A Quick Guide to Hiring an Attorney for Evictions

You’ve asked, begged, and pleaded for your tenants to pay their rent, get rid of the unauthorized pet, or stop disturbing the neighbors at midnight with uncontrolled parties.

Being nice isn’t getting you the results that you need, so it’s time to look into your legal options.

Eviction is a fairly straightforward process as far as court cases go, but when you’re a new landlord, you don’t necessarily want to go it alone.

When to Hire an Attorney for an Eviction

Evictions are generally open-and-shut cases, as many tenants won’t respond to the complaint, so you get a decision by default.

However, even though it’s a fairly simple process compared to the rest of the legal system, there are specific rules that you have to follow perfectly to avoid giving your tenants any way to claim that you didn’t follow the proper procedure.

 

Nolo recommends that you get an attorney if you have never gone through the eviction process before.

This way, you have an expert to help guide you through the process and help you become familiar with each step.

Legal representation is also a good idea if your tenants are also retaining a lawyer.

You don’t want to go up against a lawyer in court, especially if this is your first eviction.

 

There are certain eviction situations that are a bit more complicated than a standard non-payment eviction.

Evicting tenants who are going through a bankruptcy process or attempting to evict tenants in an area that is rent-controlled, like New York City, requires additional assistance.

 

If you’ve never hired an attorney or would like to switch attorneys, talk with other property managers and landlords to see which law offices they go to for help.

Online review sites for professional services are also helpful resources for finding an attorney who works for your eviction needs.

Retain lawyers who specialize in eviction and real estate law, so they are up to date on the latest rules and regulations.

Can the Tenants Get a Lawyer

Tenants are free to retain legal counsel in the event of an eviction, although in most cases, you aren’t even going to see your tenants in court.

Eviction for non-payment is easily provable, and there are few circumstances where the court will consider stopping an eviction in this situation.

How Much Does an Eviction Procedure Cost

The exact price of an eviction depends on the city you file in.

For example, an eviction costs around $110 in Hamilton County, Ohio.

Generally, you’re paying for a process server to deliver the eviction notice to the tenants, the filing fees for the eviction complaint, any lawyer’s fees if you retain legal counsel, and a fee for a Writ of Execution if the tenants refuse to leave after the eviction and a sheriff has to get involved.

While this may sound like a large investment, you can add your legal fees associated with the eviction to the judgment against the tenants.

It may be difficult to collect on this judgment, but if they refuse to pay, you can levy bank accounts and and garnish their wages until the judgment is satisfied.

What Is a Wrongful Eviction?

There are always going to be problematic tenants from a landlord’s perspective.

From the tenant’s perspective, there are always going to be problematic landlords.

A vast majority of tenants and landlords have a mutually beneficial relationship that works for both groups.

When that relationship turns sour or there is a lease violation, however, a wrongful eviction can easily happen.

What is a wrongful eviction?

It is when a property owner, a landlord, or an agent acting on behalf of either party forces a tenant out of a residence without legal authorization to do so.

There are a number of ways this might happen.

1. By changing the locks on the building in question after removing personal effects.

2. By shutting off the utilities to the building.

3. By bullying the tenant into leaving the property through abuse and intimidation.

Tenants often have a lot of leeway to correct the issues that they may have created.

Most landlord-tenant laws require that a property owner, landlord, or agent give that tenant every opportunity to rectify the situation.

That’s why a specific eviction procedure must always be followed.

Landlords Almost Never Have Authorization To Remove Tenants

Only in specific jurisdictions is there any authorization for a landlord to physically remove a problematic tenant.

Most of the time the tenant who is in violation of a leasing agreement must be notified that they are in violation in writing.

They will be given a specific time frame to rectify that violation so they can return to compliance.

The most common reason why a tenant falls out of compliance with a leasing agreement is because of a non-payment of rent.

Any violation of the lease can be grounds to send a violation letter, but landlord-tenant laws have a specific amount of time that ranges from 3-30 days to rectify the violation.

