Since January 2018, evictions have become more procedurally intensive in Philadelphia, PA. Judge Bradley Moss implemented wide-ranging policy changes that require total compliance with the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code and the Philadelphia Lead Disclosure Law.
If you are filing an eviction with the Philadelphia Courts, at a minimum you must have a Certificate of Rental Suitability, Partner for Good Housing Handbook, Philadelphia Housing License, Notice to Vacate, and Lease. While there may be exceptions to producing these documents in some situations, most evictions will require these documents to proceed. Additionally, if the tenants has children aged 6 years or younger you must have provided the tenant a Lead Safe Certificate. IF these documents are not provided and you attempt to proceed with an eviction in court, your complaint will be deemed “non-compliant” and you will likely lose your case.
Finally, a diligent and experienced Landlord-Tenant lawyer can expedite a Philadelphia eviction because he can file from the Municipal Court Claims database. Our attorneys schedule court dates on the earliest possible date (“EPD”) and file lockout writs in a timely manner. Avoid the stress of an eviction, and delegate to our firm, which provides eviction services in an affordable and effective manner. If you are proceeding with an eviction, remember these important steps to expedite the process:
OBTAIN THE CERTIFICATE OF RENTAL SUITABILITY 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. You also must give the tenant a Partner for Good Housing Handbook. Speak with an attorney about making sure the tenant is properly served with the pertinent documents.
OBTAIN THE PARTNERS 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 UPON FILING 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.
HIRE AN ATTORNEY TO OBTAIN THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE DATE “EPD” 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 PHILADELPHIA 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. GIVE THEM THIRTY DAYS TO VACATE 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. Note that if you get before a judge and win it will take approximately thirty days to schedule an eviction with the sheriff. Therefore, you may not have much to lose in offering the tenant thirty days to vacate. Please note that in some situations it may make sense to give tenants additional time to vacate. Speak with an attorney about your particular situation.
MAKE A DEAL 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 it they cannot appeal, except in very limited circumstances. Therefore, if you are worried your tenant may try to drag out the process by appeal, you should consider entering into a beneficial judgment by agreement. Hire a lawyer who has settled thousands of cases and has experience in making deals with tenants.
FILE THE WRIT OF POSSESSION ON DAY TEN 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.
FILE THE ALIAS WRIT IMMEDIATELY UPON SERVICE 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 or the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia. 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.
TAKE 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.
BONUS TIP: AVOID GETTING SUED BY THE TENANT If you file an eviction against a tenant who has children six years or younger, and you are not compliant with the Philadelphia Lead Disclosure Law, you are risking a lawsuit. Many tenants who are sued seek out attorneys who advise them of their rights. Upon learning that the landlord is not properly licensed, they may initiate a counterclaim under the ordinance for damages up to $25,000.00. If their child is suffering from lead poisoning then the damages could exceed that amount. Therefore, it is critical that you are aware of the Philadelphia Lead Disclosure Law and compliant. If you are not compliant and must evict the tenant, speak with a Philly eviction lawyer about mitigating the damage. This may be a situation that warrants a “cash for keys” transaction to avoid further litigation on the matter.
HIRE MARK COPOULOS TO GET IT DONE FAST 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 eviction lawyer to expedite the process. Call Mark Copoulos for a free consultation at 267.535.9776.