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Frequently Asked Questions in Eastern, PA and Southern, NJ



Question: Do I need an attorney?
Answer: The Rules of Civil Procedure for Philadelphia Municipal Court provide that a corporation or unincorporated association must be represented by an attorney except where damages are not greater than $2500.00. Those corporations in matters less than $2500.00 need not be represented by a lawyer. An officer of the corporation may file provided that proper documentation is supplied at the time of filing. See Rule 131.

Question: Can Evictions Unlimited represent me in Court?
Answer: Yes. Evictions Unlimited is owned an operated by two Pennsylvania licensed attorneys.

Question: What is an eviction?
Answer: An eviction is a legal proceeding by which the Landlord seeks to reclaim the premises and put the Tenant out of said property.

Question: What are the legal grounds for an eviction?
Answer: (1) the non-payment of rent; (2) violations of the lease or the law; and/or (3) the lease has expired.

Question: How do I know if my written lease is valid?
Answer: To be valid, a lease must be evidenced by a writing which (1) identifies the parties; (2) identifies the premises; (3) specifies the duration of the lease; (4) states the rent to be paid; and (5) is signed by the party to be charged.

Question: What if there is an oral lease?
Answer: An oral lease is valid so long as the terms of the tenancy can be proven through evidence and the length of the oral lease does not exceed the period specified in the controlling Statute of Frauds.

Question: What are the court costs associated with filing an eviction?
Answer: The court costs vary widely from county to county. We have prepared a list of costs for Philadelphia and surrounding counties for your convenience. Click here to see the costs.

Question: Can a landlord who prevails in court recover attorney's fees from the tenant?
Answer: In Pennsylvania, without an express agreement that the prevailing party receives attorney's fees, there is no entitlement to reimbursement as part of the judgment.

Useful Tip: Add a clause to your lease which states that the tenant agrees to pay reasonable attorney's fees as part of a court judgment in a lawsuit for violation of the lease agreement.


Question: Must a Landlord give the Tenant written notice of the eviction?
Answer: The notice provided for in the Landlord-Tenant Act may be for a lesser time or waived by the tenant if the lease so provides, otherwise, a Landlord must notify the Tenant in writing as to the reason for eviction and the date by which the Landlord wishes the Tenant to leave.
Question: How much notice must a Landlord provide to a Tenant before eviction proceedings can be initiated?
Answer: If the lease is for one year or less, the Landlord must provide fifteen (15) days notice for termination of the term or breach of the lease and ten (10) days notice for non-payment of rent. The requirements are longer if the lease is for more than one year.

Question: Can the notice requirements be shortened or waived in a lease?
Answer: Yes.

Useful Tip: Put a provision in your lease that state if the tenants violate the lease they agree to waive notice to quit and that they can be evicted without the landlord giving any additional notice.

Question: Once the complaint is filed, how soon will a hearing date be set?
Answer: The court is required to set a date no sooner than seven days or later than twenty days after filing the complaint.

Question: When must the Tenant be provided with the complaint?
Answer: At least five days before the hearing date.

Question: What constitutes proper service of a landlord-tenant complaint in Philadelphia?
Answer: A landlord-tenant complaint for rent or possession may be served by posting the same upon the premises by an authorized writ server and mailing a copy to the tenant by first class mail.

Question: Is an eviction notice sent by mail enforceable?
Answer: Generally not. The eviction notice should be personally delivered to the Tenant or posted on the premises.


Question: What happens at the hearing?
Answer: If both parties are present, the parties can reach an agreement. The court will provide a mediator if needed. If a mediator is not able to resolve the matter, or the parties do not wish to use a mediator, the judge will hear the case and any defenses offered by the Tenant.

Question: What happens if the Tenant does not appear at the hearing?
Answer: Judgment will be entered in favor of the Landlord.

Question: What happens after the hearing?
Answer: The court must enter a judgment within five (5) days.


Question: What happens after judgment is entered?
Answer: In residential cases, the losing party has ten (10) days to file an appeal and in non-residential cases, either party has thirty (30) to appeal.

Question: What are the procedures for filing an appeal?
Answer: An appeal must be filed with the court of common pleas and an attested copy of the Notice of Appeal must be served within twenty (20) days on all parties and their counsel and a copy must be served on the Deputy Court Administrator of the Municipal Court at once. Click here to see rules for appeal.

Question: What if you were the landlord and the tenant filed a notice of appeal?
Answer: You must file with the Prothonotary a copy of the Municipal Court Landlord-Tenant Complaint, or a new complaint in conformity with the rules of civil procedure within twenty (20) days.

Question: What happens if Landlord received a judgment against the Tenant and no appeal was perfected?
Answer: The Landlord may proceed by obtaining a Writ of Possession and an Alias Writ.

Question: What do I do with the money judgment after I get it?
Answer: Often times you will lick your wounds and cut your losses as the tenant does not have the money to pay you. You can, of course, pursue your claim against the tenant and move forward with collecting on your judgment by attaching wages. Click here to review the law.


Question: What is the process for a Tenant who wants to appeal a Judgment of Possession?
Answer: The Tenant must file a Notice of Appeal.

