Legal Updates

EJECTMENT PROCESS IN PHILADELPHIA

Philadelphia Landlord/Tenant Lawyer

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO FILE AN EJECTMENT

Between four and seven months in most cases.

In Philadelphia, PA an ejectment is a legal process to remove a squatter from property.  The time frame is four months to a year depending on whether the defendant takes action.  For example, if the squatter is well represented or has a legal defense the ejectment may take longer.  If the squatter is not actively contesting the ejectment the process may be more expeditiously resolved.

Unlike an eviction an ejectment is a civil action initiated in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.  If the defendant is represented by counsel you may be forced to respond to discovery requests, motions for summary judgments and depositions.  Therefore, it is important you have a trained legal advocate to assist you where the defendant plans to challenge the case.

FILING THE COMPLAINT

The ejectment process begins when the owner files a complaint in ejectment.  The complaint must be filed with the clerk of courts.  The complaint must lay out the specific facts of the case.  This may be as simple as asserting the Plaintiff is legal and record owner; the Defendant is occupying the property illegally; and the Plaintiff wants the Defendant removed from the property by sheriff.  Once the complaint is filed it must be served on the squatter.  The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure require in-person service at the defendant’s home or place of business.  Once the defendant is served he has a minimum of twenty days to respond.  If the defendant does not respond that plaintiff may take a default judgment.  In order to take a default judgment the plaintiff must file a notice of praecipe to enter default judgment and serve it on the defendant via USPS first class mail, proof of mailing.

TRIAL / MOTION FOR WRIT OF POSSESSION

Following the default judgment, the owner may wait for trial or file a motion for writ of possession.  The court will schedule a hearing date for the motion. At the motion hearing the owner or his counsel must lay out the basis for taking possession of the property.  The court will ask to review the certified and recorded deed establishing ownership rights.  The burden is on the plaintiff to prove a right to possession by the preponderance of the evidence.  The motion must be served on the defendant via USPS first class mail, proof of mailing.  An affidavit of service proving the defendant is served must be provided to the court before the motion hearing.

If the defendant has answered the complaint the case may proceed to trial.  At trial the burden is on the plaintiff to show by a preponderance of the evidence that he has a superior right to possession of the property.  The defendant may raise defenses such as landlord/tenant rights or challenge the validity of the plaintiff’s deed.  Often times a sympathetic judge may give additional time to the squatter to leave the Property.  It is important you speak with a Philadelphia eviction lawyer before litigating a case in the Philadelphia court system.

FILING THE WRIT OF POSSESSION

If you win the case the judge will grant you possession.  In order to finalize the lockout you must file a writ of possession.  The writ of possession is filed with the clerk of courts.  After the writ is filed with the clerk it is delivered to the Office of the sheriff of Philadelphia to schedule a lockout. The sheriff will call the owner or his attorney to finalize lockout particulars.  In Philadelphia, the sheriff often requires the owner to provide four movers, a twenty-four foot moving truck, and storage for the squatter.

At the appointed time and date, the sheriff will appear at the property for the lockout.  The sheriff will inform the squatter he must vacate.  If the squatter does not vacate he will be arrested.  The writ of possession is posted to the door of the property along with a notice from the sheriff.  The notice states that if the unauthorized occupant returns to the property they will be arrested.  This will be enforced and any further attempts to interfere with owners possession can be resolved by calling the police.

SHERIFF SALES (MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE/TAX LIEN)

Ejectments are common after sheriff sales.   In many sheriff sales the prior owner or an unknown occupant is living in the Property.  The squatter may disincentive bidding at the sale.  Understand that an ejectment is a relatively straightforward process and success is likely if you are the certified and legal owner.  Therefore, purchasing a property with an unwanted occupant may be a great investment opportunity.

Please note it may make sense to file an ejectment if you are unsure whether a squatter is using your property.  In such cases obtaining a writ of possession will enable you to arrest the squatter for criminal trespass if they ever come back.  Once you successfully litigate the ejectment the Sheriff ejects or locks out any would be squatters. Those who refuse to leave are arrested.  Therefore the ejectment is permanent means to clarify and secure your property rights.

Finally, in cases where the property was purchased at tax lien sheriff sale the squatter may have a Right of Redemption.  Pursuant to Pennsylvania Statute, a property owner who loses his property at tax lien sale may repurchase his property from the new owner for the purchase price plus ten percent subject to conditions.  In such cases you may lack standing to bring the ejectment claim until nine months after the deed is recorded in your name.  If the ejectment complaint is brought before the end of the redemption period the plaintiff may have their case dismissed for lack of standing.

PHILADELPHIA EVICTION/EJECTMENT LAWYERS

Our office has experience litigating ejectment actions.  We have personally handled hundreds if not thousands of ejectment cases in Philadelphia, PA.  In such cases, Mark Copoulos points with pride to a success rate well over 90%.  Feel free to watch the informational video below for more information about the ejectment process. If you have questions please schedule a free consultation at 267-535-9776.