Landlords should familiarize themselves with the statewide rules and procedures that govern evictions in the state of Pennsylvania and understand their responsibilities.
Quick Facts for Pennsylvania
- Grounds for Eviction: Failure to pay rent, remaining on property after lease has ended, lease term violation(s), illegal behaviors
- Notice Required for Nonpayment of Rent: 10-Day Notice to Quit
- Notice Required for Eviction without Cause: No state-specific guidelines set
- Notice Required for Lease Violations: 15-Day Notice to Quit for tenants renting up to a year; beyond that, 30-Day Notice to Quit
- Fastest a Landlord Can Evict for Illegal Acts: Immediately; illegal activities are considered a breach of lease and are grounds for tenant’s removal from property
- Duration for Tenant to Appeal Eviction Ruling: 10 days
How Long Does it Take to Evict a Tenant in Pennsylvania?
It is always challenging to attempt to provide a reasonable response to the question of how long the eviction process will take. The state of Pennsylvania requires that landlords provide tenants with more time to relocate than many other states and to provide tenants who have remained in a rental agreement for more than a year with considerably more time than those who have rented a property for less than a year. This means that the amount of time required to evict a tenant may both be longer than the amount of time required in many other states, and that there is a larger range in the amount of time a landlord must provide to a tenant than is often the case in other states based on the amount of time a tenant has rented a particular property. Generally a landlord is required to provide a 15 Day Notice to Quit to tenants for violations to the terms of the rental agreement or the end of the lease.
It should be noted that the 15-Day Notice to Quit is only appropriate for tenants who have been renting for up to a year. A 30-Day Notice to Quit is required for a tenant who has rented for over a year (68 P.C.S.A. 250-501 (b) & (c)). Written leases may limit the amount of time the landlord is required to provide to tenants when seeking an eviction.
If the tenant fails to vacate a property within the amount of time indicated in the written notice, the landlord may then proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summons and Complaint with the appropriate District Justice’s Office. Once the Summons and Complaint is filed, the eviction process takes on all of the complexity of any legal proceedings. This then adds to the complexity of predicting the amount of time it will take to evict a tenant.
Ultimately, the most important determinants of the amount of time it will take to evict a tenant will be the reason the landlord is seeking the eviction, the time that the tenant has been renting the property, and the willingness of the tenant to fight the eviction process.
Reasons for Eviction in Pennsylvania
The state of Pennsylvania has established a number of legitimate reasons for which a landlord may seek to evict a tenant. These reasons include:
- Failure to pay rent
- Remaining on the property after the lease has ended
- Violation of the terms of the rental agreement
- Tenant has created a chronic nuisance
- Tenant has engaged in criminal activity
- Tenant or someone in the tenant’s household has caused substantial damage to the rental property
Regardless of the reason a landlord is seeking to reclaim his property from his/her tenant, the state of Pennsylvania requires that the landlord begin the eviction process by providing the tenant with a written notice. To be considered legal, the notice must provide all necessary information and may be served by:
- Personal delivery to the tenant or any household member over the age of 18
- Posting at the entrance of the rental property
- Posting somewhere at the property where the tenant will be sure to see it.
Eviction for Failure to Pay Rent
In the state of Pennsylvania, a landlord must provide his/her tenant with a written 10-Day Notice to Quit when the tenant has failed to pay rent by the date indicated in the lease or rental agreement. If the tenant fails to pay the rent within ten days or vacate the property, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summons and Complaint with the appropriate District Justice’s office (68 P.C.S.A. 250-501(b) & (c)).
Eviction if Rent has Been Paid
If a landlord began an eviction for failure to pay rent, and the tenant paid the outstanding rent in full within the 10 days provided in the written notice, the landlord may not proceed with the eviction process. Pennsylvania’s Landlord/Tenant Act does not provide guidance as to how landlords may proceed with the eviction of tenants who are renting without benefit of a written lease.
Evicting a Tenant For Violation of Rental Agreement/Lease
When a tenant has violated terms of the lease or rental agreement, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written Notice to Quit before proceeding with the eviction process. The amount of time provided in the notice will depend upon the amount of time the tenant has been renting the property. The landlord must provide a written 15-Day Notice to Quit to a tenant who has been renting the property for up to one year and a written 30-Day Notice to Quit to a tenant who has been renting the property for more than a year.
Although the state of Pennsylvania does not require the landlord to allow the tenant the opportunity to remedy the situation when there is a violation to the terms of the lease, the landlord may agree to allow the tenant to cure the situation. If the landlord should continue with the eviction process once the tenant has cured the issue with the agreement of the landlord, the eviction will be considered unjustified by the court.
Evicting a Tenant for Illegal Behavior
In the state of Pennsylvania, a landlord is allowed to evict a tenant for specific types of illegal activity. According to Pennsylvania legislation, a landlord may evict a tenant for:
- A first conviction for the sale, production, or distribution of illegal drugs
- A second violation of anything contained within the “Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act.”
- The seizure of illegal drugs on a leased property by law enforcement officers (Penn Landlord/Tenant Act 250-505-A).
These acts are considered a breach of the lease and allows for the removal of the tenant from a rental property.
How Does a Landlord Evict a Tenant in Pennsylvania When There is no Lease?
Pennsylvania’s Landlord/Tenant Act provides no specific guidance as to how a landlord must proceed when a tenant is renting without the benefit of a written lease.
When Can a Tenant Not Be Evicted in Pennsylvania?
In the State of Pennsylvania, it is illegal for a landlord to seek to evict a tenant for participating in a tenant group or union. It is also illegal for a landlord to seek to evict a tenant based on his/her age, gender, race, nation of origin, familial status, or disability status.
Once a Notice has Expired
A landlord may proceed with the eviction process by filing a Summons and Complaint with the appropriate District Justice’s Office. Once the complaint is filed, the justice of the peace will direct a copy of the complaint be served on the tenant (Penn. Landlord/Tenant Act 250-502). This complaint will include summons to a court date between seven and 10 days of the summons. This summons may be served through personal delivery, mail delivery, or posting at the rental property.
If the court finds that the complaint is valid, the justice of the peace may enter judgment against the tenant indicating:
- That the property be returned to the landlord
- Any damages to be paid
- Any amount of rent due
If the eviction is being sought for failure to pay rent, the tenant may pay all outstanding rent and fees up until a judgement is provided to pay rent. If the tenant pays rent before the court ruling, the eviction process will be ended.
Once Eviction Occurs
If the court rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant has 10 days to appeal the eviction ruling and up to 30 days to appeal any monetary judgements.
If the tenant fails to comply with a court order to vacate the premises, the landlord may ask for a Writ of Possession. The writ must be served within 48 hours and executed on the 11th day following its service. The writ must be served on the tenant by personal delivery or posting at a conspicuous place at the rental property.
Make sure to read the Pennsylvania Statutes Title 68 §§ 250.501, 502–504; Act 20 § 301 & 302 before starting the eviction process. Landlords should make sure to educate themselves on their rights and responsibilities on this topic.