Question: Must a tenant pay any money in escrow when filing an appeal?
Answer: Yes. The Tenant must pay an amount of money equal to three months rent or the amount of rent awarded to the landlord in the Municipal Court, whichever is less. This money must be placed in escrow with the Prothonotary and thereafter, the tenant must pay the rent for each successive month until the date of trial.


Question: When can Landlord file a request for Writ of Possession and Alias Writ?
Answer: Eleven days after the court date.


Question: What forms must I have before filing an eviction in the City of Philadelphia?
Answer: A landlord must have a Business Privilege License and a Housing Inspection License.


Question: Can a tenant legally withhold rent?
Answer: The tenant must inform the landlord in writing that he/she intends to withhold rent if a specific problem is not solved by a certain date. The rent must be deposited into an escrow account and the landlord must be notified of same.

Question: What if tenant does not pay rent?
Answer: Landlord must inform tenant in writing that full rent is due by a specific deadline or the lease will be terminated. If Landlord refuses to take full payment then eviction can be challenged by Tenant. After the deadline, Landlord does not have to accept payment and eviction can proceed.


Question: What is the implied warranty of habitability?
Answer: The implied warranty of habitability has developed over the years from a number of court rulings that residential landlords have an obligation to provide the basic needs of human habitation including running water, hot water, heat in winter, free from vermin, reasonably weatherproof and free from defects or conditions that would unreasonably subject residents to a risk of harm to them and their property.

Question: What are tenant remedies for breach of implied warranty of habitability?
Answer: After the tenant has notified the landlord of the condition and given landlord a chance to cure, the tenant can 1) terminate the lease, 2) repair the defect and deduct the cost of repair from the rent, 3) sue the landlord for damages, 4) seek a court order requiring the landlord to make repairs or 5) withhold rent and place it in escrow.


Question: What is the most that a landlord can hold as a security deposit?
Answer: During the first year of the lease, a landlord can hold an amount no greater than two months rental. During the second and subsequent years of the lease, or upon renewal of the original lease, no more than one month of rent can be held.

Question: What must a landlord do to return a security deposit at the expiration of the lease or upon surrender of the premises by the tenant?
Answer: Every landlord shall within thirty (30) days of termination of a lease or upon surrender and acceptance of the leasehold premises, whichever first occurs, provide a tenant with a written list of any damages to the premises for which the landlord claims the tenant is liable. Delivery of the list shall be accompanied by payment of the difference between any sum deposited in escrow and the actual amount of damages to the leasehold premises caused by the tenant.

Question: What happens if the landlord fails to provide a list of damages within thirty (30) days?
Answer: The landlord forfeits all rights to withhold any portion of sums held in escrow or to bring suit against the tenant for damages to the leasehold premises.

Question: What happens if the landlord provides a list of damages within thirty (30) days, but fails to pay the tenant the difference between the sum deposited and the actual damages?
Answer: The landlord shall be liable in assumpsit to double the amount by which the sum deposited in escrow exceeds the actual damages to the leasehold premises caused by the tenant as determined by the court.

Question: What happens if the tenant fails to provide the landlord with a new address in writing upon termination of the lease or upon surrender and acceptance of the leasehold premises?
Answer: The landlord shall be relieved from any obligation to return the security deposit pursuant to 68 P.S. Section 250.512.


Question: What is a retaliatory eviction?
Answer: It is conducted by a landlord in response to actions taken by a tenant in asserting legal rights and exercising legal remedies against the landlord.

Question: Can a tenant sue for retaliatory conduct?
Answer: Most definitely. A tenant can sue for damages or assert the landlords' conduct as an affirmative defense at trial


Question: Can a Landlord charge late fees?
Answer: Yes and no. To be enforceable as a valid late fee, the amount must bear a reasonable relation to the damages that a landlord incurs in receiving late rent. The landlord should not be able to claim a higher rate of compensation by disguising a penalty charge as a late fee.


Question: What is a self-help eviction and can I do it in Pennsylvania?
Answer: Generally, a landlord cannot conduct a self-help eviction in Pennsylvania. To learn more about self-help evictions, click here.


Question: What is the Housing Choice Voucher Program and how does it work?
Answer: The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a government sponsored program which provides rental assistance to low-income families in the private rental market. For additional information on this program click here.

Question: Can a landlord evict a tenant who participates in the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)?
Answer: Yes, a landlord can evict a Housing Choice tenant, however, there are very specific methods which you can see by clicking here


Question: Will bankruptcy by tenant stop eviction?
Answer: Once bankruptcy is filed, the court places an automatic stay on all legal proceedings, including the eviction of the person that filed bankruptcy. The stay temporarily stops the landlord from pursuing the eviction. Before proceeding with the eviction, the landlord must go to bankruptcy court and obtain permission to continue with the eviction. This process can take several months. Once the stay is lifted, however, the landlord may proceed with the eviction.

Question: Is the landlord considered a creditor in bankruptcy court?
Answer: Yes. The landlord becomes a creditor of the tenant and is, therefore, permitted to prove a claim against the tenant's estate provided that the amount due the landlord is a fixed amount absolutely due and owing at the time that the petition was filed. Future or contingent liabilities are not provable.


Question: Can I file an eviction if my property has lead paint?
Answer: No. Once a property is on the lead paint list, the lead paint issues must be resolved before an eviction complaint can be filed. To see a list of Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Programs, click here.