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Eviction in Pennsylvania

What is eviction?
Eviction, also known as ejectment in Pennsylvania, is a court ordered process that can end a tenant’s right to occupy a rental property. If a landlord forces a tenant out through any other means, the eviction is illegal and the tenant may be entitled to damages and repossession of the property. The Landlord and Tenant law of 1951, 68 PaCSA §250 and following, controls.

What are the legal bases on which landlords can evict tenants?

1.non-payment of rent, or habitual lateness in paying rent
2.continued disorderly conduct
3.creating a health hazard/injury to premises
4.violation of the terms of the lease
5.termination of a tenancy
6.conviction of a drug offense
7.non-payment of fees for mobile home owners who rent lot spaces

How does an eviction start?

Eviction starts when the landlord gives written notice to the tenant. The notice must be delivered to the tenant or posted on the dwelling. Eviction notices sent by mail is generally not enforceable. If the lease term is for more than one year, 90 days notice must be given. If the lease term is less than one year (usually month-to-month), 30 days notice may be given. If the lease agreement provides for a specific differing notice, the agreement controls.

Illegal Evictions

It is illegal for a landlord to attempt self-help measures to get you out, such as:
Changing the locks
Shutting off utilities
Actually moving your possessions out
The only way a tenant can legally be evicted is through a court order, or if the city condemns the property.

The Court Process

When a Landlord-Tenant Complaint is filed with the District Justice, a copy of the Complaint will be delivered to the tenant, and also mailed to the tenant. The Complaint will detail the specific situation(s) with which the landlord is concerned. The tenant may file a counterclaim against the landlord, if the tenant believes the situation to be otherwise and/or different from the landlord’s complaint. The Complaint will also detail the time and place of any Hearing on the matter. All Complaints and Counterclaims will be addressed at that time.

The landlord will present his testimony first, followed by the tenant. The District Justice will decide who is entitled to the property, as well as any money which is owed by one party to the other.

If either party to the decision of the District Justice disagrees, and appeal may be filed with 30 days of the date of the decision in the Court of Common Pleas.

How long will an eviction take?

If the landlord wins the judgment for possession, the tenant has fifteen (15) days from the date the notice is received to vacate the premises. This must be at least thirty (30) days after the judgment had been entered.  If the tenant is forcibly evicted by the Sheriff or Constable, storage costs are the responsibility of the tenant.

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