Eviction Process

Eviction

An eviction is a legal action started by the owner of a property to force a tenant to move out of the property. A court ordered eviction is the only legal way a landlord may force a tenant to leave a rental property. A lawful eviction requires a court proceeding. The length of the process will vary depending on the circumstances of the eviction.

A landlord can bring an action to evict a tenant if:

  • The tenant fails to pay rent,
  • The tenant fails to move out at the end of lease term, or
  • The tenant violates terms of the lease agreement.

Examples of violations of the lease agreement include:

  • Continual late payment of rent
  • Damaging the rental unit beyond normal wear and tear
  • Using the rental unit for purposes not permitted under the rental agreement (for example, operating a business, allowing unauthorized persons to live with you, etc.)
  • Keeping a dog, cat, or other animal that is not a service animal when pets are not permitted in the lease
  • Repeated noise violations that disturb other tenants
  • Engaging in criminal activity
  • Failure to keep lawn cut and grounds maintained if you agreed to this in the rental agreement
  • Improper storage or disposal of garbage that attracts insects, rodents, etc.
  • Failure to abide by the proper rules and regulations that are either in the lease, attached to the lease, or given at the signing of the lease

Order of Eviction Proceedings

Notice to Quit

A landlord will probably begin by giving a tenant a “Notice to Quit”. This notice can be posted on the tenant’s door or the landlord may hand it to an adult on the premises. It cannot be sent by regular or certified mail. Any notice that is only sent by mail should be considered void and argued as such in court.

Check the terms of your lease. The amount of time the landlord is required to give a tenant to vacate should be written in the lease. If the lease says five days, the tenant should be given five days. The lease may have a “Waiver of Notice” which says that the landlord does not have to give the tenant any prior notice.

Check the Eviction Timetable to see how much notice is required if it is not specified in your lease. Unless specified in your lease, the amount of notice required depends on the reason for the eviction.

The Notice to Quit must include the name of the landlord, name of the tenant, address of the rental property, reason for the notice (such as failure to pay rent for a specific time period or for some other violation of the lease) and a date by which the landlord wants the tenant to move out of the rental property. The notice must be clear, decisive, and free from ambiguity.

What if the landlord has not given proper notice?
If the landlord has not given proper notice in accordance with the lease, the tenant can bring this up in Court. If the tenant can demonstrate that proper notice was not given (for example, the landlord only gave 10 days’ notice when the lease requires 30 days’ notice), then the judge should dismiss the case and require the landlord to restart the process by giving the tenant proper notice before filing again. This will only buy the tenant more time in the property, it will not prevent the tenant from eventually being evicted.

Court Hearing

If the tenant has not moved within the time stated in the eviction notice, the landlord must go to the Magisterial District Court in order to file a Landlord/Tenant Complaint. A court hearing will be set for seven (7) to fifteen (15) days after the landlord files the complaint.

You will receive a copy of the Landlord/Tenant Complaint from the Magisterial District Court via first class mail and you will also have a copy served on you by a sheriff or a constable. If you receive a notice for a court hearing, contact a tenant’s rights organization or an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances so you will know your rights and be prepared.

Should I attend the hearing?
Yes! If you are late or fail to appear at the hearing, a judgment may be entered against you by default
. Plan to arrive early because even if you are only a few minutes late, a judgment could be entered against you by default. Your presence is vital at the hearing. If someone other than the Court tells you that the hearing was canceled or postponed, check with the Court to determine if this is true. The hearing gives you the chance to present your defense or counterclaim against the other party. If you cannot go on the scheduled date of the hearing or an emergency arises, call the Magisterial District Court’s office as soon as possible before the court date and ask if the hearing can be continued to allow you to attend.

If you and your landlord come to an agreement before the court date or if someone other than the court tells you that “everything is taken care of”, plan to attend the hearing anyway or check with the Court to see if the hearing is still scheduled. See Q and A: Magisterial District Court for more information about the hearing and what to expect.

Any time before the hearing, you can file a cross-complaint (or “counterclaim”) or assert any other claim against the landlord. If you file a cross-complaint, the hearing on both complaints must be held after seven (7) days, but no more than fifteen (15) days from the filing of your cross-complaint. If you file a counterclaim, it must be served on the other party at least five (5) days before the hearing.

