Landlords in Pennsylvania can evict tenants for violating any part of the lease agreement, such as by having a dog when no pets are allowed, deliberately destroying or damaging any part of the rental property, or not moving out of the rental property at the end of the lease period. Pennsylvania's Landlord-Tenant Act of 1951 spells out the rules by which a landlord may file an eviction notice, or Notice to Quit, for violation of a lease agreement.
Here's an overview of Pennsylvania rules for evicting a tenant who violates a key term of a lease or rental agreement. For details on evictions for nonpayment of rent, see the Nolo article Eviction Notices for Nonpayment of Rent in Pennsylvania.
Once a landlord gives a Pennsylvania tenant a Notice to Quit, the tenant has either 15 or 30 days to leave the rental property or fix the violation, depending on the length of the lease or rental agreement. If the agreement is for one year or less, or if it does not specify a time frame, then the eviction notice must give the tenant 15 days to fix the violation, if possible, or move out. If the lease is for more than one year, then the eviction notice must give the tenant 30 days to fix the violation, if possible, or move out. If at the time the lease or rental agreement was made the landlord and tenant agreed to a different (longer or shorter) time frame for evictions, the time frame specified in the lease must be followed.
The time period for the eviction notice begins on the date the notice is posted or given to the tenant. Weekends and holidays are included in the time frame (that is, a tenant does not get any extra time if the 15th or 30th day falls on a weekend or holiday).
Rules regarding eviction notice time frames are requirements of state law (see 68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § § 250.501-(b) and (e) of the Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951).
It may not be possible for a tenant to remedy a violation--for example, if the tenant deliberately damaged the property, the only option available to the tenant will be to move out of the property.
The Notice to Quit must be written, and it must include the following information:
If an eviction notice is missing key information, such as clearly telling the tenant what the lease violation is, then the eviction notice will not be considered valid and the appropriate time period will not start. The landlord would then have to give a new notice to the tenant, restarting the 15- or 30-day timeline, and the notice would have to include all of the information listed above (see Jankowski v. Orloske, 84 Pa. D&C 522 [Pa. Court of Common Pleas 1952].)
State law (68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §250.501(f)) gives landlords three options for serving a Notice to Quit in Pennsylvania:
If the landlord does not serve the notice properly, then the landlord must create a new notice and start the process over. The time frame for the tenant to move out or fix the violation will not start running until the landlord serves the tenant in one of the three ways listed above.
What happens next depends on the tenant’s response to the eviction notice.
The landlord must win the unlawful detainer case in court before a sheriff or constable can legally take possession of the property on behalf of the landlord. Landlords must not engage in "self-help" practices (such as turning off the utilities). A landlord who does so may lose the unlawful detainer case and the tenant may bring a a case against the landlord instead.
Landlords should follow all of the procedures for filing the unlawful detainer complaint. More information about filing the complaint can be found in 68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § §502–504. The Pennsylvania court system (the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania) provides complaint templates online at www.pacourts.us/forms/for-the-public, under "Landlord."
For details on other landlord-tenant laws in Pennsylvania, such as illegal eviction procedures and tenant rights to withhold rent, see the Pennsylvania charts in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo site. For more on eviction-related articles, see the Evicting a Tenant or Ending a Lease section of the Nolo site.