Only if the violation is not rectified by the deadline given on the notice can a landlord then proceed with a formal eviction.

To do so, an “unlawful detainer” must usually be filed in the local court system.

Did You Know Tenants Can Evict Themselves?

Landlords, property owners, or their agents can also be “evicted” by tenants for the same reasons.

If a landlord fails to live up to their obligations in a leasing agreement, a tenant is allowed to send notice of this violation in writing and be guaranteed protections against retribution for such an act.

If the property being rented does not meet basic needs in a specific time frame, often just 24 hours, a tenant may “evict” themselves from the lease without penalty.

Tenants who legally break a lease must still surrender the property in a condition that is equal or greater to the condition they received it.

A security deposit cannot be used in this situation to correct an issue that was reported as a violation of the lease by the tenant.

Otherwise all other applicable security deposit laws are generally enforceable during the separation process.

Why Can’t Self-Remedy Options Be Legal?

It would be a lot easier to be able to just evict some tenants without court intervention and legal fees, but the rights of a tenant cannot be overlooked.

It might be your property, but it is a tenant’s home.

The law protects this right.

You entering a home without permission or a legitimate emergency could be construed as breaking and entering and that means a tenant has a right to defend themselves and their property in many jurisdictions.

That’s why letting the court system and law enforcement handle a problematic is a good idea.

It keeps everyone safer and although it may be an added cost, it is generally a cost that is worth spending.

This process also eliminates any litigation costs that may come from accusations that a landlord stole or damaged personal property during the process.

Just like most tenants won’t need to ever be evicted, most tenants that receive a violation notice will rectify the situation.

For those that receive a court-ordered eviction, they will leave before law enforcement arrives.

Only a small minority of tenant will need to have a full eviction, just as a small minority of landlords break leases on their end as well.

What is a wrongful eviction?

It is any process that attempts to remove a tenant from a property without legal permission.

Make sure to follow the steps outlined in your local landlord-tenant law today so that you can stay in compliance.

Landlord’s Guide to Rental Discrimination

Discrimination is a bad word in today’s society, but landlord’s need to discriminate as much as they legally can in order to get the best tenants possible into their property.

What a landlord can and cannot do is government by local landlord/tenant laws, so before starting any vetting process, make sure to check local statutes for specific ways you may need to be in compliance.

When Is Rental Discrimination Illegal?

In general, tenants are protected from certain types of discrimination wherever the rental home might be located.

The Federal Fair Housing Act and Fair Housing Amendments Act specifically prohibits a landlord from rejecting an application from a tenant for the following reasons.

  • Race or religion.
  • The ethnic background of the prospect or their national origin.
  • Gender.
  • The status of the family, including children.
  • Physical or mental disabilities.

Some laws also specifically prohibit discrimination due to sexual orientation, the age of the applicant, or the prospect’s marital status.

Even subtle differences in the application process, such as setting a higher income standard for certain households or setting different terms in a lease for different demographics could be considered illegal rental discrimination.

When Is Rental Discrimination Legal?

As a landlord, you need to be able to screen dangerous tenants away from your property as much as possible.

This means that the #1 method of legal discrimination that you can implement is a consistent policy of not accepting tenants that have committed certain crimes.

For homes that are near schools, this is especially critical to do because you could be held legally responsible for a tenant who reoffends.

If you’re concerned about how certain households may treat your property, then you may also wish to set a high income standard that applies to every applicant.

Requiring a minimum income is a valid business reason to reject a tenant because you have a certain level of profitability that is required.

Performing a credit check or implementing credit score minimums is another way to help prevent problem tenants from sneaking into your property on you.

If a tenant does not have a positive reference from a previous landlord, then this can also become the cause of a rejection.

Not having a positive reference from an employer, however, is not necessarily something that you can use to reject a tenant.

Not having a job or evidence that a rental lease can be met over a specific amount of time may be a valid reason to discriminate.

