How to Evict a Tenant (Process)
The Pennsylvania eviction process begins when the tenant breaches the lease or rental agreement. A contract may be breached due to the non-payment of rent, non-compliance with rental terms, failure to vacate after the tenancy expires, or for illegal drug use on the rented property. Upon identifying the breach, the landlord must give the tenant a written eviction notice stating the notice period in which the tenant must either correct the issue (if applicable) or vacate. If the tenant does not comply by the time their notice period expires, the landlord can file for eviction by submitting a complaint to the magistrate district court.
Step 1 – Notify Tenant of Eviction
A landlord that seeks to evict a tenant must provide the individual with a written notice of termination. This notice, referred to as a “Notice to Quit,” will outline the cause of termination, the number of days in which the tenant must vacate the unit and remove their belongings, and whether or not the lease is curable.
Several eviction notices are available for use below. The landlord should select the one (1) that matches their eviction situation.
Non-Payment of Rent – The landlord must give the tenant a 10-Day Notice to pay or Quit. If the rent is not paid within ten (10) days, the landlord can terminate the tenancy and initiate the legal proceedings.
Non-Compliance with Lease Terms – If the tenant breaches the lease for any reason other than non-payment of rent or illegal drug use, the landlord must provide the tenant with a 15/30-Day Notice to Quit. For tenancies lasting one (1) year or less, the tenant will have a notice period of fifteen (15) days in which they can either cure the breach or vacate. However, if the lease term is longer than one (1) year, a notice period of thirty (30) days must be provided by the landlord.
Month-to-Month Lease Termination Without Cause – The type of notice delivered to the tenant must correspond with the lease requirements. If there is no lease, or if the lease does not provide information on month-to-month lease termination without cause, it is generally acceptable for the landlord to provide the tenant with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
Illegal Drug Activity – If the tenant is convicted of committing illegal drug activity on the premises of the leased property, or if a controlled substance is seized from the tenant while on the premises of the leased property, the landlord shall provide the tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Quit. The tenant must vacate within ten (10) days.
Step 2 – Serve the Notice to the Tenant
Next, the landlord must serve a copy of the completed Notice to Quit to the tenant, preferably in person on the leased property. However, if personal delivery cannot be performed, the landlord may post a copy to the entrance of the dwelling or another conspicuous location on the property. The notice period will begin on the date following service.
Step 3 – File a Complaint With the Court
If the tenant does not either cure the breach (i.e., pay the rent, correct the non-compliance) or move out within the allotted notice period, the landlord has the right to terminate the tenancy and file an eviction complaint with the court.
The landlord will need to complete a Landlord/Tenant Complaint form and submit it to the magisterial district court which has jurisdiction over the property. Along with the initial Complaint containing the landlord’s original signature, there must also be two (2) copies for each tenant. A filing fee will be required at the time of submission (the landlord should contact the court for current rates).
Step 4 – Serve Summons to the Tenant
A clerk of the court will schedule an eviction trial after the Landlord/Tenant Complaint is filed. This date will be no less than seven (7) and no more than fifteen (15) days from the date of filing. The clerk will issue a Summons which will be used to inform the tenant of the trial information. The landlord must arrange to have the Summons served to the tenant by the local sheriff or a constable (a fee will be required). The Summons must either be served to the tenant in person, by first class mail, or by posting it conspicuously on the premises. After the Summons has been served, the landlord should contact the sheriff’s department to request a document showing evidence of service.
Step 5 – Attend Eviction Trial
On the date of the eviction trial, the landlord must appear in court fully prepared with copies of all documents supporting their case (e.g., Notice to Quit, lease agreement, Landlord/Tenant Complaint, receipts, photographs, proof of service, etc.). The landlord should also ensure that their witnesses have been made aware of the time and location of the trial.
The magisterial district judge will assess the cases presented by both parties and issue a judgment either at the end of the trial or within the next three (3) days. If the landlord is granted possession of the premises (i.e., if they win the eviction lawsuit), a Judgment for Possession will be issued to the landlord. The tenant may appeal the judgment within ten (10) days. If the landlord is awarded a money judgment for court costs, damages, and rent owed, the tenant may appeal the decision within thirty (30) days of the judgment.
Step 6 – Eviction
If the tenant neither appeals the judgment nor moves out within ten (10) days, the landlord must file a Request for Order for Possession with the court where the Complaint was filed. The court will then serve the Order for Possession to the tenant. A date will be arranged for a constable to evict the individual from the premises (the landlord must pay an “ejectment fee”).
If the tenant is being evicted solely for the reason of non-payment of rent, the tenant can stop the eviction by paying the full judgment amount and all court costs before the eviction occurs. The ejectment fee shall be refunded to the landlord upon him/her notifying the court of the cancellation at least forty-eight (48) hours before the eviction.