Philadelphia Evictions
Philadelphia Evictions

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Philadelphia Notice to Vacate

In order to evict a tenant in Philadelphia, a landlord is required to give the tenant a written notice. If the tenant has a written lease, there may be a clause in the lease stating precisely how much notice is required. If a tenant is being evicted for non-payment of rent, unless otherwise specified in the lease, the landlord must give a ten (10) day written notice. The same is true if there is an oral lease agreement. ( All tenants have a lease of some kind; if the lease is not in writing, the law assumes the tenant to have an oral lease.) Always try to have a written lease, even for a short term.

If a tenant is being evicted for any reason other than non-payment of rent, and the lease does not say how much notice is required, the written notice must be 15 days if the lease is for one (1) year or less; if the lease is for more than one year, thirty (30) days written notice is required. The same is true for an oral lease agreement.

Landlord must file a Complaint in Court

After the written notice to vacate expires, the landlord must file an Eviction Complaint against the tenant in Landlord-Tenant Court. The Court will send a copy by U.S. mail to the tenant. The Complaint will state the date and time the tenant must appear in court, and the reasons the landlord is asking for an eviction. The law also requires that the tenant be served personally or by posting the complaint on the leased premises. 

BRING ALL NOTICES WITH YOU TO COURT.

Court Hearing

The tenant must attend the court hearing to defend against any claims made by the landlord. 
If the tenant does not appear at the time specified in the Complaint, the tenant automatically loses the case and a default judgment will be entered against the tenant.

DO NOT BE LATE. A court can enter a default judgment against you, the tenant.  Even if the the tenant and landlord reach an agreement before the court hearing, the tenant must go to the hearing.

At court, and before the actual hearing begins, the tenant may choose to enter into mediation, or attempt to negotiate a settlement, with the landlord. The Philadelphia Landlord-Tenant Court currently will provide a mediator if both parties agree to mediation. However, a mediator is not a requirement for a landlord and tenant who may choose to negotiate without the help of a mediator. All agreements created at court are written and binding, and cannot be appealed. If the tenant-or landlord- does not understand any part of the agreement, they can and should ask a mediator, or Trial Commissioner, for an explanation of any confusing terms or language. Once the agreement is signed it becomes permanently binding on all parties. Only those obligations written in a court agreement are enforceable. Any oral agreement outside of the written agreement is usually not recognized or enforced by the court.

If the tenant chooses not to enter into mediation, or if mediation fails, the tenant may contest the landlord's Complaint. A contest means the tenant will defend against the landlord's claims before a judge, therefore, allowing a judge to decide the case. The tenant should have all related documents, such as Licenses and Inspections reports, photos, letters, notices, lease, and rent receipts ready for presentation when they go before the judge. Any witnesses must also be prepared to testify at this point.

Appealing the Decision

If the tenant did not make an agreement with the landlord, and the judge rules against the tenant, the tenant may be able to appeal the case to a higher court. In Philadelphia the higher court is the Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia. 
The appeal must be filed within 10 days
of the judge's decision. There are no extensions available if the tenant does not file within the 10 day appeal period. 
The appeal prevents the tenant from being evicted, as long as all rules governing the appeal process are followed. One of the most important rules is the requirement that the tenant must begin depositing all monthly rent into an escrow account with the court at the time the appeal is filed. Failure to open the escrow account, or deposit the money on time, can lead to an eviction of the tenant and the eventual dismissal of the appeal. 


Judgment and Writs of Possession

If a judge rules against the tenant, a judgment for possession is given to the landlord. This judgment does not mean the landlord is entitled to the tenant's possessions. Instead the judgment means that possession of the space rented by the tenant will return to the landlord after an eviction or the tenant voluntarily moves out of the rented property. After the ten (10) day appeal period has expired, the landlord may file for a Writ of Possession. The Writ will be served on the tenant or posted on the leased premises. The Writ of Possession notifies the tenant that an eviction will take place on or after 11 days from the day the Writ of Possession is served.

Eviction - Writ of Possession

Anytime after the eleven (11) days specified in the Writ of Possession have expired, the landlord must return to Court and file for an Alias Writ of Possession. A Landlord-Tenant Officer, or a Sheriff, may deliver the Alias Writ of Possession to the tenant's address. When the Alias is delivered, if the tenant is inside or at the leased premises, the tenant will be physically evicted from the premises. The locks may be changed or a padlock may be placed on the entrance to the tenant's home. The tenant may not gain access again without permission of the landlord. An Alias Writ of Possession may be served, or executed, even if the tenant is not at home at the time of the eviction. If the tenant returns home to find the Alias posted on a door or window, the tenant may not enter the property without first contacting the landlord to gain access.

 

Disclaimer: The law is constantly changing and there may be times when the information on this web site will not be current. This information is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. This information is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject and is not a substitute for advice from an attorney.

 

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