Having a poor reputation, but the ability to pay rent consistently, may not be a valid reason to discriminate.

As long as you have valid business reasons to reject a tenant that are not based in any way on the illegal rental discrimination areas that are in place, then you can do so.

This will allow you to be able to effectively screen out potentially problematic tenants so that you can have a long-term investment with your rental property.

When can landlords use the small claims court?

The Small Claims Court is a great system for recovering small amounts of money that are owed to you.

In exchange for a filing fee, you can have your case tried by a judge who may order a tenant to pay you what is due.

The best thing about Small Claims Court is that you don’t need a lawyer.

Some states even ban lawyers entirely in Small Claims trials.

You’ll need to pay a filing fee, which can be as low as $15, but the sort of skyrocketing expenses that can happen in other types of trials are not a concern.

Common Small Claims Court Actions
The maximum award offered by a Small Claims Court is between $3,000 and $5,000, depending on the state.

This makes it ideal for the kind of disputes that occasionally emerge in a landlord’s life.

Property Repair Costs
It’s every landlord’s worst nightmare: when your tenants move out, you may find that they have left your property in such disrepair that even their security deposit won’t cover the costs to fix it.

This is one of the most common reasons for landlords to take tenants to court.

Unpaid Rent
In cases where the client is clearly in breach of the lease contract, such as not having paid their rent, the court can help to force payment.

In reality, just the threat of a court date is often enough to convince the tenant to pay up.

Third Party Services
As a client yourself, you can take action against service providers such as plumbers, electricians, and cleaners if they fail to provide the agreed service, or if they damage your property while working on it.

Things to Consider Before Going to Court
The Small Claims Court is an important part of the landlord’s toolkit, but you shouldn’t head down the legal route until you’ve considered a few other things.

Landlord Obligations
If the tenancy has ended in an eviction, you’ll need to prove that you followed your state’s guidelines for removing a tenant.

This may include copies of move-out letters or eviction notices.

Supporting Paperwork
You’ll always need a copy of the tenancy agreement to demonstrate how the tenant broke it.

If no agreement was signed, the case will be governed by your state’s statutory laws.

Bring any other documents that support your case, like invoices if you’ve had to pay for cleaning and repairs.

Also, be sure that you understand the court’s paperwork requirements.

Some courts have specific submission rules that require you to submit two copies of everything, for example.

Speaking to the Tenant First
It’s surprising how many people go directly to court without attempting to resolve the dispute in person first.

There’s no point in being too trigger-happy, since many cases won’t proceed unless there has been some attempt to amicably resolve the dispute.

In some cases, the verdict may recommend using some kind of mediation service to reach an agreement, so it’s best to make a reasonable attempt to settle things directly with the other person before taking things to court.

Everyone enters into a tenancy agreement in good faith, and most leases end on good terms.

But if they don’t, it’s good to know that Small Claims Court can help you get the money you’re owed.

What Are Landlord Harassment Laws?

There are certain actions a landlord can take against a tenant in order to enforce a lease.

There are other actions that are legally considered to be landlord harassment.

In general terms, a tenant is allowed to enjoy the home that they are renting without too much interference.

Tenants are also afforded certain rights even if they are out of compliance with their lease, including an intentional refusal to pay.

Here are some of the common ways that landlord harassment laws can be used as a tenant defense during litigation.

1. Verbal Or Physical Threats Are Made.

“If you do not pay your rent, I’m going to kick you and your family out on the street.”

Although that may be true to some extend, that’s actually considered a threat in most jurisdictions and could be considered landlord harassment.

Landlords are not allowed to make any threats whatsoever against a tenant.

Doing so may give tenants the right to file for a restraining order.

2. Entering a Property Without Permission.

Landlords or their agents are not allowed to enter a rental property without giving some form of advanced notice is most jurisdictions.

If there isn’t an emergency, that notice may need to be 48-72 hours in advance.

