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.
Eviction Notice Time Frames for Lease or Rental Agreement Violations 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).
Tenant Rights to Remedy a Lease Violation
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.
Information Included in Eviction Notices for Lease Violations in Pennsylvania
The Notice to Quit must be written, and it must include the following information:
- date the notice was served on the tenant(s)
- name(s) and address of tenant(s) rental unit
- the reason for the notice (that the tenant violated a specific part of the lease agreement)
- a statement that the tenant has either 15 or 30 days to remedy the situation (assuming a remedy is possible) or move out; the notice should specify the exact date by which this must happen
- an ultimatum that the landlord may pursue legal action (an eviction lawsuit) if the tenant does not remedy the situation or move, and
- a statement specifying how the notice was given to the tenant, such as by giving the notice to the tenant (options for serving eviction notices are described below).
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].)
How Landlords Must Serve Eviction Notices in Pennsylvania
State law (68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §250.501(f)) gives landlords three options for serving a Notice to Quit in Pennsylvania:
- Serve the notice personally. The landlord, or someone 18 years of age or older, can personally hand the eviction notice to the tenant.
- Leave the notice at the unit the tenant is renting. An example would be the landlord tacking the eviction notice to the tenant’s apartment door.
- Post the notice in a conspicuous place on the rental premises. This should be some place the tenant is sure to see, such as in a common area of an apartment complex or on the front gate of a rental house. The eviction notice cannot be hidden or placed in an object (such as a mailbox). It must be posted in a conspicuous place where the tenant will easily see it.
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.
How Tenants Can Respond to an Eviction Notice for a Lease Violation in Pennsylvania
What happens next depends on the tenant’s response to the eviction notice.
- If it is possible for the tenant to fix the lease violation within the time period and the tenant does, then the notice is void and the tenant cannot be evicted.
- If the tenant does not fix the lease violation, but moves out within the appropriate time frame, the landlord may use the tenant’s security deposit to cover any costs of the lease violation, such as damages to the rental property. If the security deposit does not cover all of the damages to the rental property, then the landlord can sue the tenant for the money still needed to fix the rental property.
- If the tenant does not fix the lease violation (if that's an option) within the given time period and/or does not move out of the property, then the landlord can proceed to file a summons and complaint with the court. This proceeding is called an unlawful detainer case.
Eviction Lawsuits in Pennsylvania
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."
Evictions in Mobile Homes
Other Pennsylvania Laws Affecting Landlords and Tenants
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.