Our Pittsburgh law office regularly fields inquiries from both landlords and tenants regarding evictions. Usually, if the call is from a landlord, he or she wants to find out the steps he or she should take to effectuate the eviction legally. If the call is from a tenant, he or she is usually alleging that the landlord has evicted him or her illegally and wants representation to oppose the eviction.
In Pennsylvania, there is a very specific set of rules that dictate when and how a landlord may evict a tenant. If these steps are not followed carefully, a court will find the eviction to be unlawful. First, a landlord must give a tenant written notice to correct a lease violation. A landlord can only file an eviction if his or her tenant fails to correct the behavior within the statutory notice period. Some examples of these behaviors include failing to pay rent, continued disorderly conduct, damaging the property and a tenant’s conviction for a drug offense.
If the tenant does not correct the behavior that violates the lease, the landlord must provide a written notice of eviction, including the specific reason for the eviction and the expected move-out date. Generally, a landlord must provide 30 days notice for a lease of less than a year and 90 days notice for a lease lasting a year or more. If the landlord and tenant are operating under an oral lease agreement, the landlord need only give either 15 or 30 days notice depending on the time of year.
If the tenant fails to vacate the property by the move-out date, the landlord may then file a Landlord-Tenant Complaint with the Magisterial District Judge seeking monetary damages and possession of the property. The magistrate will then hold a hearing to determine whether the landlord is entitled to a judgment for possession of the property. If the landlord obtains such a judgment, the tenant will be ordered to move out and pay any applicable money damages.
The above procedure is only a general outline and additional steps may be necessary depending on the factual circumstances. If you are a landlord and you want to ensure you comply with all of the relevant Pennsylvania laws or if you are a tenant and think that your landlord has failed to properly follow any of the above steps, we have experienced Pittsburgh attorneys that can help you to review your case.