HOW LONG BEFORE I CAN EVICT A TENANT FROM MY PHILADELPHIA RENTAL PROPERTY?
After about 40 to 60 days of filling the lockout complaint, if that is required.
However, the eviction might take longer if the tenant decides to contest the eviction or even file an appeal. That typically requires a tenant to show up in Philadelphia eviction court, or to have an attorney do it. Most tenants do not show up. You can expedite the procedure by filling for the earliest possible date “EPD” for court and filing your writ of possession expeditiously. Continue the article to find out more about Philadelphia’s eviction procedure.
LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR SUSTAINING AN EVICTION IN PHILADELPHIA, PA
Evictions in Philadelphia have been more procedurally intensive since January 2018. Judge Bradley Moss was able to implement a lot of wide-ranging policy changes requiring complete compliance with the Philadelphia Lead Disclosure Law and the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code.
Add to that, that there are several non-profit, anti-landlord agencies that actually send attorneys to attend Philadelphia Eviction Court to contest anything “landlord”. These agencies have different agendas. One group’s website has a mission statement that its against gentrification. Their position is that Philadelphia rental property landlords should not buy homes, renovate them and rent them back out. This might be one of the agencies you might have to face for a Philadelphia eviction.
So it’s not fun going to eviction court, if you are unprepared. If nothing else - know the judge is being watched by these Philadelphia watchdog attorneys.
The minimum requirements for filing an eviction notice with the Philadelphia courts require you to prove you have provided the tenant with: Partner for Good Housing Handbook, a Lease, Certificate of Rental Suitability, Notice to Vacate, and a Philadelphia Housing License (Rental License). While there are certain exceptions where a party might be exempted from producing these documents, they are however required for most evictions. Also, Philadelphia landlords must provide a Lead Safe Certificate for tenants with children that are 6 years old or younger. If you fail to comply with these requirements and you bring your eviction to court, the court will deem your complaint “non-compliant” and your case will likely be thrown out.
Finally, if you have an experienced and diligent lawyer, you can expedite your Philadelphia eviction because an attorney will help you file the claim using the database of the Municipal Court Claims. At Grow Property Management, the attorneys we use will make sure we get the earliest possible date (“EPD”) for courts while ensuring that our clients lockout writs are filed on time. That is one reason our clients use a property management company, we avoid possible eviction stress. Not only do we get a property through an eviction, with far less delay; but when also have never had to evict a tenant that we have placed - so we avoid all this altogether. The costs of eviction, the lost rents and the hassles are all things we have been able to avoid, to date, for our clients. But here are some essential tip, from a top property management company to help you expedite your Philadelphia eviction proceedings:
GET A CERTIFICATE OF RENTAL SUITABILITY
Section PM-102.6.5 of the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code mandates landlords to provide their tenants with a Certificate of Rental Suitability from the Department of Licenses and Inspections the moment the tenancy commences. If a landlord fails to issue this certificate, the tenant can argue that the landlord executed an illegal lease. And if this happens, the court may prevent you from evicting the tenant or collecting your rent. Make sure you obtain the suitability certificate on time so that you can proceed with your eviction immediately. You must also ensure that your tenants have the Partner for Good Housing Handbook. Just make sure the handbook is served with the suitability certificate and that you have your proof of service for hearing at the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Your attorney should make sure the tenant is served with all the necessary documents.
GET YOUR PARTNERS FOR GOOD HOUSING HANDBOOK
This is another essential requirement by the City of Philadelphia. Make sure you hand over a copy of the brochure known as “City of Philadelphia Partners for Good Housing” to your tenants as soon as the tenancy commences. You can print out the brochure from the internet. The best thing is to have the tenant sign the handbook as prove that it was received if it is ever disputed in a court of law. The handbook will ensure that tenants have all the information they need about their rights under the provisions of the Philadelphia Lead Disclosure Law, the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code, and other related ordinances.
