A Pennsylvania eviction notice is issued by the landlord or their agent (usually a property manager) when a tenant doesn’t comply with terms of the lease. This written document, better known as a notice to quit, is the first action that a landlord or property manager must take if they want to evict the tenant from the property. All Pennsylvania eviction notices must comply with federal law and the landlord-tenant laws set in place by the state.
A Pennsylvania eviction notice serves two main purposes. First, it alerts the tenant to the fact that they violated their lease agreement. It tells them what happened, whether they can fix it or vacate the property, and how long they have to comply or leave the property. Second, it creates written documentation of the tenant’s non-compliance with the lease. The landlord or property manager may find this useful for court or for determining if they want to renew the lease with the tenant at the end of its term. The components in an eviction notice give very specific information so that the form can do what it’s supposed to do: inform and document. The components are:
The eviction notice must be legally served. This is done in person or by posting the notice on the front door or main entrance of the property. To document how service occurred, the landlord or property manager should include a Certificate of Service. This short document explains the date service occurred, on whom the notice was served, how it was served, and is signed by the person who served the notice.
10-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Payment of Rent
A 10-day notice to quit for non-payment of rent is issued when the tenant doesn’t pay their rent on time. Under § 250.501(b), the tenant has 10 days to pay the past due rent or vacate the property. The 10 days begins the day after the notice is issued. This notice should inform the tenant on the total amount that is past due, how that amount must be paid (for example, via money order), and where it made be paid.
10-Day Notice to Quit for Illegal Drugs
A 10-day notice to quit for illegal drugs is governed by § 250.505-A. For this notice to be used, the tenant must be convicted of selling, distributing, or manufacturing a controlled substance on the premises. It can also be used if law enforcement seizes controlled substances on the property. The tenant isn’t being given the opportunity to correct the problem. Instead, they are only being given 10 days to vacate the property. The landlord or their agent should explain why the notice is being issued. The landlord may also find it helpful to list the date that the conviction occurred or the date that law enforcement seized the illegal substances from the rental property.
15-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Compliance
A 15-day notice to quit for non-compliance is used to notify a tenant whose lease is for one year or less that they’ve violated the terms. They are given 15 days to correct the violation or leave the property according to § 250.501(b). This is also used for month-to-month tenancies. The notice should clearly explain how the lease was broken. It may also be helpful to include the date the lease was signed and the type of lease they signed (month-to-month or one hear or less).
30-Day Notice to Quit for Non-Compliance
A 30-day notice to quit for non-compliance is used when a lease is longer than a year in length. It notifies the tenant that they violated the terms of their lease in some way and that they have 30 days to correct the violation or vacate the property. This notice is governed by § 250.501(b). This eviction notice should explain how the lease was violated and that the tenant has 30 days to either comply with the terms of the lease or vacate the property.
Notice to Terminate a Month-to-Month Lease
A notice to terminate a month-to-month lease isn’t used because the tenant violated the lease terms. It can actually be used by either the landlord or the tenant to tell the recipient that they plan to discontinue their month-to-month lease agreement. If there is no written lease, this notice should be for 30-days. Past that, Pennsylvania law does not have a mentioned time frame under landlord-tenant law. This notice should mention the deadline by which the property should be vacant and returned to the possession of the landlord.
Certain eviction notices have a timeline that depends on the length of the original lease. It’s important to note that the timeline does not start until the day after the notice is received. So, it’s important for the landlord to ensure that legal service takes place.
A landlord may not file an eviction lawsuit against the tenant until the timeline expires and the tenant hasn’t complied with it. The court plays an important part in eviction. Unless the landlord has a court order, they cannot replace the locks, disconnect the utilities running to the property, or remove the tenant’s belongings. Without a court order, those actions are known as “self-help eviction.” Self-help eviction is illegal.
Other illegal eviction methods include retaliatory eviction and eviction that violates the Fair Housing Act. Retaliatory eviction means that the landlord is trying to evict the tenant because the tenant reported the landlord or the property to the housing authority for code violations or because the property is considered uninhabitable. The Fair Housing Act lists descriptors that are classified as seven protected classes: race, skin color, disability, family status, religion, country of origin, or gender. Evicting a tenant for one or more of those reasons is illegal because it violates The Fair Housing Act.
If a landlord participates in an illegal eviction, they could open themselves up to a lawsuit being filed by the tenant. They could be fined by the court for breaking the law and they could also be ordered to pay money to the tenant.
Pennsylvania tenants have rights that exist even during eviction. If you’re served with an eviction notice, read it carefully. Although the amount of time you have to comply or vacate the property doesn’t start until the day after you’re served, it’s important that you understand why the landlord issued the eviction notice and what you can do to repair the problem. You also need to know how many days you have to correct the problem or leave the property. If you do not comply with the notice by the deadline, the landlord can sue you in court.
Not all evictions are legal. The most common illegal eviction is known as “self-help.” This means that the landlord replaced the locks, shut off the utilities, or removed your belongings without a court order. It is also illegal for you to be evicted for reporting code violations or uninhabitable conditions to the housing authority. You also cannot be legally evicted for your skin color, race, gender, disability, religious beliefs, country of origin, or family status. Illegal eviction may give you the right to sue the landlord.
Once you read the eviction notice, call the landlord if you have questions about it. Eviction can be a scary and emotional process. Do your best to stay calm so that you understand what you need to do if you’re not sure. You can also reach out to a landlord-tenant attorney to learn more about the eviction process, find out if you have any defenses to the eviction, or if the eviction is illegal.
You can also contact Dickinson Law or Penn State Law and ask if they have a legal clinic. Sometimes, legal clinics will provide affordable legal services to renters. You can also contact legal aid. In addition to possibly qualifying for legal help, they also have resources that you can access to help educate yourself during the process.
Pennsylvania landlords have rights and obligations under federal and state laws. It is the responsibility of the landlord to ensure they know the law and what constitutes a legal (and illegal) eviction. We discussed the required components of eviction notices earlier on this page as well as illegal evictions. It’s important for you to protect yourself from a lawsuit. To learn more about the eviction process, eviction notices, or your rights and obligations as a landlord, make an appointment with a landlord-tenant lawyer in the county where your property is located.