Philadelphia has launched a new financial assistance program to help resolve landlord-tenant disputes over back rent before they become the basis of an eviction filing.
The initiative will directly support landlords and tenants participating in the city’s free and mandatory Eviction Diversion Program. Under the new program, landlords can receive a one-time payment to cover a tenant’s total rent arrears plus one month’s rent.
The max payout for back rent is $3,000, the city said.
The city has allocated a total of $30 million for the effort, which officials have dubbed Targeted Financial Assistance (TFA).
Osarugue Grace Osa-Edoh, a housing attorney with Community Legal Services, said the program is positive news for tenants still recovering from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many tenants are still in a place of crisis,” said Osa-Edoh. “So if this funding is going to help push people into even just a little bit of a better place, then that’s something that I do support.”
To receive rental assistance, landlords and tenants must have both made “reasonable efforts” to complete the eviction diversion program, which is designed to resolve disputes outside of court. The program often involves both sides participating in at least one mediation session with a neutral party.
Since 2020, more than 4,000 landlord-tenant pairs have participated in various versions of the diversion program. Nearly 75% of them have reached an agreement that kept tenants in their homes, according to the city.
Landlords must apply for rental assistance within five days of the approval of their application for the eviction diversion program. Tenants have the same amount of time to submit all “requested materials” for what the city is calling Targeted Financial Assistance.
Gregory Wertman, president of the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia (HAPCO), said the $30 million allocation is better than nothing, but not nearly enough to cover the losses his membership sustained during the pandemic, particularly as a result of the city’s eviction moratorium.
“They have a Band-Aid for a large open wound,” said Wertman, whose group is the city’s largest for rental property owners. Many of the group’s members own apartments for low- and medium-income tenants.
For more information about the new financial assistance program, landlords and tenants can visit the program’s website.
WHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.
Subscribe to PlanPhilly