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 tenants 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 or rental agreement ends 
  • Engaging in an illegal activity 

Each ground for eviction comes with its own unique rule for how it should be carried out. 

Tenants who Fail to Pay Rent

Pennsylvania law allows landlords to evict their renters for failure to pay rent when it becomes due. The state law considers rent to be late a day after it is due. The landlord can address the grace period, if any, in their lease agreement. 

Once rent is due, a landlord must provide the tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Quit if they wish to evict them. This will give the 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 to evict 
  • 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, the landlord may proceed with filing for the eviction. 

Tenants who Violate the Written Lease Agreement 

A lease violation is another common cause of tenant eviction in Pennsylvania. The amount of proper notice to give will depend on the type and length of the tenancy. 

For at-will tenants and renters who’ve lived in the unit for less than a year, the landlord must provide them with a 15-day’ written notice. For those who’ve lived in the unit for at least a year, a landlord must serve them a 30-day’ 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

court judge hitting their gavel

  • Smoking in the unit when it’s prohibited
  • Causing excessive rental 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, a landlord may continue with filing an 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, Pennsylvania landlords are obligated to serve such tenants prior notice to evict them. 

The amount of notice to provide them depends on the type of tenancy in operation. For at-will tenants, the landlord must provide them with a 15-Day Notice to Quit. The same notice applies to renters who have resided in the unit for less than a year. 

For tenants who’ve stayed in the unit for at least a year, a landlord must provide them a 30-Day Notice to Quit. If the tenant doesn’t move after the notice has expired, the landlord may proceed with the process. 

Tenants who Engage in Illegal Activity 

In this case, a landlord must serve them a 10-Day Notice to Quit before commencing the action. Pennsylvania considers illegal activity as that which includes the following:

signing a lease agreement with quill pen

  • 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, a landlord can continue with the process. 

Summons & Complaint 

Next, the landlord 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 it 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
  • It was in retaliation for the tenant exercising their right, such as reporting their landlord to a government agency for failure to maintain the unit to acceptable standards. 
  • The Pennsylvania eviction process had errors such as sending the wrong notice
  • It relied on false charges

can my landlord evict me

Writ of Possession

If the tenant doesn’t choose to fight it or the judgment ultimately favors the landlord, the court will issue them 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. 

Summary

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 or rental agreement, and the Fair Housing Act. 

If you’re a landlord and 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