Advocates working to ensure landlords don't break COVID-19 eviction ban

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania courts have halted evictions during the coronavirus crisis, but tenant advocates say some landlords are ignoring the order. 

Ray Wilson had an informal arrangement with his landlord, an old acquaintance, but in February, the landlord began trying to get Wilson out. Recently, while Wilson was at work, the landlord changed the locks and took his things.

"I came home, the place was emptied out, boarded up," Wilson said. "There was nothing left in there but the hardwood floors."

"We went to court to make it possible for Mr. Wilson to stay home at a time when all of us are being asked to do so," McGovern said.

She says the kind of lock-out Wilson's landlord attempted is always illegal — but right now, while all evictions are halted, advocates fear lock-outs will become more common, as people lose work and can’t pay rent.

"It’s tenants living on the margins of the housing market who are most vulnerable. Folks, like Ray, who have an oral lease or are living in unlicensed rooming houses, so tenants in these already vulnerable situations, are the ones enduring these lock-outs," she said.

McGovern says judicial remedies are available. For help, call the hotline at 267-443-2500 or go to phillytenant.org.

In addition, Community Legal Services has started a weekly online series on tenants rights. It's every Tuesday at 2 p.m. via Zoom or Facebook.

CLS has also reopened new client intake for a variety of legal services. Reach them at 215-981-3700.