So, you found yourself a dud? You screened the applicant: credit check passed, criminal check passed, no eviction history, and superb landlord references – yet still the renter stops paying. The first few months were great. The tenant paid on-time without issue. Fast forward to the 3rd month and they are late 5 days, so you give them the benefit of the doubt and waive the late fee. Fast forward to the 4th month and they are late again, but now it’s 7 days after the first of the month. Instead of playing Mr. Nice Guy, you decide to enforce the late fee of $25.00. It’s not much, but hey, maybe the tenant will know that you mean business about paying rent on the 1st of the month. They pay the full rent amount plus the $25.00 late fee on the 8th of the month.
Fast forward to the 5th month of the lease agreement and its radio silence from your tenant. The 8th of the month passes and you figure that they will send you a lame excuse via text message about an issue with their bank account, or some other excuse as to why they can’t pay the rent. You wait, and you wait. It’s not the 15th of the month and still no rent payment and no word from the tenant. You left them a few voicemails reminding them (just in case they forgot) that the rent is due. Your blood is boiling at this point. After all – these folks seemed so nice and trust worthy when you signed the lease agreement with them! Heck, you even cut them a deal on the rent because you liked them so much – now they decide not to pay! How could they?
Well, I’d hate to burst your bubble – but if you’re a landlord, you need to plan for these types of situations. If your tenant has violated the terms of their lease or failed to pay their rent, your first instinct is to immediately remove them from the property. It’s your property, right? What can’t you forcefully remove them? Hold your horses. Your tenants have rights (even if they haven’t paid their rent!) and there are legal processes that must be followed before a tenant can be removed. Here are some tips to navigate the choppy waters of evicting a tenant in the state of Pennsylvania.
On what grounds can I evict a tenant?
There are two main circumstances where a landlord may evict a tenant:
- Nonpayment of rent
- Violation of the lease terms
How do I start the eviction process?
Before making any legal filings, a Notice to Quit must first be provided to the tenant. The Notice to Quit provides notice in writing that they must vacate the premises within a certain period of time as outlined by state law. The state of Pennsylvania requires specific details that must be included with a Notice to Quite:
- Name of Landlord
- Tenant's name
- Property address
- Reason for Notice
Nonpayment of Rent
The tenant has ten days from receiving the notice to quit to pay the outstanding rent in full.
Violation of Lease Agreement
The tenant has 15 days to fix the lease violation if the term of the lease is one year or less. For leases exceeding one year in length, the tenant has 30 days to comply. The clock begins on the day after the tenant is served notice.
There are three ways in which to serve a valid Notice to Quit:
- Hand delivery (service)
- Post the notice directly on the property (must be visible)
- At the main building of the property
What are the next steps?
If a tenant refuses to comply, an eviction lawsuit must be filed with the magisterial district where the rental property is located. If your suit is successful, you may be able to recover the outstanding rent, damages, and costs incurred. If the tenant does not voluntarily leave the property, you must obtain an Order of Possession at which time court officer or sheriff will assist in physically removing the tenant from the property. Having a tenant evicted from a rental property can be challenging. Be sure to follow these steps to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible.