Pennsylvania Covid-19 Update Landlord/Tenant Court
In response to Covid-19, on March 18, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Western District has issued an Order directing that all Pennsylvania courts are closed to the public from March 20, 2020 through at least April 3, 2020. With regard to landlord/tenant court matters, it was directed that during the period encompassed by the Order or the judicial emergency, whichever is longer, “no officer, official, or other person employed by the Pennsylvania Judiciary at any level shall effectuate an eviction, ejectment, or other displacement from a residence based upon the failure to make a rent, loan, or other similar payment. Nothing herein is intended to preclude requests for orders of possession resulting from judgments entered in landlord-tenant actions to be filed by mail. However, any execution on an order of possession is stayed to a date on or after April 3, 2020, subject to further orders.” Further, all time calculations for purposes of time computation relevant to court cases or other judicial business, as well as time deadlines, are also suspended through April 3, 2020.
Landlord/Tenant Legislation: COVID-19 Response
The Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee advanced a number of bills to address the COVID-19 crisis. Senator Joe Cryan proposed a bill to the Assembly, A-3859/S-2276, which introduced a moratorium on evictions of tenants. The Senate held a Judiciary Committee Meeting and a Senate Voting Session today to vote on these proposed this bill. The Senate made a unanimous decision to pass the bill into law. The new law, in summary, states the following:
COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS AND THE CORONAVIRUS
As a result of COVID-19, a.k.a. the “Coronavirus,” over the past few days and weeks, we have seen states and the Federal government taking more and more action to curb its spread. As infection and death rates increase, governments encourage quarantine measures, businesses increasingly permit employees to work from home, and more-and-more people choose to self-quarantine, community associations must plan for how they are going to combat the virus.
Dealing with Absent Owners in Communities
A condominium association works as a whole because each separate unit is individually owned but has an undivided interest in the common elements appurtenant to each unit. But what happens when a Unit Owner decides to leave for an extended period of time or chooses to lease its individual unit out to someone else? For example, there was a Unit Owner who was oversees and she was leasing her unit out to a tenant who vacated, without providing notice. The absent Unit Owner had no ability to find a new tenant, especially being out of the country. Since there was no one paying rent or maintenance fees to the association, it was essentially an abandoned unit.
HUD REGULATIONS PREEMPT NJ ANTI-EVICTION ACT
In a recent Superior Court decision, the New Jersey court in Summit Plaza Assocs. v. Kolta explored the parameters of the federal preemption doctrine in the context of a landlord/tenant action. The Court held that the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations expressly preempt state law and that preemption is warranted as the regulations served similar federal and state interests in maintaining the availability of low-income housing. HUD’s Section 8 program was designed to enable the government to assist low income families with their rent by paying a subsidy directly to the landlord.
Like it or not, our climate is changing. The number of hurricanes and tropical storms has grown over the last several decades in number and intensity. Here is a brief summary:
EXTENDED LIEN PRIORITY TO EXTEND ASSOCIATION BUDGETS
A new bill, passed on April 29, 2019 (N.J.S.A. 46:8B-21), signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy, extends lien priority for condominium associations and creates similar lien priority protections for homeowner associations. For many years, the New Jersey Condominium Act has permitted the filing of liens against condominium units when assessments remain unpaid. Homeowner association, because they were not included in the Act, provided for the filing of liens in their governing documents. These liens served as the basis for foreclosure against units in serious arrears. The ability to file liens and foreclose provided a substantial benefit to the fiscal stability of community associations throughout the State. Without the ability to file liens and foreclose on them, abandoned units, units falling into serious disrepair due to owner inability to afford to pay maintenance or afford repairs, and units in which residents are otherwise judgment-proof, would substantially increase the monetary burden on those who do pay their maintenance fees, and would reduce the marketability of all Units in the community.
BILL PASSED IN NEW JERSEY REGARDING WHEN TENANTS ARE REQUIRED TO MAKE PAYMENTS AFTER EVICTION AND/OR LOCKOUT
A new bill titled NJ S3124, was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy on January 13, 2020. This bill requires landlords to allow tenants to pay rent up to three business days after an eviction order or lockout is executed and requires landlords to accept rent payments by any means.
New Legislation Regarding Tenants Payments to Landlords in New Jersey
The new bill is titled S1493 Sca (1R) and it was signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday, January 13, 2020. Generally, the new legislation aims at landlords who require renters to agree to automatic monthly debit payments as a condition of entering a new lease or renewing a lease. The new legislation prohibits landlords from requiring residential tenants to pay rent and other related charges through electronic funds transfer and it requires landlords to provide receipts for cash payments.
New York Housing Right to Counsel
New York City has established a city-funded right to counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction proceedings. The right to counsel law, Local Law 136 of 2017, amended the New York City Administrative Code § 26-1301 et seq. The law now requires New York City to build up the capacity of the City’s nonprofit legal services organizations over five years so that by 2022, the nonprofit organizations will be able to provide attorney representation for every low-income household in New York City that is subject to eviction in Housing Court.