A sales showing may only require 24 hours notice.

Emergency entry for necessary or repairs that were agreed upon are allowed.

Even entries that occur when tenants are not at home are still considered harassment.

3. Shutting Off The Utilities.

Landlords are not allowed to block tenant access to public utilities.

This includes power, water, heating, telephone service, or elevator access.

Some states allow tenants to sue landlords for taking this action.

This does not apply for nonpayment of utility services already used.

It does apply when done as a means to evict or harass a tenant.

4. Changing The Locks.

As long as a tenant has a legal right to be on a rental property, they must be given access to that structure.

Plugging locks, replacing the locks, or securing doors so they cannot be opened is considered a form of landlord harassment.

If this happens, tenants in almost every jurisdiction have the right to break back into the property, even if damages occur, and to potentially sue.

5. Improper Eviction Notices.

If the landlord/tenant law allows for a 5 day notice on nonpayment of rent and a landlord only gives a 3 day notice, then this may be considered landlord harassment as well.

6. Retaliation.

Tenants are allowed to pursue their rights.

That includes hot water, legal summons for potential harassment issues, and other actions that may even include withholding rent in some jurisdictions.

Landlords are not allowed to retaliate against tenants who are pursuing their legal rights in any way.

Retaliation may include terminating a lease, refusing to renew a lease, or increasing the rent.

7. Interference With a Tenant’s Lifestyle.

Although this form of landlord harassment is more rare than the others, it can also be the most costly.

This typically happens when a tenant is self-employed in some way or has small children or pets.

Frequent notices of inspection or sales tours that interrupt someone during regular business hours from completing their job may qualify as harassment.

Visits that occur frequently during a stated nap time for small children may also qualify.

Creating noise disturbances through a tenant’s pets intentionally may also be considered harassment. Interference that is agreed upon is automatically disqualified.

Interference that has a written notice and requests to alter circumstances that are ignored could create the foundation of potentially expensive litigation.

If a tenant earns $200 per day and they can provide 7 days of interference, that’s $1,400 + fees potentially coming out of a landlord’s pocket.

8. Making False Statements.

Some tenants don’t leave a leasing arrangement on friendly terms.

They might have left some furniture behind, not been able to afford a carpet cleaning service, or other move-out issues.

A landlord who then tells others that the tenants are the worst renters they’ve ever known, publish false statements about their conduct, or attempt to use information to affect personal employment may also be guilty of harassment.

Using stern language is one thing.

Threatening to harm someone is completely different.

Landlords who withhold maintenance, purposely target tenants, or conduct themselves in the ways above may be performing landlord harassment.

Avoid these behaviors to limit liabilities and a rental agreement will have more profit potential.

What Is the Eviction Process in Delaware?

In Delaware, the eviction process is formally known as taking summary possession. Landlords have an advantage in this state as the process proceeds much more quickly than in most other states in the US. It all begins with the initial eviction notice which can be served for the following reasons.

1. Nonpayment of rent.

2. A violation of the leasing agreement.

3. If there is a holdover from a previous lease and no extension in place.

Serving the notice can be done through certified mail, personal service, or posting the notice on the unit door and mailing a second copy to the tenant.

It Is a 5 Day/7 Day Notice for Nonpayment

Most landlords will be able to give a 5 day notice for nonpayment of rent and must include the rental property information and all included adults on the lease. It must be 7 days if the rental property is a manufactured home. A 7 day notice is also required for a lease violation that doesn’t involve rental payments. Tenants must receive a specific reason why they are in violation and what they must do to correct the situation. If the situation remains uncorrected after the 7 days, then further proceedings may apply. For those in manufactured homes, this must be a 10 day notice. The counting of days on these notices are actually business days in Delaware, so no weekend days or holidays are counted.

