Eviction Notices for Nonpayment of Rent in Pennsylvania
Landlords have the option of evicting a tenant who is late in paying rent in Pennsylvania. Here’s how.
In Pennsylvania, a landlord can evict a tenant for not paying rent as soon as the rent is late. Unless otherwise agreed to in the lease or rental agreement, rent is considered late the day after it is due, and it is on that day that the landlord can send the tenant an eviction notice.
Timing of Eviction Notices for Nonpayment of Rent in Pennsylvania
Rent is typically due on the first day of every month, unless a different date is specified in the lease or rental agreement. There is no grace period for rent payments in Pennsylvania, unless agreed to in writing between the landlord and the tenant. This means that the landlord can give the tenant an eviction notice, called a Notice to Quit, the day after rent is due, if the landlord did not receive the rent payment on time.
Unless otherwise agreed to in the lease or rental agreement, rent is also due on weekends and holidays, even if the rent due date (such as the first of the month) is on one of these days. Some landlords may agree in the rental agreement that the rent will be due on the next business day if the due date falls on a weekend or holiday. However, unless this extension is specified in the agreement, rent is always due on the date specified in the lease or rental agreement, regardless of whether it is a weekend or holiday.
Once the landlord gives the tenant a Notice to Quit, the tenant has ten days to pay the rent or leave the rental property. The ten days begins on the date the notice is posted or given to the tenant. Weekends and holidays are included in the ten-day period. It is possible for the landlord and the tenant to agree to a different time period in the lease or rental agreement, at the time the agreement was made. If the lease agreement allows for a longer or shorter time period for the Notice to Quit, that time period must be followed. These are requirements of Pennsylvania state law (see 68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§250.501-(b) and (e)).
Information Included in Eviction Notices 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 failed to pay rent for a specified period of time)
- total amount of rent past due, including any late charges, and where and to whom the rent and late charges should be paid
- a statement that the tenant has ten days to pay the rent and late charges ( the notice should specify the exact date by which this must happen) or move out
- an ultimatum that the landlord may pursue legal action (an eviction lawsuit) if the tenant does not pay the entire rent within ten days or move, and
- a statement specifying how the notice was given to the tenant, either by actually giving the notice to the tenant or posting the notice on the tenant's door.
If an eviction notice is missing key information, such as clearly telling the tenant to either pay the rent and late charges or move out, then the eviction notice will not be considered valid and the ten days' notice will not start. The landlord would then have to give a new notice to the tenant, restarting the ten-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 Pennsylvania Landlords Must Serve Eviction Notices
The landlord has three options for serving the Notice to Quit under 68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §250.501(f):
1. The landlord, or someone 18 years or older, can personally give the notice to the tenant.
2. The landlord can post the notice at the building the tenant is renting (for example, the landlord can tape the notice to the tenant’s apartment door).
3. The landlord can post the notice in a spot the tenant will be sure to see it on the leased premises, such as in a common area of an apartment complex or on the front gate of a house.
If the notice is not given directly to the tenant, it is very important that the notice be left in a place where the tenant will see it. The notice cannot be hidden or placed in an object (such as a mailbox). It must be posted in a conspicuous place.
If the landlord does not serve the notice properly, then the landlord must create a new notice and start the process over. The ten days' notice will not be in effect until the landlord serves the tenant in one of the three ways listed above.
Tenant Options When Served With an Eviction Notice for Nonpayment of Rent in Pennsylvania
What happens next depends on the tenant’s response to the eviction notice.
- If the tenant pays the rent within the ten-day time period, then the notice is void and the tenant cannot be evicted.
- If the tenant does not pay the rent, but moves out within ten days, the landlord may use the tenant’s security deposit (if any) to cover the unpaid rent.
- If the security deposit does not cover all the rent due and owing, including late charges, then the landlord can sue the tenant for the rent still owed. The landlord can recover the rent either through assumpsit (meaning the tenant would pay the landlord money) or distress (meaning the tenant would give the landlord personal property equal to the amount owed to the landlord). See 68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§250.301 and 302.
- If the tenant does not pay the full rent within the ten-day time period and 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.
The landlord must successfully win the unlawful detainer case in the court before a sheriff or constable can legally take possession of the property. It is very important that landlords do not engage in "self-help" practices (such as changing the locks or shutting off the utilities) and that they follow 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 provides complaint templates online at www.pacourts.us/forms/for-the-public, under "Landlord."
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More on Landlord-Tenant Laws in Pennsylvania and Eviction
For more articles on landlord-tenant laws in Pennsylvania, including 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.