Hapco Philadelphia’s President Writes An Open Editorial To City Council

Greg Wertman looked at the city’s own COVID-19 Rental Assistance numbers and discovered the City won’t have enough relief money for all of the applications.  And Hapco Philadelphia is telling lawmakers the only way to expedite approvals is to end the eviction moratorium and eliminate the tenant signoff from the application process.  This will put more money in the hands of long-suffering landlords and will keep our tenants in their homes.


Ending the Eviction Moratorium Is the Right Thing To Do

An Op/Ed for consideration from the President of Hapco Philadelphia

We all need a safe space to protect ourselves in a pandemic. So it’s quite natural and somewhat predictable that over the past 18 months, most politicians and media outlets have focused their attention squarely on renters. As President of Hapco Philadelphia, the city’s largest assocation of rental property owners, we advocate for fair property rights for all: tenants AND their landlords, who make up our membership. While it may have been well-intentioned early on, the eviction moratorium has not been fair to landlords, and the governmental process for helping to reimburse them simply isn’t working.

Most of our nearly two thousand members are small “mom and pop” landlords in the city who own fewer than five properties. Many own just one or two. Simply put, when their tenant doesn’t pay rent, or in some cases doesn’t even try, landlords can’t pay the mortgages, utilities, taxes and fees on that property.  Imagine how long a grocer would stay in business if paying for food was optional.

These are real Philadelphians being impacted, like 77-year-old Waddell Womack, a retiree on a fixed income. His “nest egg” is four small rental units in North Philadelphia, and he survives on the money those units bring in. But two of his tenants haven’t paid their $750 rents in eighteen months, so he’s out $27,000 and counting! One tenant packed up and disappeared last month. The other abandoned the property, and, almost unbelievably, returned days later when the CDC’s eviction moratorium was reinstated!

Yes, there is Emergency Rental Assistance funding available, which is federal money being distributed by the city. But it has BIG flaws. For one, either the tenant must apply directly or agree to let the landlord apply on the tenant’s behalf. But some tenants, including one of Waddell’s, are simply refusing. And without the tenant’s signoff, the landlord is out of luck.

Then there’s the speed of the program. Waddell applied for money back in April, and still hasn’t heard a word. Even more alarming, the money will soon run out.

In its latest phase, more than 45,000 applications have flooded into Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance program. The Inquirer reported on August 9th that the city has far more applications for assistance than it can help. There is only money left to assist another 9,800 landlords, but more than 20,000 applications are still pending, including Waddell’s. Will he ever see a dime of the $27,000 he’s owed? He’s not feeling optomistic. And neither are we.  As of July 30, only 39-percent of applications have been reviewed.  And of those reviewed, just 57-percent were approved.

Our rental property owners aren’t looking for a handout. But something has to be done to expedite the application and approval process for this emergency rent relief. 

For starters, the tenant signoff requirement needs to be waived to put more of this help in the hands of landlords faster.

As I told Inquirer reporter Michaelle Bond, landlords were asked to take one for the team, bite the bullet and keep our renters in their units. For that act of faith, we were promised compensation, but for too many Philadelphia landlords, it’s simply not happening.

Greg Wertman

President, Hapco Philadelphia