Criminal Violations Require No Notice

For tenants that have committed at least a Class B misdemeanor or any felony offense on the rental property in question, then landlords are allowed to post an immediate eviction notice. This includes drug use and domestic violence, as well as intentional property damage. A 60 day notice is required for an eviction when a tenant enters into a holding over period and every day is counted instead of only business days. Evictions that are won by the landlord will allow for a Writ of Possession to be requested. This gives the tenant 10 days to leave the property. If not, the Sheriff will serve a 24 hour notice to vacate and then enforce it forcibly if necessary. Tenant belongings that remain must be stored 7 days at the tenant’s expense. The Delaware eviction process is simple and straightforward. As long as each step is followed properly, then landlords can quickly remove problematic or non-paying tenants.

Landlord Breach of Contract Explained

A rental agreement is a contract between a tenant and a landlord and/or property owner.

This contract governs how both parties must conduct themselves over the course of the relationship.

Just as a tenant can cause a breach of contract, landlords can also violate the terms and conditions of the contract that has been signed as well.

A Contract Breach Doesn’t Have To Be Voluntary

Landlords often don’t mean to breach their lease, but may wind up doing so anyway.

This usually happens when there is a health or safety issue that occurs on a rental property.

There are certain things that landlords must provide to their tenant, including hot water, working sanitation items, and proper security.

Many jurisdictions require that landlords correct issues involving health and safety within 24 hours or a breach of contract will have occurred.

Other breaches occur when a lack of action is taken for non-emergency repairs as well.

Many jurisdictions have a requirement that landlords respond to any repair or maintenance request with a specific period of time – usually 10 business days, but local numbers vary.

A failure to respond, even unintentionally, can become a landlord breach of contract.

Contract Breach May Occur After Move-Out

Just because a tenant moves out of a rental property does not mean that the contract has become unenforceable.

If the lease set forth agreed upon terms for moving out, security deposit return, and the storage of personal property, then a failure to meet these obligations may also result in a breach of contract.

These issues, however, are not the most common type of breach that occurs.

A landlords that appears on a rental property without permission is the most common issue that violates a leasing agreement.

Not every jurisdiction requires landlords to give notice to tenants for inspections or visits, but a vast majority of them do.

 

What happens when a contract breach occurs?

Many jurisdictions offer tenants the opportunity to leave the rental property without penalty.

Security deposit stipulations may still apply, but tenants might also be offered the chance to litigate with landlords for coverage of their unanticipated expenses due to the need to move.

This is why following landlord/tenant laws and the principles of a leasing agreement is so important.

The law trumps the contract, so a breach of the law acts just like a breach of contract for landlords today.

Best Legal Documents for a Beginner Landlord

You invest time and energy into your new rental property, and you want to protect your investment.

Handing over the property keys to your new tenants can be nerve-racking, as you are trusting them to respect and maintain that investment.

To protect yourself and your rental property, you need to acquire several legal documents.

These rental documents will ensure that you are compliant with your state’s landlord-tenant laws; they also give you legal recourse in the event that something goes awry.

1. Rental Application
To begin the renting process, you will need a steady supply of rental applications to document each potential tenant.

This simple form gives you all of the information necessary to perform background and credit checks, and it may also reveal your applicant’s serious or fickle intentions.

Check any employer or previous landlord references, establish that your rental applicant can make the rent each month, and ensure he or she has good rental responsibility.

2. Rental Agreement
Once you have chosen the renter(s) for the property, you need to create a rental agreement or lease agreement.

This is a binding legal contract between the renter and yourself, spelling out the exact details of your agreement, including the length of the lease, the exact location of the rental property, the amount of rent, when the rent is due and payable, and any other stipulations you may have, such as pets or no pets.

Each state has its own laws regarding the exact language to be used and if certain elements cannot be included.

Ensure you conduct thorough research.

3. Eviction Notice
No one wants to think about the worst case scenario.

However, it’s best to be prepared if your tenants are unable to make their monthly rent payments, or if they break the lease in another way, such as subleasing the property.

The only legal way to evict inappropriate tenants is with an eviction notice, which may have a different name depending on your location, such as demand of possession.