Judgement

After the hearing, the Magisterial District Judge will either make a decision that day or within three (3) days. The Judge will issue a written Notice of Judgment. If the judgment is in your favor, the landlord will be required to do what the Judge ordered—such as not evicting you from the rental unit. If the Magisterial District Judge finds in favor of the landlord, the judgment will be entered against you. The Notice will tell you what type of judgment has been entered.

  • Possession Granted if Money Judgment Not Satisfied
  • Possession Granted
  • Possession Not Granted
  • Money Judgments

If the Judgment is for Possession Granted if Money Judgment Not Satisfied (commonly referred to as “Pay and Stay”), you have the opportunity to pay any money that is owed in full at any time prior to the eviction date to avoid an eviction and remain in the home.

  • If the landlord is paid in full, including judgment costs, within 10 days of the judgment, no order for possession can be requested.
  • If you do not pay within 10 days or file an Appeal and pay a bond if required, the landlord may request an Order for Possession. Court costs will go up if the landlord requests an Order for Possession, so it is best to pay as soon as possible.
  • A forced eviction date will be scheduled 10 days after the Order for Possession is posted on your door by a constable. Up to and including that date, you can still pay the judgment in full to avoid the eviction.
  • If you pay before the eviction date, you should make arrangements with the landlord and the constable and keep a receipt for proof of payment.
  • If you pay on the date of the eviction, you will have to pay the constable directly and you will have to pay in cash. The constable will not take a check and the eviction will proceed as scheduled.

Keep in Mind: A judgment will stay on your record until you pay it in full. It can affect your credit rating and can negatively affect your ability to obtain future housing.

Order for Possession

If the judgment is Possession Granted, you will have to move out of the home by the scheduled eviction date even if you pay all the money owed in full. If you disagree with the decision and want to stay in the home, you will need to file an Appeal to the Court of Common Pleas within 10 days of the judgment date and post a bond. See Appeal Process.

After the 10-day appeal period has passed, the landlord can file for an Order for Possession. When the landlord has obtained an Order for Possession, the tenant will be served a notice by a constable either in person or by posting the notice on your door.

  • The constable’s notice will say that the tenant has ten (10) additional days to vacate the dwelling from the date of service.
  • This notice is a final deadline to vacate.
  • If the tenant does not move by the end of the ten (10) day period at the time and date in the notice, the constable may forcibly remove the tenant and padlock the door to the rental unit.

If you are not planning to Appeal, you will need to make plans to move out as soon as possible before the scheduled eviction date. At least move all of your belongings out of the rental unit before the scheduled eviction because you will only have minutes to vacate when the constable arrives.

Tenants are required to remove their belongings upon relinquishing possession of a rental (including at the time of an eviction). If you have not removed your belongings when the constable evicts you, you will have to move quickly to recover your property. See How to Get Back Your Belongings After Being Evicted or Moving Out

Keep in Mind: It takes at least twenty (20) days after the hearing before the legal lockout can occur.

What happens if the constable never comes to evict me?
It is possible that the landlord will never execute on the Order for Possession and the constable is never notified to evict you. Generally, this happens when the landlord and tenant work out a payment agreement and the landlord agrees that the tenant can stay. If you are able to work out an agreement, make sure that you get a receipt for the money that you pay the landlord and get the agreement in writing.

A landlord can request a re-issuance of an Order for Possession generally within 120 days of the judgment date.

Appeal Process

There are often two parts to a Judge’s decision: Possession (eviction) and Money Judgment.

You have the right to appeal a judgment entered against you. Appeals are filed with the Prothonotary at the Court of Common Pleas. To appeal a decision by a Magisterial District Court, you will need to bring a copy of the Judgment with you to the Prothonotary’s Office. It is advised that you seek the counsel of an attorney if you chose to file an Appeal, as the process at this court level is more complicated. Most likely, your landlord will have an attorney.

If you are appealing a Judgment for Possession and you want to stay in your home, you have ten (10) days from the judgment date to appeal the decision.

