As the owner of a rental home, you have certain legal rights. One of the most powerful rights you have is to evict the tenants of your property. However, you must exercise this right of eviction according to the law. In Pennsylvania, that law is the Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Act.
Causes for Eviction
The Act allows you to evict the tenants by using a legal procedure known as an Action in Ejectment. You can only take this action for four possible causes. One is where the tenant stays in your property after his lease with you has expired. Second is for a serious breaking of a lease provision. This would be something like causing serious damages to your property or harm to neighbors. Not cutting the grass properly is not grounds for eviction. Third is for nonpayment of the rent, and fourth is for criminal drug-related activity on your property.
Eviction Notice Rules
If your tenant has acted in a way that legally entitles you to seek an eviction, the first step you need to take is to properly serve an eviction notice. This notice must be either personally handed to the tenant or physically posted on the home's entrance. Mailing the notice is not legally sufficient. The notice must give the tenant a certain amount of time to leave the property, depending on the specific situation. For nonpayment of rent, 15 days is required for notice served between April 1 and September 1 and 30 days between September 1 and April 1. Eviction for staying after the expiration of the lease or significant breach of the lease requires 30 days, and eviction for drug activity is 15 days. You can bypass this notice requirement by having it waived by the tenant in the actual signed lease, but such a waiver must be clear and conspicuous to the tenant.
Eviction Legal Procedures
Once the time to vacate has passed and the tenant is still there, you will need to seek a Judgment for Possession through the local District Justice. Your must first file an official Landlord Tenant Complaint form with the court, which will cause a hearing to be scheduled. You and the tenant have the right to appear and testify at this hearing. Both of you have the right to an attorney and the ability to appeal the decision. If you obtain the Judgment, you will still need to enforce it by getting an Order for Possession served on the tenant by the local sheriff. This Order usually takes at least 30 days for the Sheriff to be able to physically vacate the tenant.
As a landlord, you have no legal right to remove your tenant in any other way. You cannot lock tenants out or shut off their utilities. If the eviction is for nonpayment of rent, the tenant has the legal right to stop the eviction by paying the back rent due plus expenses, up to the last moment. You have the right to separately sue the tenant for monetary damages, regardless of any eviction action. Taking owed rent money from a tenant does not by itself constitute a lease renewal.
Kerry Zias has been a strategic business consultant and college instructor of business administration courses since 1990. He has taught courses and performed professional consulting work in the areas of marketing, management, business start-ups, entrepreneurship, real estate, sales psychology and performance, business communications, business law and political/governmental relations. Zias holds a Master of Business Administration in marketing from National University.