Pennsylvania law (the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951) controls the eviction of tenants renting a home in Pennsylvania for nonpayment of rent and other lease violations. Landlords may not take self-help measures, such as changing locks or removing tenant’s property, to force a tenant to move out. Instead, landlords most follow specific procedures, beginning with serving a “Notice to Quit” on the tenant.
A Notice to Quit is a document delivered by the landlord to the tenant notifying the tenant in writing he or she must move out of the property by a certain deadline.
There are several reasons why a Notice to Quit may be used:
The Notice to Quit must include the name of the landlord; name(s) of the tenant(s); address of the rental property; and reason for the notice, such as tenant failure to pay rent for a specific time period or for some other violation of the lease. A Notice to Quit for nonpayment of rent should include the amount of rent due; the method and location to make payment; the deadline (a specific date) by which the tenant must move out or pay rent due; and a statement that the landlord may pursue legal action if the tenant does not meet the demand of the Notice to Quit.
In the case of nonpayment of rent, a tenant is given the option of paying the rent or moving out by a specified date; for lease or rental agreement violations, the tenant’s only option is to move out by the deadline specified in the notice.
The landlord should keep a copy of the Notice to Quit as it may be needed for further action in court if the tenant does not comply with the demands contained in the Notice to Quit.
The deadline by which the tenant must move out (the date specified in the Notice to Quit) depends on the reason for the termination.
Pennsylvania law requires that the tenant be given 10 days from the date of service of the Notice to Quit to either pay the rent due or move out of the property. This deadline can be changed if previously agreed to by the tenant in the lease or rental agreement.
For lease or rental agreement violations, the landlord must give the tenant 15 days to move out (for lease terms of one year or less) or 30 days (for leases of one year or more).
In order to calculate the date of the deadline to include on the Notice to Quit, begin counting the required days starting with the day after the Notice to Quit is served on the tenant. The last counted day based on the required number of days is the final full day the tenant has to comply with the Notice to Quit. The day following that final day is the date the landlord can officially take court action against the tenant, if needed.
For example, say on January 31 that the landlord serves the tenant with the Notice to Quit for nonpayment of rent. Since nonpayment of rent allows for the tenant to have 10 days to comply with the Notice to Quit, begin counting out 10 days starting on February 1. February 10 will be the last full day the tenant has to either pay the rent due or move out. If the tenant does not pay the rent due or move out on February 10, then on February 11 the landlord can file an eviction action against the tenant in court.
Notice may be served by three different methods:
Keep a written record of the method of service, whether or not it was served on a person, note the name of the person served or where it was posted at the home, the time of service, and the date of service.
If the tenant does not move out of the property by the deadline written on the Notice to Quit (or pay the rent due for a nonpayment of rent situation) the landlord must file a landlord and tenant complaint, also known as an eviction lawsuit, in court (in the magisterial district where the rental property is located) to force the tenant to move by a court order.
The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951 outlines specific steps the landlord must take to properly serve the eviction complaint on the tenant so that a hearing will be set before a judge or magistrate.
A form for filing a landlord and tenant complaint may be found at http://www.pacourts.us/Forms. Select “For the Public,” scroll down the webpage to locate the “Landlord” heading and select the form titled “Landlord Tenant Complaint.”
The landlord should bring extra copies of the completed Landlord and Tenant Complaint form to the courthouse and expect to pay a filing fee to begin the eviction lawsuit process. The court clerk will process the landlord’s complaint and set the matter for a hearing. The landlord will need to serve the tenant with a copy of the complaint and the date of the hearing.
The hearing may result in a judgment granting delivery of the property to the landlord and a money judgment against the tenant for rent, damages, and costs. If the tenant continues to occupy the property even after the court issues an order for the tenant to move, an Order of Possession must be obtained by the landlord from the court whereby the tenant will be legally and physically evicted by a court officer or sheriff.
Special eviction rules apply to mobile home owners who lease or rent space in mobile home parks with three or more mobile homes. (See 68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 250.501(c) and the “Mobile Home Rights Act” found at 68 PS 398.1 and following.) For example, landlords must give mobile home tenants who have violated a lease or rental agreement by failing to pay rent due 20 days to move out (when notice is given on or after April 1 and before September 1) or 30 days (when notice is given on or after September 1 and before April 1); this is more time than given tenants who violate a lease or rental agreement term in rental properties other than mobile home parks.