Filing an Eviction in Pennsylvania

On November 23, 2010, in Investment Property, by David Monsour

Filing evictions is a necessary evil if you own rental property.  I am a full time realtor with about 11 rental units.  Don’t confuse units with buildings.  I suspect if I had 11 buildings I wouldn’t have much time to sell real estate.  11 units provides enough opportunities for evictions that I’ve been forced to do a couple.

The legal system really isn’t on the side of the landlord when it comes to evictions.  They are particularly financially painful when the rental property is in its infancy.  Lost rental income for a month or two can be a real drag and quite the burden on your wallet.  More mature properties tend to have a better margin of income so the process isn’t quite as harmful to your budget. 

Now the first step is only step that depends on your lease.  Some leases will waive the “notice to quit,” others will not.  There are specials rules about when you can or cannot waive this notice.  As long as your not renting to government subsidized tenants waiving this step in your lease is PROBABLY okay.  If you’re not sure check with an attorney.  

Step one:  Post the “Notice to Quit.”  This document gives the tenant notice that you are ending your lease and that they have 10 days to vacate the property before eviction proceedings begin.  I post this on the apartment door so that it’s not possible to say that it wasn’t received.

Step two:  If 10 days passes and the tenant has failed to vacate the property it’s time to head to the courthouse to file the eviction.  The eviction must be filed in the courthouse that has jurisdiction over the property.  For example if your property is in Gettysburg you can’t file the eviction in the York courthouse.  It must be filed in Gettysburg.  So you’ll go to the courthouse and file the eviction and explain why the tenant is being evicted.  Usually it’s monetary but if they are doing other things that are in violation of the lease be sure to state those on the form provided by the courthouse.  A hearing date will be scheduled.  You will receive the date and time via mail.  The hearing is scheduled between 10-15 days from the filing date.

Step three:  Show up in court.  The plaintiff (landlord) and defendant (tenant) will show up to discuss the case.  A lot of times the defendant will not show up so it’s an easy win for the landlord.  Once the landlord wins his case the tenant will have 10 days to vacate the property or the landlord can file for possession of the property.   Ideally the tenant will vacate the property at this time. 

Step four:  Assuming they still haven’t left the property you can file for possession at the courthouse.  At this time they will be given 10 more days to vacate the property before the constable forcefully evicts them and throws them out of the property.  If this happens they will likely have possessions left behind.  Since you’ll have to change the lock when the constable shows up you’ll have  to make arrangements with the tenants to get their possessions.  If they are obviously abandoned you can dispose of them as necessary. 

So lets look at how long it can take to evict a tenants. 

Notice to quit – 10 days – $0

File Eviction – 10-15days until hearing  – $130

Hearing – 10 days until you can file for possession – $0

Possession – 10 days until constable forcefully evicts. – $110

It can take at least 40-45 days to successfully evict a tenant.  Waiving the notice to quit can save 10 days and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.  – $(new lock)

It’s easy to see that a landlord could easily lose 2 months of rental income plus spend $300+ on the eviction process.  I usually try to aviod evictions.  Sometimes if tenants are behind I’ll simply ask them to move out.  To save time and money.  Time is the most important element.  The longer you go without a tenants the more money you lose.

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