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What Steps Are Required to Evict a Residential Tenant in Pennsylvania?

It often comes as a surprise to people that landlord and tenant laws are some of the most complex laws we have, due in large part to the fact that the landlord-tenant relationship can be governed by local, state, and federal laws. As a result, both landlords and tenants are frequently unsure of where they stand from a legal perspective. Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you may need to know what steps are required to evict a residential tenant in Pennsylvania. Because every eviction presents a slightly different set of facts and circumstances, it is always best to consult with a Pennsylvania real estate attorney if you are a party to an eviction action; however, the following offers an overall look at what steps are typically involved in the Pennsylvania eviction process.

Landlord/Tenant Act

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Landlord/Tenant Act of 1951 governs the relationship between landlords and tenants, including the provisions that must be followed in order to effectuate an eviction. Note, however, that local and/or federal law may also impact the landlord/tenant relationship.

What Constitutes a Default of a Lease?

Before a landlord can evict a tenant the tenant must generally have defaulted on the lease in some manner. Therefore, it is important to understand, first and foremost, what the terms of the lease are and what constitutes a default of those terms. Leases for less than three years may be oral or written, according to the Landlord/Tenant Act. Leases for more than three years, however, are required to be in writing or they will be considered a lease at will. In most written lease agreements there is a separate section that clearly sets forth what constitutes a default of the lease. In general though, a violation of any term in the lease could be considered a default. A default, in turn, could lead to eviction proceedings.

The Eviction Process

In Pennsylvania, a tenant may be evicted for failure to pay rent or for a violation of any other term in the lease. Pennsylvania law does not provide any type of “grace period” after the due date for rent. Therefore, unless the landlord and tenant included a grace period in the lease agreement, a landlord can start the eviction process immediately after the due date for rent has come and gone without payment of the rent. If the eviction is for breaching any other term of the lease, the landlord may begin the process as soon as the landlord is made aware of the breach.

To begin the process a landlord must give the tenant notice of the intent to evict by serving the tenant with a 10 or 15 day “Notice to Quit.” A 10 day notice applies for failure to pay rent whereas a 15 day notice applies for all other breaches. After the “Notice to Quit” has been served the tenant has 10 days to either pay the rent or vacate the premises in the case of a failure to pay rent eviction or must cure the breach or vacate within 15 days for all other evictions. The 10/15 days begin on the date the notice is properly served and includes week-ends and holidays. The Notice to Quit must be in writing and must be given to the tenant in person or posted on the door to the residence. The notice must also include the reason for the impending eviction unless the reason is that the landlord does not intend to renew the current lease.

Once the 10/15 days have passed, if the tenant has not resolved the breach the landlord must go to the Magisterial District Judge and file a Landlord/Tenant Complaint. A hearing will then be set within the next seven to 15 days at which time the landlord may ask for possession of the property, money for unpaid rent and damages to the property if applicable.

At the hearing, both sides will have an opportunity to be heard. The Magistrate will make a decision at the hearing or within three days after the hearing. If the Magistrate finds in favor of the landlord, the landlord must wait 10 days and then return for an Order for Possession. The Order for Possession will have the date by which the tenant must vacate the property or be forcefully removed by the Sheriff. The vacate date will be at least 10 days after the Order of Possession is issued.

It is very important for a landlord to follow the notice requirements precisely. Failing to follow the notice requirements allows the tenant to ask a judge or magistrate to dismiss the eviction. If the request to dismiss is granted the landlord must begin the process anew.

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the Pennsylvania eviction process, contact an experienced Conshohocken, Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law attorney as soon as possible. Contact the landlord-tenant law attorneys at Curley & Rothman, LLC by calling 610-834-8819 today to schedule your free consultation.