The eviction of a tenant follows a clear legal process. Therefore, a landlord must follow what the law says in order for it to be successful. In Pennsylvania, the eviction process is governed by the Landlord-Tenant Act of 1951.
Whether you’re looking to evict a difficult tenant from your Pennsylvania rental property or are simply looking to refresh your knowledge, this guide should be helpful.
Pennsylvania Eviction Notice
Serving an eviction notice terminates the lease or rental agreement. However, for you to serve one, there must be a legal reason. The following are acceptable reasons for a tenant eviction in the state of Pennsylvania:
- Failure by a tenant to pay rent
- Violation of the lease agreement
- Failure by a tenant to move out after their lease ends
- Engaging in an illegal activity
Each ground for eviction comes with its own unique rule for how the eviction should be carried out.
Tenants who Fail to Pay Rent
Pennsylvania law allows landlords to evict their tenants for failure to pay rent when it becomes due. The state law considers rent to be late a day after it is due. You can address the grace period, if any, in your lease agreement.
Once rent is due, you must provide the tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Quit if you wish to evict them. This will give your tenant a maximum of 10 days to move out of their rented premises.
The notice must include some important information such as:
- The rental unit’s address and the name of the tenant
- The day the eviction notice was served
- Reason for the eviction
- The amount of rent that’s due to the landlord
- A statement telling the tenant that they have 10 days to pay the rent due and when they should move out
If the tenant doesn’t move out after 10 days, you may proceed with the eviction.
Tenants who Violate the Lease Agreement
Violation of lease terms is another common cause of tenant eviction in Pennsylvania. The amount of notice to give will depend on the type and length of the tenancy.
For at-will tenants and tenants who’ve lived in the unit for less than a year, you must provide them a 15-days’ written notice. For those who’ve lived in the unit for at least a year, you must serve them a 30-days’ written notice.
Lease violations that fall under this category include:
- Having a pet when there is a “no-pet policy”
- Subletting the unit when it’s against the rental policy
- Smoking in the unit when it’s prohibited
- Causing excessive property damage at the premises
- Exceeding the rental unit limits by having too many people residing in it
If the tenant doesn’t move out after 10 or 30 days, you may continue with the eviction.
“Hold Over” Tenants
A holdover tenant is someone who continues to use the unit, even after their lease has expired. This is usually without the landlord’s explicit permission. But even without a written lease, landlords are obligated to serve such tenants a notice prior to evicting them.
The amount of notice to provide them depends on the type of tenancy in operation. For at-will tenants, you must provide them a 15-Day Notice to Quit. The same notice applies to tenants who have resided on the unit for less than a year.
For tenants who’ve stayed in the unit for at least a year, you must provide them a 30-Day Notice to Quit. If the tenant doesn’t move after the notice has expired, you may proceed with the eviction.
Tenants who Engage in Illegal Activity
In this case, you must serve them a 10-Day Notice to Quit before commencing the eviction action. Pennsylvania considers illegal activity as that which includes the following:
- The illegal sale, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances
- Seizure of a controlled substance from the rental unit by a law enforcement agency
- If the tenant doesn’t move out after the notice period, you can continue with the process.
Summons & Complaint
Next, you must file a complaint in an appropriate county court. Filing fees vary depending on the county.
Unlike the eviction notice, the summons and complaint must be served to the tenant by a process server. This can either be a writ server, a sheriff, or a constable and carried out prior to the hearing. The service can be done in any of the following ways:
- Giving a copy of the summons and complaint to the tenant in person
- Mailing a copy to the tenant either through regular mail, certified mail, or registered mail
- Posting a copy in a conspicuous place on the rental unit
Court Hearing & Judgment
The eviction hearing must occur anywhere between 7 and 10 days after the issuance of the summons. The tenant can choose to fight the eviction by providing any of the following defenses in court:
- It was discriminatory due to the tenant’s race, color, disability, or any other protected class
- The eviction was in retaliation for the tenant exercising their right, such as reporting you to a government agency for failure to maintain the unit to acceptable standards.
- The eviction process had errors such as sending the wrong notice
- The eviction relied on false charges
Writ of Possession
If the tenant doesn’t choose to fight the eviction or the judgment ultimately favors you, the court will issue you a Writ of Possession. This is the tenant’s final notice to leave the rental unit. Only a sheriff or a constable can enforce it by removing the tenant from the premises if they don’t move out on their own.
In order for the eviction process to be successful, a landlord must adhere to the state’s legal procedure. What’s more, landlords should familiarize themselves with the state’s landlord-tenant laws, security deposit laws, legal reasons for breaking a lease, and squatters’ rights.
If you would like help staying informed of your legal responsibilities or managing your rental properties contact the experts at Keyrenter Property Management BuxMont today!
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Laws change and this content may not be updated at the time you read it. For help please contact a licensed attorney