Pennsylvania Eviction Process
November 8, 2023
We’d love to connect with you.
Eviction In Pennsylvania
If you own and rent properties in the state of Pennsylvania, you are responsible for complying with Pennsylvania eviction laws. In this article, we break down each step of the legal eviction process in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s eviction laws can be found at 68 PA § 250.501-250.514.
Eviction Process in Pennsylvania
- Landlord serves a ten- to 15-day eviction notice.
- Landlord files an eviction lawsuit with the court.
- Court serves tenant a summons.
- Landlord and tenant attend court hearing and receive judgment.
- Tenant gets eleven days to move out.
- Sheriff returns to forcibly remove the tenant.
According to Pennsylvania eviction laws, tenants can be evicted for failing to pay rent, violating the lease, or engaging in illegal drug activity on the premises.
1. Landlord Serves a Ten- to 15-Day Eviction Notice
If any of the above lease violations occur, the Pennsylvania landlords must first serve an eviction notice in Pennsylvania and state that the tenant has the appropriate number of days to remedy or cure the violation. There are three possible eviction notices a landlord may send in Pennsylvania:
- Rent Demand Notice: 10 days to pay or quit. If rent is unpaid when due, the landlord must deliver this notice stating the amount of unpaid rent required to remedy the breach and the date on which the lease will terminate if it is not paid (not less than ten days after receipt of the notice) (68 PS § 250.501b).
- Lease Violation Notice: 15 days to cure or quit (for tenancies one year or less); 30 days to cure or quit (for tenancies longer than one year). If a tenant violates a lease term, the landlord must deliver this notice stating the breach and what is required to remedy it, as well as the date on which the lease will terminate if the tenant does not cure the breach (not less than either 15 or 30 days after receipt of the notice, depending on the length of the tenancy) (68 PS § 250.501b).
- Unconditional Notice to Quit: 10 days to quit. An unconditional notice to quit in PA applies if a tenant engages in any of the below illegal drug activities on the premises. The landlord may terminate the rental agreement after giving ten days’ notice (no opportunity to cure is required):
- First conviction for an illegal sale, manufacture, or distribution of any drug in violation of The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act
- The second violation of the above Act
- The seizure by law enforcement officials of any illegal drugs on the leased premises
For all evictions, Pennsylvania landlords may recover actual damages and reasonable attorney’s fees.
2. Landlord Files an Eviction Lawsuit with the Court
The next step in the Pennsylvania eviction process is filing a complaint in court. If the tenant has not cured the breach by the end of the notice period (or if the violation is uncurable and the notice period expires), the landlord can then file a Landlord/Tenant Complaint (downloadable here) with the Pennsylvania Justice of the Peace Court (68 PS § 250.502(a)).
The Landlord/Tenant Complaint will include:
- The names and addresses of both parties
- The name of the county, magistrate district number and address, and the docket number
- All filing and service costs, with the date they were paid
- The type of lease
- The monthly rent and security deposit amount
- The amount of any unpaid rent and/or damages to the rental property
- The address of the rental property
- A verification that the notice to quit was properly served, if applicable
- The landlord’s signature
The landlord will also be required to pay a filing fee at this time, as per Pennsylvania eviction laws.
3. Court Serves Tenant a Summons
After the Landlord/Tenant Complaint is filed, the court will issue a summons that demands the tenant’s presence in court between seven and ten days later. The summons must be directed to a writ server, constable, or sheriff of the county, who will serve the summons with a copy of the complaint to the tenant. The summons may be served via:
- Personal delivery
- Posting the summons conspicuously on the leased premises
Sheriffs in each county charge a different fee for service of court summons. For instance, the sheriff’s service fee is $71 per tenant in Montgomery County.
4. Landlord and Tenant Attend Court Hearing and Receive Judgment
On the day of the eviction hearing, Pennsylvania landlords should bring copies of the lease agreement, the eviction notice with proof of service, the complaint, and any evidence of the lease violation. Both the landlord and tenant will present their cases and any evidence to the justice of the peace, who will afterwards issue a judgment. If the landlord wins, a judgment will be issued for their repossession of the property, any damages to the property, and any unpaid rent (68 PS § 250.503(a)).
After five days have passed since the judgment was entered, the justice of the peace may also issue a writ of possession at the landlord’s request. The writ authorizes the tenant’s removal from the rental property. It will be directed to a writ server, constable, or sheriff and command them to return possession of the property to the landlord. The sheriff or server will then serve the writ either by personal delivery or by posting the writ conspicuously on the premises. The writ must be served within 48 hours after it is requested (68 PS § 250.503(b)).
Either party may appeal the judgment to the court of common pleas within ten days after the judgment was issued (this period is lengthened to 30 days for nonresidential tenants or residential leases involving a victim of domestic violence). If the tenant appeals, they will need to deposit a sum equal to the rent due into a special escrow account. The tenant remains responsible for rent as it becomes due during the appeal (68 PS § 250.513).
