Evictions in Philadelphia can be difficult and time-consuming. The property owner must be totally compliant with the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code to file an eviction. At a minimum, this means a landlord must have a Housing Inspection License, Certificate of Rental Suitability, and related documents to filed a complaint in Landlord-Tenant Court. While an eviction generally takes six to eight weeks it can vary depending on whether the Tenant is represented by counsel and/or has any valid defenses. For example, if the Tenant has children aged six or under it may be more difficult to remove the tenant from the Property. Finally, the tenant has an automatic right to appeal to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. If the tenant exercises the right to appeal and places the required amount of rent in escrow, the appeal acts as an automatic stay on the eviction. Therefore, it is critical you have a clear understanding of the eviction process before your file in Philadelphia, PA.
What Can I do to Expedite the Process?
The best method to ensure prompt disposition of an eviction is to be complaint with the Property Maintenance Code. This means that you should have a Housing License. The Housing License can be obtained that the Philadelphia Municipal Services Building. In order to obtain the license, you must certify the property is in a fit and habitable condition. This means there are no outstanding maintenance violations and you have valid smoke detection systems in the property. You must also provide the tenant with the Certificate of Rental Suitability and Partners for Good Housing Handbook.
Issue a Certificate of Rental Suitability at the Outset. The Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code (Section PM-102.6.5) requires a landlord to give the tenant as Certificate of Rental Suitability issued by the Department of Licenses and Inspections at the outset of the tenancy. If you do not provide the tenant with this Certificate, the tenant can argue the lease you executed is illegal. Therefore, you may not be able to collect back rent or even evict the tenant. Get the Certificate of Rental Suitability early so that if you have problems you can move forward with an eviction right away.
Give the Tenant a Partner for Good Housing Handbook. The Partners for Good Housing Handbook is another City of Philadelphia requirement. At the outset of the tenancy hand the tenant a copy of the “City of Philadelphia Partners for Good Housing” brochure. The brochure can be printed online. The best practice is to have the tenant sign a copy of the handbook so you can prove they received it if this is later disputed in court.
Send the Notice to Vacate at the Same Time You File the Eviction. Pennsylvania requires that a landlord give a tenant thirty days notice to vacate for breach of a lease. If the tenant has defaulted on rent then ten days notice is required. Some landlords give the notice to vacate and then wait that period of time to file the eviction. The best practice is to serve the notice and file the eviction at the same time. It usually takes approximately thirty days to get a court date. Therefore, you can save time by consolidating these actions and getting your court date lined up immediately. Some judges may not accept a Notice to Vacate that is filed concurrently with an eviction. Therefore, it is important you speak with a landlord-tenant lawyer about whether it is appropriate to file
the eviction or wait for the notice period to expire before taking action in Landlord-Tenant Court. The Notice to Vacate should state the specific basis for eviction. Put everything in writing as clearly as possible. Leave nothing interpretation. The Notice should be hand delivered to tenant. Additionally, it is good practice to post the Notice to the door of the property and/or deliver via Certified Mail. If the tenant states they do not receive the notice you will have proof the document was delivered.
Choose the Earliest Possible Court Date. Many Philadelphia Landlord Tenant Lawyers choose court dates based on their personal schedules. When an attorney files an eviction, the courts give broad discretion in choosing a date. Go with an attorney who consistently selects the earliest possible date “EPD” for your hearing. This can save you weeks and may enable you to get into court in the same month you decide to evict your tenant.
Make Sure Your Housing License is Current. Chapter 102.6 of the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code provides that “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.” Philadelphia requires landlords to have a housing inspection license. If you do not have this license you will be unable to file your eviction. A housing license can be obtained at the Municipal Service Building at 1401 JFK Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Be AGGRESSIVE in Negotiating With Tenant. Up to this point you have done everything correctly. So when you get into court you need to be aggressive. Most cases are negotiated before being heard by the judge. While LT cases are fact specific, you may not want to offer the tenant more than thirty days to leave the property. If you enter into a judgment by agreement make sure tenant promises to vacate fast.
Consider a Judgment by Agreement to Shut Down Appeals. If you come to an agreement with your tenant in court, the document executed is a judgment by agreement. The judgment by agreement is essentially a settlement contract. The agreement is binding an non-appealable. This means that if the tenant signs a JBA they cannot appeal to the Court of Common Pleas except in very limited circumstances. Therefore, if you are worried your tenant may try to drag out the process by appeal you should strongly consider entering into a beneficial judgment by agreement.
File the Writ of Possession in Ten Days. If you try your case in front of the judge you may obtain a judgment of possession. In order to evict the tenant you need to file a writ of possession. The writ cannot be filed until ten days after the court date. Be expeditious in filing the writ of possession. Some lawyers wait months to file the writ costing you rent. Get a lawyer who files the writ of possession on the earliest possible date. This will keep the eviction moving.
Follow up With the Sheriff to Expedite the Alias Writ. After the Writ of Possession is filed it must be served on the tenant. This is accomplished by delivering the Writ of Possession to Robert H. Messerman. I recommend following up with his office to status service of the Writ. Once you receive notification the Writ of Possession is served you can schedule the lockout.
Choose the Earliest Possible Lockout Date. Once the Alias Writ is filed the Sheriff will contact your attorney about a lockout date. Choose the earliest possible lockout date. You may not have a choice in choosing your date. If there is no option, accept the date provided and do not reschedule.
If you follow the above-referenced principles you will maximize the amount of money you recover from your delinquent tenant, and have them evicted from your property in a timely manner. Another critical component of timely LT evictions is experience. The more evictions you do the faster you get. Speak with a qualified Philadelphia Landlord Tenant Lawyer to expeditiously process your eviction. Contact our office at 267.535.9776 for a free consultation.