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.
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.
ALL NOTICES WITH YOU TO COURT.
The tenant must attend the court
hearing to defend against any claims made by
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
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.
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
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.
- 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.