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An Overview of the Eviction Proceedings in Allegheny County

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Evictions Take Time and can only be administered through a court process.


1. Notice to Quit

The eviction process in Pennsylvania begins with a 10 day notice to quit (a written notice that the landlord intends to evict) provided by the landlord to the tenant. A notice to quit is required by Pennsylvania law unless the lease explicitly states the tenant is agreeing to waive that right. In subsidized housing the notice to quit is required 30 days before filing an eviction with the court.

  • If the reason for the notice is unpaid overdue rent, the tenant has 10 days to pay or move out before the landlord can file for eviction (“recovery of possession”).

  • If the reason for eviction is the expiration of the term of the lease or breach of its conditions, the amount of time allowed is 15 days for leases of a year or less and 30 days for leases of over a year. (Landlord Tenant Act of 1951, Section 501 (b) )


2. Filing with the Court

After the waiting period required by the Notice to Quit, the landlord can file a complaint for “recovery of possession of real property” with the Magisterial District Court that represents the area where the property is located. The complaint form is typically hand-written by the landlord and presents the reasons for eviction.

  • The complaint must be served to the defendant at least 5 days before the hearing. (Rule 506 B)

  • The complaint must be served to the tenant by mail and either in person or by posting conspicuously on the premises. The constable or sheriff who serves the complaint must make “proof of service” on the form provided, showing the manner of service and the day, time and place. (Rule 506 A)

Fact: RentHelpPGH sends mailers to all residents of Allegheny County with an eviction filed against them for whom we can get an address (approximately 85% of filings) and about 10% of those are returned due to bad addresses. Illegible handwriting on the Complaint Form, transcription errors at the courts, and addresses unrecognized by the USPS all lead to Allegheny County residents never knowing an eviction has been filed against them.


Fact: This is the point that the eviction can be seen on the tenants records during background checks.


3. The Hearing

A hearing date must be set for a day between 7 and 15 days from the date the complaint is filed. (Rule 504 (1))

  • Multiple hearings are scheduled for one thirty-minute slot.

  • Individual hearings will typically take less than 5 minutes.

  • Plaintiffs (the landlord) are required to attend the hearing to prove their complaint. If the landlord fails to attend then the judge can continue (reschedule) the hearing to another date or find the in favor of the defendant (the tenant). (Rule 512)


4. Judgment

At the hearing or within three days of the hearing the judge must announce a decision on the case. (Rule 514 C(1) )

  • Potential Judgments

    • Judged for Plaintiff, in other words, in favor of the landlord. About 95% of cases in Allegheny County are judged for plaintiff.

      • "Grant Possession - Yes" means regardless of whether the tenant pays the judgment amount, the landlord can file for an Order for Possession and claim the property.

      • "Grant Possession if money judgment is not satisfied by the time of the eviction - Yes" means that if the tenant can pay the judgment amount within 10 days of the judgment date, and provide proof to the court, they can retain possession of the unit. This is also called a Pay and Stay eviction.

    • Judged for Defendant, or in favor of the tenant. Less than 2% of the time is an eviction hearing found in favor of the tenant in Allegheny County.

    • Withdrawn, the landlord withdraws the complaint from the court. This typically happens when the landlord and tenant come to resolution before the hearing.

      • NOTE: Withdrawing a complaint must be done in writing and upon receipt of written withdraw the court will cancel the hearing and notify the tenant in writing that the case was withdrawn. If a landlord tells you they will take care of it, you should call the court's office to verify the case was withdrawn. If the court cannot verify then you should attend your hearing.

    • Dismissed, means the Judge has said the case is over. Dismissed without Prejudice means the landlord can file the case again.



 
If the Decision is Found for Plaintiff, a tenant can file for an appeal. You have 10 days from the date of judgment to file a timely appeal so if you intend to file an appeal, do so ASAP.
 


5. Order of Possession (OFP)

Even after the judgment, your landlord cannot evict you without an Order of Possession.

  • After 10 days but before 120 days from the judgment, the landlord can request an Order of Possession. It will be issued immediately and must be executed within 60 days of issuance. If the landlord fails to execute the OFP within 60 days, they must request a new OFP be issued.

  • The OFP must be mailed to the tenant and delivered to the tenant or clearly posted on the property.

    • You have 10 days after the Date of the Notice, which must be the same as the date of Service to leave the property.



 

Important Things to Note:

  • From the point at which the landlord files, there is an eviction on a tenant's record. Even if the case is found in favor of the tenant, there will be an eviction on their record.

  • From when the landlord files the eviction with the courts, to when you can be legally removed from the property is at least 27 days and most likely closer to 30-35 days.

  • Oftentimes evictions for non-payment of rent are judged as Pay and Stay, meaning if you can pay the judgment before you are removed from the property, you do not have to move.

    • If you look at your docket sheet, under Civil Disposition Details, if "Grant possession if money judgment is not satisfied by the time of eviction" is marked "Yes" then you have a Pay and Stay judgment.

  • Every tenant has the right to appeal a Judgment for Plaintiff! Doing this greatly increases the amount of time you have to find a new residence and can potentially keep you in your home.



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