Landlord Tenant Overview and Notice Requirements
Authored By: Northwestern Legal Services
Overview of Law
In Pennsylvania, a law called the Landlord/Tenant Act tells landlords what they must do to evict a tenant. The landlord has to follow this law no matter the reason for the eviction. (This law may not apply if you are staying in a rooming or boarding home, or are a guest in a hotel/motel.)
If the landlord tries to evict you without following the Landlord/Tenant Act, by doing something such as changing the locks or shutting off your utilities, you should contact the Office of Consumer Protection for assistance at (814) 871-4371 or 1-800-441-2555.
The Landlord/Tenant Act requires your landlord to give you a written eviction notice. This notice must be a 10-day notice if he/she is evicting you for nonpayment of rent, or 15 days if the eviction is for breach of the lease or end of lease term.
However, the Landlord/Tenant Act allows the notice requirements to be changed or waived completely if you and your landlord agree to do so in a written lease.
After the notice period is over, the landlord must go to the Magisterial District Judge and file a Landlord/Tenant Complaint. The Magisterial District Judge's office will schedule a hearing in 7 to 15 days from the date the complaint is filed. You will receive notice of the date and time for the hearing. The landlord may ask for possession of the property, money for unpaid rent and damages to the property, if any, at the hearing.
The Magisterial District Judge will make a decision, either at the hearing, or within 3 days after the hearing. You will be sent a copy of the decision, called a judgment, in the mail. If the Magisterial District Judge grants possession of your home to the landlord, the landlord must wait 10 days from the date the judgment is entered and then go back to the Magisterial District Judge to get an Order for Possession. You will be given a copy of the Order for Possession by a constable or sheriff's deputy. The Order for Possession will tell you the date you have to move. That date cannot be less than 10 days from the day the Order for Possession is issued. If you haven't moved by the date set forth in the Order for Possession a constable or sheriff's deputy will forcibly remove you at that time.
Your landlord must give you a written eviction notice before he or she can start a legal action to evict you, unless you have a written lease and the lease says what kind of an eviction notice, if any, the landlord must give you. If there is no written lease or a written lease does not discuss notice, the Landlord/Tenant Act provides the following notice requirements.
1. If the eviction is NOT for failure to pay rent, the landlord must give you 15 days notice if the lease is for 1 year or less, and 30 days notice if the lease is for more than 1 year. If the eviction is for nonpayment of rent, the landlord must give you 10 days notice. Remember, a written lease can waive or change these notice requirements.
2. The notice must be in writing and given to you in person or by posting on the door of your residence.
3. The notice must give the reason for eviction. If there is no written lease, the reason for eviction can be simply that the landlord has decided not to renew the lease.
4. If the notice does not follow the law, you can ask the Magisterial District Judge, at the eviction hearing, to dismiss the Landlord/Tenant Complaint filed by the landlord. If the Magisterial District Judge dismisses the complaint, the landlord must then give you a proper eviction notice before filing a new Landlord/Tenant Complaint.
Remember, you can agree to waive your right to the eviction notice described in the Landlord/Tenant Act. Therefore, it is important to read any lease you are being asked to sign very carefully. You may not want to sign the lease if it requires you to waive your right to notice under the Landlord/Tenant Act.
Please contact your local legal services program for further assistance.
We have attempted to insure the accuracy of the information in this pamphlet at the time it was created or revised. However, the law does change, sometimes quickly and unexpectedly. Therefore, you should consult an attorney before taking or refraining from any action based on the information in this pamphlet.