FILE THE EVICTION NOTICE, THEN SEND A NOTICE TO VACATE
In Pennsylvania, a landlord is required to give tenants 30 days’ notice to vacate upon breach of the terms of a lease. If the tenant defaults on rent then the landlord can give 10 days’ notice. Some landlords wait for the notice to expire before filing the eviction notice. However, it is better to file the eviction and serve the notice at once. Consolidating these actions is a great way to expedite your eviction. The basis for eviction must be stated in the eviction notice. Breach of lease terms, termination of the term and nonpayment of rent, are the only bases for evicting a tenant in Pennsylvania. Note however, that this sample is only a template, so it may not necessarily be accurate for your situation.
HIRE A LAWYER TO HELP YOU GET THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE DATE “EPD”
Majority of the landlord tenant lawyers in Philadelphia pick court dates according to their personal schedules. Courts usually give discretion when choosing dates when an eviction is filed by an attorney. This is why it is better to hire an attorney to help you get the earliest possible date for your hearing. Doing this will save you a lot of time and expedite the entire procedure.
GET AN UP-TO-DATE PHILADELPHIA HOUSING LICENSE
According to chapter 102.6 of Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code, “no person shall collect rent with respect to any property that is required to be license… unless a valid license has been issued for said property.” Landlords in Philadelphia are required to have their housing inspection license. You will be estopped from filing your eviction notice if you fail to produce this license. You can obtain your housing license from the Municipal Service Building located at 1401 JFK Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19103. You can also visit our office and we’ll help you expedite the process of attaining the housing license. With us, you can get your license in a matter of days.
GIVE THEM 30 DAYS NOTICE TO VACATE
At this point, you’ve done everything that you’re supposed to do. So you might need to be a little aggressive when you get to court. Most times, the parties end up negotiating before the case even comes before a judge. If your case is fact specific, there will be no need to give the tenant more than 30 days to vacate the premises. And even if you win the case before a judge, it will still take 30days to arrange an eviction with the local sheriff. Therefore, you’re not really loosing much by demanding for 30 days’ notice. Note however that there are some peculiar cases where it might be better to give the tenant more time to vacate. Make sure you discuss your situation with an attorney.
STRIKE A DEAL
A judgment by agreement is executed if you’re able to come to an understanding with your tenant while in court. This is basically a settlement contract. This agreement is binding and cannot be appealed. Any tenant that signs this is not allowed to appeal, except in some special circumstances. So if you’re worried about the tenant dragging the case by appealing, you might want to consider entering a judgment by agreement. Just make sure you get an experienced lawyer who knows how to make deals with tenants to help you handle it.
FILE YOUR WRIT OF POSSESSION ON THE 10TH DAY
You’ll need a writ of possession to evict your tenant. The writ can only be filed 10 days after court. Make sure you file your writ of possession on time. Some lawyers might decide to wait for months before filing the writ which might cost you a lot in rent. Make sure the lawyer you get is one that’ll file the writ of possession as soon as possible. This way, the eviction can proceed nicely.
THE ALIAS WRIT SHOULD BE FILED UPON SERVICE
The tenant must be served with the writ of possession after it is filed. This is done by having the writ of possession delivered to the Sheriff’s office or the Philadelphia Landlord Tenant Officer. It is advisable to follow-up with these offices to check the status of the service. The lockout can be scheduled as soon as you receive notice of service of the Writ of Possession.
PICK AN EARLY LOCKOUT DATE
The Sheriff will get in touch with your attorney about the lockout date as soon as the Alias Writ is deemed filed. Make sure you pick the earliest date possible. However, you may not have a choice as to date, and if that is the case, accept the date given and try not to reschedule.
BONUS TIP: AVOID ANYTHING THAT WILL MAKE THE TENANT SUE YOU
If you decide to file an eviction notice against a tenant with kids six years old or younger, and you fail to comply with the provisions of the Philadelphia Lead Disclosure Law, then you’re opening yourself up to possible lawsuit. A tenant undergoing a lawsuit can decide to seek the service of an attorney who will end up advising him on his rights. If they find out that the landlord is defaulting, they’ll initiate a counterclaim where they can claim up to $25,000.00 as damages. And the damages could actually exceed that amount if they have a child suffering from lead poisoning. This is why you need to acquaint yourself with the provisions of the state’s lead Disclosure Law. If you know you’re not compliant and you want to evict your client, then you should seek the services of an eviction lawyer in the Philadelphia area to see how to mitigate the damage. You might have to do some “cash for keys” transactions in other to avoid further litigation.
