Eviction Q&A

Eviction Q&A

I need more time to move. My situation is special. Does that matter?

You do not have the right to demand more time in order to find a new place to live or move out your possessions. The responsibilities are the same for all tenants. It does not matter if you are a senior citizen or if you have children, you still have a legal obligation to fulfill the lease or contract that you agreed to and your landlord has the legal right to evict you if you have broken the contract. If you have not paid your rent, then the landlord has the absolute right to evict you. It does not matter if you fall behind in rent because you get sick or lose your job or because you have other bills to pay. You can try to negotiate with your landlord for more time. If your landlord agrees to more time, then ask the landlord to sign an agreement stating that you can stay longer.

I do not have anywhere to go. What should I do?

You will need to find a place for both you and your belongings. Do not leave your possessions behind. Your landlord is not required to keep them for you, and, in fact, can charge you a storage fee if you leave your possessions behind. If you cannot find a place to live, contact family or friends. You may want to place your belongings in storage temporarily until you find a new place to live. You can also contact local shelters or transitional housing.

Will I be able to stop an eviction?

If the eviction case was only for nonpayment of rent, you may stop the eviction any time before you are actually evicted by paying the amount the Magisterial District Court ordered, including court costs. This is called the right to pay and stay. Court costs will go up if the landlord requests an Order for Possession, so it is best to pay as soon as possible. You could also try to come to an agreement with the landlord to make payments towards the amount you owe. If you are able to come to an agreement, make sure you get it in writing so you will have proof if the landlord tries to evict you.

My landlord has threatened to lock me out. Can they do that?

The landlord is not allowed to lock you out of your apartment or house without a court order. This is referred to as a Self-Help Eviction. Even if the landlord is justified in evicting a tenant, a self-help eviction is unlawful. A landlord must provide the tenant with Notice to Quit as required in the lease and go through the proper procedure for eviction with the Magisterial District Court. Only a constable or sheriff can legally remove a tenant’s property and lock a tenant out with an order from the Court.

Examples of Illegal Self-Help Evictions include:

  • Padlocking or changing the locks
  • Removing your personal property from the property
  • Turning off some or all of your utilities
  • Removing the door or windows

Note: Rules for rooming houses are different. Rooming houses are treated like hotels. If a tenant rents a room and rent is not paid, the owner may padlock the door. Call a tenants rights organization or Legal Aid to see if your living situation meets the definition of a rooming house. Just because the landlord calls the property a “rooming house” or “boarding house” does not necessarily mean that you do not have some protections under the Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Act.

There are a few options that a tenant can pursue if the landlord has engaged in self-help eviction. Consult an attorney regarding your options.

  1. Call the police. You will need to show that you have a right to occupy the premises. So, if you anticipate that this could happen, keep a copy of your lease and current utility bills somewhere outside the home—such as in your car or purse. Some police departments will intervene with the landlord to get you back into the apartment and some police departments will refuse to get involved. Be polite and remain calm.
  2. Call Legal Aid or a private attorney for assistance.
  3. Request that a judge of the Court of Common Pleas issue an injunction against the landlord. In this case, an injunction would be a court order directing the landlord to allow you back in your residence, to turn on your utilities, and/or to stop interfering with your legal use of your residence.
  4. Seek to collect actual damages from the landlord. Actual damages would be all losses you can prove you suffered. An example may be the reasonable cost of a hotel room if you are forced to move due to your landlord locking you out of your residence.
  5. Seek punitive damages if the landlord’s conduct was outrageous and resulted in severe emotional distress and bodily harm.

How do I get my belongings back after being evicted or moving out of a property?

If you recently moved or have been evicted from a rental property, you may retrieve personal items you left behind for a limited time.

If you are evicted or move out of a rental property, you have ten days to contact your landlord and let your landlord know you intend to retrieve your personal property left behind. You should notify your landlord of your intent to retrieve any personal property left behind by calling your landlord and by sending your landlord a letter. Keep a copy of the letter you send to your landlord. If you do not contact the landlord within the first 10 days after being evicted or receiving a notice from the landlord that you left personal property behind, the landlord can dispose of all the personal property.

After you contact your landlord stating that you want to get your belongings, you have 30 days from the day you were evicted or from the postmarked date of your landlord’s notice for you to retrieve your personal property.

If you have moved out and have left personal property behind, the landlord must send notice informing you that you left personal property. If you have not given your landlord a forwarding address, the notice will be sent to your old address. If you are evicted, your landlord does not have to send you notice that you left personal property behind. You will have to contact the landlord on your own.

After 10 days from the day you were evicted or from the postmarked date of your landlord’s notice to you to retrieve your property, the landlord can begin charging you a fee for storing your belongings.

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