Image from screenshot
From top left, Pottstown NAACP Secretary Emanuel Wilkerson, Montgomery County Prothonatary Noah Marlier, Legal Aid attorney Michelle Dempsky, Vincente Prieto from YWCA Tri-County Area and U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th Dist.
Many people may not realize they are eligible for government rental assistance programs and as the eviction moratorium has been extended into October, they should make use of them.
That was just one of the many messages offered up during Thursday's online housing forum sponsored by the Pottstown NAACP.
Hosted by chapter secretary Emanuel Wilkerson, panelists included:
- U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th Dist.,
- Vincente Prieto from YWCA Tri-County Area,
- Noah Marlier of the Montco Prothonotary's Office,
- Michelle Dempsky, Staff Attorney for Legal Aid of Southeastern PA.
She said $46 billion has been approved by Congress in rental assistance, "and not enough people are taking advantage of it. We sought to balance needs of tenant with needs of the landlord. Landlords have their bills to pay too."
Additionally, Pennsylvania has authorized funding for rental assistance as well, said Dean.
But too many people don't know that help is there, said Prieto.
The program YWCA helps administer requires merely an attestation document on which the tenant writes he or she has been impacted, a copy of lease, ID, and some sort of proof of income. The turn-around time is seven to 10 days. "We're part of 5 agencies working together 2 make things easier," said Prieto.
To begin the process, simply call 211. "You don't have to be behind on your rent to qualify for the program. You just need to have a hardship," he said. "That's very important."
Landlords can recommend their tenants for pre-screening, or even pre-screen them on their own. "The working relationship with the landlords is very, very important," Prieto said.
Rental assistance programs also can help pay first and last month's of security if moving into an apartment. He added that proof of citizenship is not required to access the program.
The programs are available and should be access because "we are seeing a lot of evictions," said Dempsky, who is lead attorney with Montco's Eviction Prevention and Intervention Coalition/EPIC program, coordinated by Your Way Home of Montgomery County. EPIC has expanded into seven courtrooms across Montco, including Pottstown.
"Your best weapon is knowledge," said Dempsky and urged those facing eviction, "don't panic, seek the knowledge and advice that can help you. There are resources there that can help you."
Dempsky outlined the process for evictions in Pennsylvania, and the many ways that tenants can use this process to prevent being kicked out of their homes.
According to Dempsky, "landlords cannot evict you without a court order. If they try, it's illegal and you should call the police."
There are also several types of evictions, several of which can be positively affected by using the rental assistance programs available, said Dempsky.
There are also important things to know about maintaining a dwelling, for which the landlord is responsible, and that those who stop paying due to poor living conditions, have a defense.
Sometimes, public housing voucher programs, often called Section 8, will stop paying because a dwelling fails an inspection, but the tenant cannot be held responsible for that portion of the unpaid rend, Dempsky explained.
Montgomery County Prothonotary Noah Marlier, said tenants can appeal an eviction to his office, but they only have 10 days.
He recommends checking his office website, http://montcopa.org/prthy before coming in to find out what you need to bring and ensure you get the most from visit the office.
Evicted residents can also call his office at 610-278-3361, but reminded those who do that the clerks who work there cannot give legal advice. For that, he recommended Dempsky's office at Legal Aid, or the Montgomery County Bar Association.
It's important to remember, said Marlier, that "this impacts landlords too. They still have to pay their mortgage while not getting rent payments."
He said the rental assistance money "goes directly to the landlords," unless they refuse to participate, in which case it can be provided to the tenants to then pay their rent.
After eviction moratorium ends said Marlier, "we may be facing a homelessness crisis." That's worrisome, he said because problems with paying rent "disproportionately impacts people of color, a population that is more vulnerable."