The Eviction Process in Pennsylvania: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers

An overview of Pennsylvania eviction rules, forms, and procedures.

In Pennsylvania, a landlord can evict a tenant for a variety of different reasons, but this must be done by winning an eviction lawsuit through the court system. Before the landlord can begin the eviction lawsuit, though, the landlord must terminate the tenancy and provide the tenant the opportunity to move. The landlord gives the tenant this opportunity by providing the tenant with notice. Different types of notices and procedures will be needed for different situations. If the tenant does not comply with the notice and move out of the rental unit, then the landlord can begin an eviction lawsuit against the tenant.

This article explains the rules and procedures landlords must follow when evicting a tenant in Pennsylvania.

Notice for Termination With Cause

To terminate a tenancy early (in other words, to make a tenant move out of the rental unit before the lease or rental agreement term has ended), a landlord must have a legal reason, or cause. There are a number of different legal reasons a landlord would want to have a tenant move out early. Not paying the rent or violating the lease or rental agreement are two of the most common reasons. A landlord can also terminate a tenancy early if the tenant has used, possessed, or sold drugs.

  • Ten-Day Notice to Quit: If a tenant does not pay rent when it is due, the landlord can give the tenant a ten-day notice to quit. This notice informs the tenant that because the tenant failed to pay rent, then the tenant must move out of the rental unit within ten days. The landlord is not required to give the tenant any extra time to pay the rent. If the tenant does not move out within ten days, then the landlord can terminate the tenancy and file an eviction lawsuit with the court (see  68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § §250.501(b)).
  • Fifteen-Day Notice to Quit: A tenant can also be evicted for violating terms of the lease or rental agreement. If the tenant has a lease or rental agreement that is for one year or less, then the landlord must give the tenant a 15-day notice to quit. This notice informs the tenant that the tenant has 15 days to move out of the rental unit because the tenant violated the lease or rental agreement. If the tenant does not move out within 15 days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit with the court (see  68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § §250.501(b)).
  • Thirty-Day Notice to Quit:  If the tenant has a lease or rental agreement for over one year and violates any terms of the lease or rental agreement, the landlord can give the tenant a 30-day notice to quit. This notice informs the tenant that the tenant has 30 days to move out of the rental unit. If the tenant does not move out within 30 days, then the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant (see  68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § §250.501(b)).
  • Ten-Day Notice to Quit (Because of Illegal Drugs): A landlord can also terminate a tenancy (of any length) early and evict a tenant if the tenant has been convicted of selling, manufacturing, distributing, or using illegal drugs at the rental unit, or if law enforcement has seized illegal drugs within the premises of the rental unit. In this case, the landlord must give the tenant a ten-day notice to quit. This notice informs the tenant that the tenant has ten days to move out of the rental unit or the landlord will begin eviction proceedings against the tenant (see  68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § § 250.501(d) and 250.505-A).

Notice for Termination Without Cause

If a landlord does not have a legal reason to terminate a tenancy, then the landlord will need to wait until the end of the lease term before asking the tenant to move. In some cases, the landlord may still need to give the tenant written notice.

Month-to-Month Rental Agreement

Pennsylvania law does not specify how much notice a landlord needs to give a tenant to end a month-to-month tenancy. Sometimes the terms of the lease or rental agreement will specify how much notice a landlord needs to give the tenant, and if that is the case, the landlord and tenant should always follow those terms. However, there may not be anything in the lease or rental agreement regarding ending a month-to-month tenancy. In that case, it is reasonable for the landlord to give the tenant a written 30-day notice to move. If the tenant does not move out after receiving this notice, then the landlord could begin eviction proceedings against the tenant.  Pennsylvania Notice Requirements to Terminate a Month-to-Month Tenancy  has additional information on this topic.

Fixed-Term Lease

If a tenant has a fixed-term tenancy (such as for one year or six months) and the landlord wants the tenant to move but does not have cause, then the landlord must wait until the term has ended. The landlord only needs to give the tenant notice to move at the end of the term if the lease or rental agreement specifically requires it. Otherwise, the landlord can expect the tenant to move by the end of the lease period, unless the tenant has indicated to the landlord that the tenant would like to stay.

Tenant Eviction Defenses

Even though a landlord may think there is a legal reason to evict a tenant, the tenant may still choose to fight the eviction. The tenant may have a valid defense, such as the landlord failing to maintain the rental unit or discriminating against the tenant.  Tenant Defenses to Evictions in Pennsylvania  has more information on this topic.

Removal of the Tenant

The only way a landlord can remove a tenant from a rental unit is by winning an eviction lawsuit in court. Even if the landlord wins the lawsuit, only a sheriff or constable is authorized to actually remove the tenant from the unit. The landlord can never force the tenant to leave.  Illegal Eviction Procedures in Pennsylvania  has more information on this topic.

After a tenant has moved out of the rental unit, the landlord may find personal property left behind. Before disposing of the property, the landlord is required to notify the tenant of the personal property and give the tenant ten days to claim it. If the tenant claims the property, the landlord is required to hold on to the property for 30 days. If the tenant has not picked up the property by the end of the 30 days, then the landlord can dispose of it. If the tenant does not respond to the landlord’s first notification of the abandoned personal property within ten days, then the landlord can dispose of the property (see  Pa. Act 129).

Rationale for the Rules

Landlords must carefully follow all the rules and procedures required by Pennsylvania law when evicting a tenant. Otherwise, the eviction may not be valid. Although these rules and procedures may seem burdensome to the landlord, they are there for a reason. Evictions often occur very quickly, with the end result being that the tenant has lost his or her home. The rules help ensure the eviction is justified and that the tenant has enough time to find a new place to live.

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