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A Guide to the Eviction Process in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law grants a landlord the right to evict a tenant who violate their lease or rental agreement. Examples of common lease violations include not paying rent, excessive property damage, and failure to move after the written lease term has expired.

It’s important that you follow the proper proceedings under Pennsylvania law when it comes to real estate management. It’d be unlawful to try to end a tenant's lease in any other way. In Philadelphia, there are additional landlord-tenant rules surrounding evictions to keep in mind.

Usually, one can expect the Pennsylvania eviction process timeline to be no more than two months once they begin. However, it can take much longer depending on several factors. Including, the reason for the eviction and whether or not the tenant contests their removal.

Philadelphia Eviction Diversion Program

In the city of Philadelphia, there is a free Eviction Diversion Program that was created to help landlord and tenant settle disputes without having to evict someone or go to court.

Landlords in Philadelphia must apply to this program before they consider a legal eviction action. The program offers conflict resolution services and saves everyone involved time and money.

Pennsylvania Eviction Process: A Guide

The eviction process in Pennsylvania begins with having grounds for legal action. These are legitimate reasons to evict a tenant which include failing to pay rent, absence of a lease agreement, lease expiration, lease violations, and illegal activity.

Next, you must serve the tenant with an appropriate eviction notice according to Pennsylvania real estate law. ‘Appropriate’ because each ground for eviction requires to be matched with a specific notice. Using the wrong written notice can provide the tenant with legal defense to delay their eviction.

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Whether or not to continue with the eviction process in Pennsylvania will depend on the action the tenant takes after being served with the notice. If they vacate the rental property within the notice period, then no further action would be necessary. However, if they don’t, then landlords can proceed to court for further help.

If the tenant doesn’t vacate the premises within the given timeline, then a landlord can file a lawsuit in court. The court will then listen to both parties and issue a judgment.

Notice for Lease Termination with Legal Cause

To begin the legal eviction process against a tenant, a landlord must first terminate their lease. And this entails serving them with an eviction notice. Notice requirements include the following methods:

  • If they’re evicting the tenant from the rental unit for unpaid rent, landlords must serve the 10-Day Notice to Quit. This will give the tenant 10 calendar days to vacate the premises. They won’t have an opportunity to fix the issue.
  • For tenants living on their rental without a lease or rental agreement, the landlord must serve them a 15-Day notice. This notice applies to tenants who have rented their rental unit for less than a year. For those that have rented for more than a year, the landlord must serve them a thirty day notice.
  • If evicting a tenant who’s rented for less than a year for committing a lease violation, a landlord must serve them a 15-Day Notice to Quit. This will give them 15 calendar days to move out. For tenants who’ve lived for more than a year, the landlord must serve them thirty days’ notice.
  • For tenants who commit an illegal activity, a landlord must serve them a 10-Day Notice to Quit. This Notice to Quit will give them a maximum of ten days to leave.

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Serving a Tenant with a Pennsylvania Eviction Notice

Landlords must deliver the written notice in one of the following ways.

  • Handing the tenant proper notice in person.
  • Leaving a copy at the principal building on the leased premises.
  • Posting a copy on the front door or in any other conspicuous area.

Tenant Eviction Defenses in Pennsylvania

If the tenant doesn’t move out within the notice period, a landlord can move to court and file a Pennsylvania eviction lawsuit. The court will then issue the landlord with a Summons and Complaint. This must be served on the tenant by either a writ server, a constable, or a sheriff.

The Summons and Complaint will give the tenant an opportunity to respond to the matter. In their defense, the tenant may state either of the following to stop or delay their eviction action.

  • The eviction notice contained substantial errors.
  • The eviction was in retaliation to the tenant exercising their legal right such as reporting their landlord to local health officials for a code violation.
  • The tenant didn’t commit the lease violation as you, the landlord, alleged.
  • The eviction was based on a protected class under the Fair Housing Act.

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Attending Eviction Hearing

In Pennsylvania, court hearings for eviction cases are normally held between seven and ten days after the court has issued a summons. If the court rules in their favor, and the landlord wins, they will be issued with a writ of possession. Either party can file an appeal.

Writ of Possession

This is the tenant’s final notice to leave their rented premises. And just like a Summons and Complaint, it must be delivered to the tenant by a sheriff, constable, or writ server. The writ gives the tenant an opportunity to remove their belongings before a sheriff or constable can forcibly remove them from the rental unit.

Once the court order is issued, law enforcement officials will have 48 hours to serve it to the tenant. The tenant will then have to move out within 10 days once they are issued with it.

Pennsylvania Eviction Process: Bottom Line

Now you are familiar with the process of evicting a tenant in Pennsylvania. It’s important that you, as a landlord, follow this process down to the letter to avoid legal issues. If you're a landlord and have questions about landlord-tenant law, Pennsylvania security deposit law, or any other aspects of owning a rental, reach out to TrustArt Realty.

We’re a top property management company in Philadelphia offering real estate-related services. Get in touch to learn more!

Disclaimer: This blog should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.


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Kealan Hobelmann Rental Property Owner