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Eviction Goalposts Moved

AP HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania -- Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday extended a statewide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions until Aug. 31, saying renters need more breathing room in the midst of the pandemic.

The Wolf administration has been facing growing calls to extend the 4-month-old moratorium - which had been set to lapse Friday - with housing advocates and others predicting a rush to the courthouse and a wave of evictions and homelessness. House and Senate Democrats had also been pressing the Democratic governor for an extension.

"I am taking this action 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," Wolf said in a news release. "It takes one more burden off of people who are struggling and ensures that families can remain in their homes so they can protect their health and well-being."

Landlords have been waging a legal fight against the moratorium, saying they are hard-pressed to keep up with taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance and mortgage payments without the ability to enforce lease agreements. The state Supreme Court has yet to rule in their lawsuit.

Pennsylvania is using $175 million of its federal coronavirus relief money to provide rental assistance to eligible tenants and mortgage relief to homeowners, but the money has not started flowing yet and the $750-per-month cap on rental payments will not be enough to cover the full rental amount in many cases.

Evictions have been halted since mid-March, first by the Supreme Court and later by the governor's office.

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.

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