Once you notify tenants, you start the clock on the eviction process.

This process differs based on your state and whether the tenant is being evicted due to non-payment or other factors.

4. Notice to Enter
You should check on your property from time to time, to ensure that your renters are taking care and not violating any terms of the rental agreement.

However, you cannot stop by unannounced; the tenant is entitled to his or her privacy.

Therefore, you must give your tenants a notice to enter at least 24 hours in advance of your visit.

This gives your tenant enough notice to make sure that he or she will be home (if necessary) at the time of your visit and is in compliance with your legal responsibility as a landlord.

5. Notice of Non-Renewal
Sometimes you don’t want your tenants to stay for another lease term.

This may happen because you no longer want to rent out the property, or you may choose to move someone else in instead.

To give your renter(s) adequate notice to find a new place to live, you will need a notice of non-renewal.

State requirements vary widely on how much notice you need to give, but generally, the more notice you give, the better.

While there are many more forms that a new landlord may need, these five documents will give you the confidence to move forward in renting out your first property.

Find your locale’s requirements on the exact language needed and the time lines necessary to execute proper documents.

Many of the initial difficulties of renting out a property will be alleviated with the right paperwork.

When Should You Deduct from a Security Deposit?

A security deposit is often, but not always, equal to one month of rent. Ideally, it helps the landlord or property manager pay for any repairs or cleaning that the property needs when the tenants move out. When the cleaning is over, the landlord sends their tenants a check for what remains from the deposit.

It sounds simple, right? Unfortunately for novice landlords, it’s hard to know exactly what to charge to a security deposit. Any miscalculating — whether accidentally or on purpose — is a great way to get angry tenants and a bad reputation for yourself.

Why Should You Give Back A Security Deposit at all?
Some landlords make their tenants hunt them down to give back their security deposits. Others don’t refund security deposits at all, effectively levying an extra month’s worth of rent from tenants.

These practices aren’t legal in a lot of jurisdictions, and you may find yourself in small-claims court if you don’t refund a security deposit when necessary; check your local laws to learn the details. Additionally, refusing a deposit refund makes your tenants very upset because, for a lot of tenants, a security deposit is a lot of money. Even if you never hear a bad word from your renters about it, their family and friends will — not to mention the whole Internet. Future tenants become much less likely to rent from you if they hear that they probably won’t get their security deposit back. Being unable to rent your properties out is not worth the money you get from holding onto the security deposit.

Therefore, it’s best to give back your security deposit. If there’s a delay, communicate that to your tenants. If there’s a dispute between you, remain as straightforward and clear as possible while always holding onto all records of your communications about the rental agreement.

Security Deposit Deductions 101

When your tenants move out, you’re likely to find wear and tear on the property: paint peeling, smudges on the walls, scratch marks and so forth. You can also discover actual damages: holes in walls, broken windows or torn carpet. Only heavy damage is generally considered fair game when deducting from a security deposit.

Remember that even a model tenant can have deductions from their deposit. As you walk through, photograph all damages so that you have a record if the tenant disputes your charges. Remember also that not all damage in a landlord’s eyes is damage in a tenant’s eyes. For instance, imagine that your tenant painted a wall a different color. It may look nice, and the tenant may have had the best of intentions. However, if you need to repaint the wall, that’s still property damage — especially if they never communicated it to you. If they did tell you before painting and you said it was fine, then billing them later isn’t fair — even if you changed your mind.

If you need to call in a repairman or a cleaning team after tenants vacate the premises, so that they can do badly needed cleaning, billing the tenant out of the security deposit is fair. If it’s a standard practice at your properties to call in professionals — to repaint all walls in your properties, for example — don’t deduct unless the damage goes above and beyond normal wear and tear. If you yourself are doing the repairs, keep a close eye on your time, and then you can bill tenants for your own work as you would for a professional doing the same job. Security-deposit deductions aren’t just to compensate for the time spent on repairs; they also pay for new materials. It’s also fair to bill out of the security deposit for anything that needs replacing, like doorknobs, hooks or appliances.

