You can also use the tool from HelloLandlord.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- Keep proof of COVID-19's impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my landlord evict me during COVID-19?
Many Pennsylvania renters cannot be evicted from their homes during the emergency, through July 10, 2020. The governor's protections stop evictions for renters who haven't been able to pay their rent in full, or who have overstayed their lease. Check to see if this date is extended further.
Renters who have breached their lease in other ways (aside from nonpayment of rent, or overstaying the lease) can still be evicted.
Once the emergency period passes, then the courts may resume hearing eviction cases, and law enforcement may begin to remove renters from their home if there is an eviction order against them.
Some local Pennsylvania city or county governments may have additional protections. Be sure to check if your local government has any special rules to protect you.
You also may be eligible for national protections that protect renters against eviction for a longer period. Read here below to see if you qualify for national protection.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during COVID-19?
During the emergency, Pennsylvania renters are protected from utility shutoffs if they cannot pay their utility bill.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission ordered all regulated utility providers to continue services for residents during the emergency period. No customer should have home utilities shut off during the emergency, based on an inability to pay.
Local municipal utilities are not covered by the PUC's order, but have been encouraged to not shut off residents' utilities.
Renters must still pay their utility bills. If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for U.S. national protections against eviction?
Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.
Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.
If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)
- Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
- Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
- After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.