5. Tenant Gets Eleven Days to Move Out
After the writ has been served, the tenant gets eleven days to vacate the premises. If the eviction was solely based on nonpayment of rent, the tenant may still pay their overdue rent to void the writ and stop the eviction. The tenant may do so up until the writ of possession is executed (68 PS § 250.503(b-c)).
6. Sheriff Returns to Forcibly Remove the Tenant
If the tenant does not move out or pay their overdue rent, the sheriff will return to execute the writ on the eleventh day following service. The sheriff will forcibly remove the tenant and restore possession of the property to the landlord (68 PS § 250.503(b-c)).
The sheriff or writ server is also required to “make return” of the writ (verify that it was served properly) to the justice of the peace within ten days after receiving it. The return will show the date, time, place, and manner of service; state that the tenant paid their overdue rent if they did so, and the details of any forcible entry and ejectment if it was necessary. It will also state the expenses and fees for the removal that the landlord will be responsible for (or that the tenant will cover) (68 PS § 250.504).
Tenants are required to remove all personal property from the premises after being evicted. If they do not, the landlord is required to provide the tenant ten days to retrieve their property and send written notice by first class mail to the tenant of this fact. The tenant is also allowed to ask for an additional 30 days to pick up their belongings and must be informed of their right to do so (68 PS 250.505a(d,e)).
During the ten- or 30-day notice period, the landlord may choose where to store the tenant’s belongings. The tenant is ultimately responsible for the costs of removal and storage and should pay these costs when retrieving their property. The landlord must exercise “ordinary care” in handling and storing the belongings and make them reasonable available (68 PS 250.505a(d)).
Evicting a Squatter in Pennsylvania
A squatter is a person who moves into a vacant or abandoned property without getting permission from the owner or paying rent. Squatters can usually be charged as criminal trespassers and be evicted like any other tenant. However, some squatters can receive the right to possession by meeting certain state-determined criteria. Squatters in Pennsylvania must have lived in the property for 21 continuous years to invoke squatters rights in Pennsylvania and claim right of possession (42 PS § 5530). Their possession must also be:
- Hostile/Adverse—The squatter must not have a valid lease with the owner
- Actual—The squatter must be actively residing on the property
- Open and Notorious—The squatter is openly and obviously living there.
- Exclusive—The squatter does not share possession of the property with anyone else.
- Continuous—The squatter must hold continuous and uninterrupted possession.
While relatively rare, if a squatter meets all these criteria, they have “color of title”: the right of legal ownership without having a written deed to the property. They can file an action for adverse possession in Pennsylvania to legally obtain the title to the property. However, in most cases, a squatter will not meet the criteria and can be removed. If you think a squatter is living in your vacant property in Pennsylvania, you should:
- Call local law enforcement.
- Determine whether the person is a trespasser or a squatter.
- If the person is a trespasser, they can be removed immediately by a police officer.
- If the person is a squatter, you must contact the sheriff’s office.
- Send the squatter an eviction notice as per Pennsylvania eviction law.
- If the squatter does not vacate the premises by the end of the notice period, file for eviction and follow the typical eviction process.
- Only the sheriff can physically remove a squatter from your property. You cannot do so, and neither can a police officer.
Pennsylvania Eviction Cost Estimates
This chart shows estimates of the approximate cost of the eviction process in Pennsylvania, according to civil procedure in the state and iPropertyManagement. A highly accurate estimate of an eviction is impossible to provide, as cases and circumstances vary so widely. Remember to factor in other losses due to an eviction as well, such as lost rent, time, and stress.
|Filing fee||Claims $2K or less: $84 Claims between $2K and $4K: $102.50 Claims between $4K and $12K: $140|
|Service of court summons||Varies by county|
|Service of writ of possession||Varies by county|
|Average locksmith fees||$160|
|Storage fees for abandoned property||Varies|
|Tenant turnover costs||Varies|
Pennsylvania Eviction Time Estimates
The chart below shows an estimate of the duration of each part of the Pennsylvania eviction process timeline. Keep in mind that the length of eviction cases varies widely depending on the complexity of the eviction, the court’s current caseload, and whether or not the tenant contests or appeals the lawsuit.
|Eviction notice period||10-15 days|
|Eviction hearing||7-10 days after issuance of summons|
|Issuance of writ of restitution||5 days after judgment was entered|
|Service of writ of restitution||Within 48 hours after request is made|
|Appeal period||10 or 30 days|
|Time to quit after writ is posted||11 days|
|Storage period||10-30 days|
- Eviction Process for Renters in Pennsylvania – A tenant’s guide to the eviction process and procedures in Pennsylvania.
- Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania – The official Pennsylvania courts site, with information about the locations and procedures of each court.
The eviction process in any state can be long and complex, so hiring an eviction attorney is advised in most cases. It’s also important to note that municipalities and local governments often have stricter laws and requirements for landlords, so be sure to check local statutes as well as state ones. However, by reviewing the legal procedures and Pennsylvania laws on eviction, you can feel more confident pursuing an eviction in this state.
Innago does not provide legal advice. The content and materials provided in this article are for general informational purposes only and may not be the most up-to-date information.