As a rule of thumb, any damage you don’t find within a week or so of your tenant’s departure isn’t eligible for a security-deposit deduction. If your new tenant finds damage a month after moving in, billing the old tenant for it isn’t really an option.

These deductions can add up. Keep a carefully itemized record of deductions. Ideally, give that information back to the tenant when you send back what remains of the deposit. Don’t forget to leave them your contact information so that they know how to get in touch with you if they dispute any charges.

 

How to Evict Tenants in Philadelphia

Landlords don’t need an attorney to evict in Philadelphia, but it’s important that they follow the laws of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Act of 1951 outlines both landlord and tenant responsibilities. Pennsylvania laws require the landlord to issue a formal notice asking the tenant to leave the unit. If the tenant refuses or believes that the request is not legal, the parties will have to go to court.

Writing a Notice to Vacate
Before landlords can file legal paperwork with the courts, they must issue a Notice to Vacate that requests that they leave the property. The notice must include the following information:

  • The requested date of vacancy    
  • The date the notice was issued
  • The name and address of the tenants
  • The name of the owner
  • The reason that the notice to vacate is being issued
  • If past rent is due, the total amount of rent and other fees, how to pay the total amount, and the last day that the total amount of rent must be paid
  • A statement indicating that the tenant must pay rent, or meet the terms of the lease, or move out during the specified time period
  • How the notice was delivered to the tenant (by mail or posted on the rental property)
  • That the landlord may proceed with legal action if the reason stated in the Notice to Vacate is not addressed or the tenant does not move

If issuing a notice to vacate due to unpaid rent or utilities, a landlord must give the tenant at least 10 days to leave the property. If the landlord wants the tenant to leave because the tenant has violated other terms of the lease, 15 days is legally required for leases that are one year or less. The Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Act of 1951 also specifies in Article V that 30 days notice is required for leases that are drafted to be more than one year in length. Landlords should also check their lease, since some specify that the tenant must have a period of notice that is longer than 10 or 15 days. In these cases, the landlord must follow the terms of the lease.

Filing a Complaint
If the tenant does not leave by the date on the Notice to Vacate, the landlord must file an Eviction Complaint with the court system and pay a fee. They must also mail a copy of the complaint to the tenant or post a copy at the rental property.
Once the complaint is received, the court will notify the tenant of the complaint and schedule hearing before the Magisterial District Justice. When the tenant receives the complaint notice, he must write to the court and explain the defense he intends to use to fight the eviction. The court will also schedule a hearing date. Both the tenant and landlord must appear during the hearing date or risk losing the case. At the end of the hearing, the judge will either order the tenant to leave the property and pay back rent or deny the landlord’s claims.

Appealing the Court’s Decision
Tenants who lose the initial court case may appeal within 10 days to a higher court. However, if they intend to stay at the rental property, they must pay the lesser amount of the judgment issued against them or three months rent. If they lose this appeal, the tenant must leave.

Finishing the Eviction Process
With a favorable court decision in hand, the landlord can file a Writ of Possession if the tenant has not left the property after 10 days. The sheriff’s office will enforce the eviction 11 days after the writ has been given to the tenant.

Avoiding Illegal Eviction Rulings
Even if the tenant is not paying rent, a landlord cannot change the locks to a rental property, shut off utilities, or attempt to force the tenant out of the property through non-legal means. Landlords who use these tactics may have their eviction cases dismissed and may even owe damages to the tenant they seek to evict.
For a successful eviction, it’s essential that landlords follow the Pennsylvania landlord tenant act and issue a valid Notice to Vacate before using legal recourse. If the Notice to Vacate doesn’t work, the landlord should file an Eviction Complaint. After the complaint has been filed, the court system will commit to issuing a fair ruling and involving the sheriff’s office when warranted.