How to eject a squatter in Philadelphia: What differentiates a squatter from a tenant?
Nobody likes to come back to a property they have not used in a while or visit their new property to find somebody else living there. If the property legally belongs to you, you may be tempted to use every means available to you to get rid of the squatter, including violence. However, this is not advisable and may end up putting you in legal trouble. Before you take any action, you need to know if the person is a tenant, squatter or trespasser and the appropriate legal procedure to handle the situation.
IS MY PHILADELPHIA PROPERTY OCCUPIED BY A SQUATTER, TENANT OR TRESPASSER?
A lot of people think squatters and trespassers are the same, but nothing can be farther from the truth. Though both occupy a premises without the consent of the owner, trespassers only occupy for a limited period of time. A squatter on the other hand, is someone who basically moves into a property without permission, which is evidenced by acts of possession like delivering their mail to the property, or putting their names on the utilities. Though it has some grey areas, however, under Philadelphia laws, a person who has stayed on a property without the consent of the owner for more than 2 weeks is considered a squatter not a trespasser. The sheriff’s office can actually get rid of a trespasser. However, if the person appears to be living on your property, then you probably have a squatter and not a trespasser.
The next step is to confirm if the person on your property is a tenant or a squatter. This distinction is very important because the two situations require distinct legal procedures. A tenant is one who has a binding rental contract with the owner. This contract is known as the rental lease, and it could also be a verbal or informal contract. And even when a person remains on a property after the expiration of their lease the person is still considered a tenant. Where a situation like this arises, the landlord can institute an action in the Landlord-Tenant Court, which is actually quicker and more affordable than the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. But if there is no evidence of landlord-tenant relationship between the parties, and it is not a holdover tenant, it means you’re dealing with a squatter and the ejection proceedings must be instituted in Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas.
PROCEDURE FOR EJECTING A SQUATTER IN PHILADELPHIA:
Once you realize that you’re dealing with a squatter, the next step is to commence eviction proceedings at the Court of Common Pleas. Squatters can sometimes cause problems to property owners in certain situations like: when they’re purchasing a foreclosed property, when renting out the property as an AirBnb® and when an investor with multiple properties fails to carry out regular check on the property. To avoid such a situation, property owners should learn to check on their properties regularly, as eviction proceedings can last for months and even years in rare cases.
The first step in an ejection proceeding is the filing of ejection complaint with Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas. You then continue the legal process until judgment is passed in your favor. If you’re the legal owner and the squatter is unable to show any proof of possession or ownership interest, judgment ought to be in your favor if your complaint is properly filled. Yes there are adverse possession cases where squatters were given legal ownership of the land that did not belong to them, but such cases are quite rare and the squatter would have had to maintain 21 years (For Pennsylvania) of continuous possession coupled with some other elements, to get judgment in their favor. However, it is always advisable to enlist the services of an attorney if you’re not familiar with court procedures.
And obtaining judgment in your favor does not give you the right to use intimidation or physical force to evict the squatter; instead you can enlist the services of the sheriff’s office to help enforce the judgment through a writ. When you gain back control of your property, you must find a way to handle the personal property left by the squatter, you cannot just throw them away, you may need to get in touch with the squatter or put it in storage.
RECENT ADDITIONS TO THE LAW
The city of Philadelphia passed a bill in 2018 criminalizing squatting. However, as at when this article was published, the police department had not been able to figure out the process of enforcing this new criminal law.
Unexpected inhabitants can cause a lot of problems for property owners and it might take a while to get rid of them. However, if you’re able to identify who you’re dealing with, then you’re halfway to getting back possession of your property.