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It’s an unfortunate situation as a landlord: You lease your commercial space to a prospective and promising business or entrepreneur. Instead of having the smooth and successful transaction you wish for, they fail to pay rent, leaving you with a difficult decision and several financial and legal hurdles to face.

Commercial landlord-tenant disputes are common; but as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing new and unprecedented challenges in commercial landlord-tenant law.

Hoegen & Associates settles landlord-tenant disputes throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. If you’re currently facing the challenging situation of a non-paying tenant, here’s how you can navigate the legal complexities and avoid costly and time-consuming bumps in the road.

When Can Landlords Evict Tenants in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, rent is considered “late” the day after it is due, and landlords can evict tenants as soon as it is late.

Earlier this year, tenants were protected from eviction and late fees under the CARES Rent Relief Program (RRP). The program was extended to November 4th, 2020, and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) is no longer accepting applications from tenants and landlords. Funding for both landlords and tenants must be distributed by the PHFA no later than November 30th, 2020.

Landlords may not be able to evict tenants who qualify for CARES RRP for missed or late rental payments prior to November 4th. They can, however, evict tenants who do not qualify or did not apply for CARES rent relief and have outstanding rental payments from March 1st to November 4th of this year.

What Is Not Covered by CARES Rent Relief in Pennsylvania?

Although CARES RRP protects tenants and landlords in situations where rent is late or not paid, landlords can still evict tenants for other just causes, such as lease violations or property damage. Landlords can also continue to raise the rent on renewal leases.

The CARES Rent Relief Program has not affected other Pennsylvania tenant rights that often arise in situations where a lease outlives a business. Even if commercial tenants have gone out-of-business during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still responsible for fulfilling the end of their lease and making their rental payments, or otherwise face the legal and financial consequences of eviction.

How to Handle a Non-Paying Tenant

You have a tenant who has not paid rent: What do you do, and how do you go about the situation during a challenging time?

Review the lease agreement with your tenant, and make note of the date, place, and time of when you go over this. Depending on what you both agreed to, you may have a grace period or a late fee in place. Reminding your tenant of the grace period or a late fee may encourage them to make their payment and not miss it again. For some tenants, it may require filing a notice of late or missed rent to motivate them to make their rental payment.

Keep track of how many times you’ve gone over the lease agreement with the tenant. You should also keep track of how many notices of late or missed rent you have sent. By law, you can evict the tenant once they’ve missed rent once. Any additional rent that is late or not paid will likely be seen as “intentional” in small claims court.

Before filing a Notice of Eviction, make sure you are acting in accordance with any laws that may protect the tenant or allow them to withhold rent. For example, if you have not completed a certain service that’s required of you as a landlord, or if your tenant qualifies for CARES RRP and is awaiting funding, you may not be lawfully filing a Notice of Eviction.

Are You Facing a Commercial Landlord-Tenant Dispute?

Navigating a commercial landlord-tenant dispute can be difficult, but with the help of an experienced attorney, you can secure the compensation you’re entitled to. If you’re a commercial landlord in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the attorneys at Hoegen & Associates, P.C. are ready to help. Contact us today!