Update Regarding Philadelphia County Foreclosures and Covid-19 - Hladik Onorato & Federman, LLP
Philadelphia County is currently working on reopening the Court system and foreclosure cases. Here is the preliminary information our firm has received thus far showing what the foreclosure process may look like for the near future.Cases with a Forbearance Due to Covid or Otherwise:
If a lender/servicer reaches a forbearance pursuant to the CARES Act or other internal loss mitigation on a foreclosure case that is presently open on the dockets of Philadelphia, the President Judge of Philadelphia requested firms to draft Praecipes to put cases on “deferred status.” The Court indicated its preference for Praecipes rather than formal motions so that firms do not overload the Motions Court. The Praecipe must include a Proposed Order for the Court's review and signature. This is a good opportunity to help the City prioritize and get a clear accounting of active foreclosure cases. If the Court receives valid information on which cases need to be reactivated, it will help the Court open quickly.
Once a case comes off forbearance, our firm must notify the Court. The case will not come out of deferred status without notice. Again, this should be filed as a Praecipe with a Proposed Order to skip the Motion Court queue (and which will save several weeks). The Proposed Order should include instruction for where the case should be in the foreclosure timeline (e.g., Remand to Conciliations, Schedule Trial Date, etc.).
Philadelphia City Hall Reopening
Unfortunately, City Hall (which is where civil courtrooms and the court's filing clerks are located) is listed as a tourist attraction and will be one of the last buildings open in the City. They hope to have it open in July. This is putting a strain on conciliation conferences and sheriff's sales because they are generally heavily attended gatherings in large spaces.
If there are cases with vacant properties, but they are currently listed with the Court as “owner occupied,” our firm can file a Motion to get it reidentified as “vacant.” Generally, foreclosures for vacant properties skip the conciliation program.
The Court is not holding case management conferences (“CMCs”) at this time. CMCs that are scheduled will be decided by reviewing filed Case Management Memos. If the memo and docket are clear that service is good, the Court will enter a Case Management Order. Generally, the Court would schedule a 9-month timeline. In the interim, the Court is going to schedule Case Management Orders on a 12-month timeline. For cases with a Case Management Order, they should be reviewed to see if “extraordinary relief” is needed to extend the originally determined deadlines.
Currently, Philadelphia does not expect to hold conciliation conferences until September or October. Once the conciliations are scheduled again, our firm expects to see conferences held more than the standard one day a week to be able to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Possible solutions include the possibility of some conferences being held over Zoom or remotely for the borrowers with the ability to do so. Because City Hall will remain closed for the time being, the City is looking for space for the program to run.
The President Judge does not want to see Default Judgments submitted for filing due to concerns related to service. There is not a predetermined timeline, but our firm expects an Order from the Court laying out a preliminary timeline in the near future.
Criminal trials are currently a priority for the City and they are likely delayed until September. Our best-case scenario is having trials once criminal opens up again.
Sales are currently scheduled for July, but the Court would prefer to see these sales postponed until September or October to be able to accommodate related emergency motions. Our firms expect to see an Omnibus Order from the Court shortly to address sheriff's sales. For the time being, the President Judge requested that lender's/servicer's counsel do not file multiple Motions to Postpone because it will clog up Motions court.