by Paul Cohen, Hapco Philadelphia General Counsel
On July 1, 2020, Mayor Kenney signed the Emergency Housing Protection Act into law. That Act provided for an eviction moratorium in Philadelphia until August 31st. At the time, the Governor’s moratorium on evictions was scheduled to end on July 10th. Hapco Philadelphia immediately mobilized and thanks to the generous contributions of its members and others, filed a lawsuit in federal court to overturn the City’s ordinance to prevent the extension of the eviction moratorium, as well as other regulatory requirements imposed on rental property owner’s, in the Act. In addition to the lawsuit, Hapco Philadelphia filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. A hearing was set for July 8th on the motion for a temporary restraining order. The day before the hearing, the Governor took the legs out from under Hapco Philadelphia when he announced that he was going to extend the state eviction moratorium, which also covered Philadelphia, until August 31st. That essentially made HAPCO Philadelphia’s emergency motion moot. The court then scheduled a hearing on the preliminary injunction. After a full hearing thereon, the court, unfortunately, ruled in favor of the City.
Thereafter, while considering whether or not to take an appeal of the judge’s ruling, the CDC issued a moratorium on evictions through December 31st. That moratorium, like the State’s previous moratorium, once again, made HAPCO Philadelphia’s lawsuit moot and Hapco Philadelphia had no choice but to withdraw its case to stop the bleeding.
While Hapco Philadelphia strongly believes what the City did was wrong, unfortunately the State and Federal government eliminated HAPCO Philadelphia’s ability to win their case. Although Hapco Philadelphia may not have been successful this time, the City is on notice that HAPCO Philadelphia will not sit idly by while they try to pass more and more onerous laws against rental property owners.