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Eviction Guide

A LANDLORD’S GUIDE TO THE PROPER TERMINATION OF THE LANDLORD/TENANT RELATIONSHIP:

As a landlord, you frequently enter into lease agreements and other contracts with tenants. But, do you know what to do when the tenant fails to pay you rent, violates a key provision of the lease agreement or remains in possession of the leased property following the termination of the lease?

You may be surprised to know that there is a specific procedure that you must follow to recover possession of your property.

Failure to do so may cost you more than possession of your property.

A brief overview of the procedure to utilize when a tenant fails to pay rent, violates a lease agreement or remains in possession of leased property following the lease’s expiration is outlined below:

1. Landlord must provide a written eviction notice and serve such notice on tenant personally or upon the leased premises.

eviction noticeIf the lease does not specify the amount of time in which the tenant must vacate the premises, the applicable time periods are as follows:

  • Leases for less than 1 year—15 days from date of service
  • Leases for 1 year or more—30 days from date of service
  • Nonpayment of rent—10 days from date of service

2. After the passage of time as specified in the eviction notice, the landlord must file a formal complaint with the appropriate Magisterial District Justice.

In the Complaint, the landlord requests possession of the property and may ask for back-rent or damages as well. If the tenant has a claim against the landlord, he or she may bring such claim at this time. This is known as a “counterclaim.”

3. At a date and time specified, a hearing must be held at the Magisterial District Justice’s office.

court roomAt this hearing, both the landlord and tenant may testify themselves and may even call additional witnesses, if necessary. Each witness, including the landlord and tenant, must take an oath to tell the truth. Both parties have the right to bring any papers, pictures or other relevant evidence to this hearing, including any witnesses which they may have.

Judgment and Appeal
Following the hearing, the Magisterial District Justice will determine whether the landlord is entitled to a “judgment for possession” of the property at issue and will award to the landlord any appropriate damages and/or unpaid rent.

Landlord TenantIf a judgment of possession is ordered by the MDJ in favor of the landlord, the tenant must vacate the premises at issue within a certain allotted time period. The tenant does, however, have a right to appeal the eviction judgment to the Court of Common Pleas, but must do so within 10 days (residential lease) or 30 days (nonresidential lease).

The taking of an appeal will stay the proceedings – meaning the tenant cannot be evicted during the time of the appeal – only if the tenant pays to the court the amount of rent due or 3 months rent, whichever is less. Additionally, the tenant must then continue to pay, in full, the monthly rent as it becomes due into an escrow account. Failure to do so may result in the tenant being evicted prior to the time in which the appeal is adjudicated.

Low Income Tenants

If a tenant’s income is below a certain amount as set forth in 246 Pa. Code Rule 1013, however, the requirements differ.landlord tenant

Low-income tenants that have not yet paid rent for the month in which the notice of appeal is filed must:

  • File a petition stating that they are a low income party;
  • Pay one-third of the monthly rent into an escrow account at the time that the appeal is taken;
  • Pay the remaining two-thirds of rent within 20 days from the date in which the notice of appeal is filed; and
  • Continue to pay rent on a monthly basis into the escrow account in 30 days interval

Low-income tenants who have paid rent for the month in which the notice of appeal is filed do not have to file rent at this time, but must:

  • File a petition stating that they are a low-income party
  • Continue to pay rent on a monthly basis into the escrow account in 30 day intervals

Low-income tenants who wish to appeal the lower court ruling for issues other than non-payment of rent must:

  • File a petition stating that they are a low-income party
  • Continue to pay rent on a monthly basis into the escrow account in 30 day intervals

4. After the time in which the tenant can appeal the eviction judgment expires and/or such appeal has been adjudicated, the landlord must obtain an Order for Possession.

Despite being awarded a “Judgment of Possession,” the landlord must enforce this judgment in order to require the tenant to vacate the premises.

Landlord tenantTo do so, the landlord must first wait for the 10 day appeal period to expire and then obtain from the MDJ an “Order of Possession” and request that such order be served on the tenant by the Constable or Sherriff.

This Order must notify the tenant that, unless the tenant vacates the property by the date specified, which must be at least 11 days from the date upon which the tenant receives such notice, that the Constable or Sheriff may then forcibly remove the tenant, as well as his or her belongings from the property.

Legal Disclaimer: The aforementioned guideline constitutes only a brief overview of the landlord/tenant process and procedure required pursuant to Pennsylvania law. Such information is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.