You must also file a Supersedeas to stop the sheriff or constable from removing you from the property. If you do not tell the Prothonotary’s Office that you want to stop the lock out, and file a Supersedeas then you will only be appealing the money judgment and the lock out will still occur as scheduled.

You will have to pay filing fees and the Supersedeas requires the tenant to pay a bond in the amount of the monetary judgment or 3 months’ rent, whichever is less. (If you have a very low income, you may only have to pay a third of your rent as a bond when you file your appeal.) This money will be placed in an escrow account. You will also be required to pay the monthly rent to the Court every 30 days from the date of the appeal. If the tenant fails to do this, the Supersedeas may be terminated and the eviction may proceed. Make certain that you keep track of this deadline as some months have more than 30 days.

If you do not want to appeal a Judgment for Possession, but only want to appeal the Money Judgment, you have thirty (30) days from the date of the judgment to appeal.

Appeals are filed with the Prothonotary at the Court of Common Pleas. You will need to bring a copy of the Judgment with you to the Prothonotary’s Office. No bond is required to appeal a money judgment.

What Happens if There is No Appeal?
If the Magisterial District Court grants a Judgment for Possession, then the landlord must wait 10 days to request a document called an Order for Possession from the Magisterial District Court. A constable or sheriff’s deputy will serve the Order for Possession on you that gives you an additional 10 days to vacate the premises. If you do not move within 10 days after you receive the Order for Possession, the constable or sheriff’s deputy will physically remove you from the property.

If the Magisterial District Court grants a Money Judgment, you have 30 days to pay the judgment. If you do not pay it, the party who sued you can then go to the Magisterial District Court and request the issuance of a document called an Order for Execution. A constable or sheriff’s deputy will serve the Order for Execution on you by giving you a notice or posting it on your door. At the time the Order for Execution is given to you, the constable or sheriff’s deputy will make a list of property he or she will sell to pay off the judgment against you. This list is called a levy.

Call an attorney or Legal Aid right away for more help if a levy is put on your property. If you do nothing, your property may be sold several weeks after the levy is made at a constable or sheriff’s sale, unless it is worth less than $300 ($600 if you are married and, you and your spouse, were both sued). You can file an Appeal or objection to the Levy (sale of property).

Garnishment of Wages
Pennsylvania Law allows for a landlord to collect on a judgment for damages exceeding the amount of the Security Deposit by garnishing up to 10% of a tenant’s net wages as long as this amount does not place the debtor’s income below the poverty guideline.

Eviction Notice Timetables

Landlord/Tenant Eviction/Nonrenewal Process Timetable for Apartment or House:

If the Reason for Eviction is: A Landlord Must Give a Tenant:
Non-Payment of Rent
10 Days’ Notice
Acts Relating to Illegal Drugs
10 Days’ Notice
Expiration/General Breach of a Month-to-Month Lease
or Indefinite Term Lease
15 Days’ Notice
Expiration/General Breach of a Year or Less Lease
15 Days’ Notice
Expiration/General Breach of a Lease Longer than One Year
30 Days’ Notice

Landlord/Tenant Eviction Process Timetable for Mobile Home Park:

If the Reason for Eviction is: A Landlord Must Give a Tenant:
General Breach of Lease for Less Than One Year
or Indefinite Term
30 Days
General Breach of Lease for Longer Than One Year
3 Months from the date of service
Failure to Pay Rent Between: April-August
15 Days
Failure to Pay Rent Between: September-March
30 Days

Landlord/Tenant Eviction Process Timetable for Legal Proceedings and Appeal to Common Pleas:

Magisterial District Judge Schedules Hearing 1-15 Days After Landlord Files Complaint
Magisterial District Judge Will Enter Judgment at Conclusion of Hearing or Within
3 Days
Order for Possession by Landlord
After the 10 Days Following the Day of the Disposition
Constable Executing the Order for Possession Can Evict the Occupants if They Remain on the Premise More Than:
10 Days after Service of the Order for Possession
Judgment Affects Delivery of Possession of Residential Property, Appeal Within:
10 Days after Disposition
Judgment is for Money, or Possession of Non-residential Property, Appeal Within:
30 Days after Disposition

More About Eviction