A deed is the legal document to record an interest in real property. This is distinguishable from a mortgage which directs who is financially responsible for payments on a loan secured by real property. It is possible to be on a deed or a mortgage but not both. To the extent you are transferring ownership of property, a new deed is needed to reflect the change. The deed will specify the grantor(s), the person(s) relinquishing ownership of the real property, as well as the grantee(s), the person(s) who are acquiring ownership of the real property. The deed also includes a very detailed description of the real property at issue. These descriptions are based on land records from surveys of the property or construction plans.

Your county office maintains records for all the deeds within their jurisdiction. A new deed should be recorded with the office to replace prior deed. It is common for the deed itself in to include a brief summary of the recent line of ownership as well as where prior deeds were recorded in terms of book and page number. There is usually a cost assessed to record a new deed set by the county based on the number of pages of the document and number of signatures. There may also be real estate transfer tax due depending on the relationship of the grantor and grantee and total fair market value of the property being transferred.

Eviction appeals: In Pennsylvania, once a landlord/tenant eviction hearing is decided by a Magisterial District Justice (or by a Municipal Court Judge in Philadelphia), either party has the right to appeal if they disagree with the decision.

If a tenant appeals a determination of possession, there is a 10 day appeal deadline. In other words, the tenant must file the appeal in the Court of Common Pleas where the property is located within 10 days. The tenant has to then serve the notice and Rule advising the Landlord that they have 20 days to file a complaint. These forms must be served on the Landlord and Magisterial District Judge.

The tenant must also file a supersedeas which prevents the sheriff or constable from kicking the tenant out of the property. In addition to filing fees, the supersedeas requires that the tenant pay the lower of 3 months’ rent or the judgment to the Court to hold in escrow until the final hearing. The tenant must also pay the monthly rent to the Court every 30 days. If the tenant fails to do this, the supersedeas may be terminated and the eviction may proceed. Make certain that you keep track of this deadline as some months have more than 30 days.

For issues regarding just the monetary judgment account, the appeal deadline is 30 days.

The process is the same, but you do not need to file a supersedeas and therefore do not need to pay the funds monthly to the Court.

If a landlord appeals, the deadlines are the same, except that the landlord must then file a complaint to the tenant instead of a Rule instructing the other party to file one.

It is recommended that the parties hire an attorney to proceed with an appeal as it is much more difficult and complex than filing with the lower Court.

For a tenant to be evicted, the landlord may proceed on one or more of the following grounds:

Nonpayment of Rent. For example, the tenant has failed to pay the current or prior months’ rent, and the rent is past due. Also, the tenant has failed to pay late fees.
Termination of the term. For example, the lease runs for 12-months and the landlord gave adequate notice that the lease is not to be renewed. If the tenant stays past the twelfth month, the landlord may proceed on this ground.
Breach of the lease. For example, the lease states that pets are not permitted and the tenant has a pet.
At the eviction hearing, it is the burden of the Landlord to show that the grounds have been met. However, if the eviction is based solely on Nonpayment of Rent, the tenant will be permitted to remain in the property if he pays the judgment in full.

In Pennsylvania, before an eviction may be filed, the landlord must serve the tenant(s) with a Notice to Quit. The Notice to Quit must explain why the tenant is being evicted: Nonpayment of Rent, Termination of the term (i.e. the 12-month lease is over and the lease was not renewed), or Breach of a term of the lease (i.e. no pets). However, the lease sometimes allows for the waiver of the Notice and permits the Landlord to file for eviction immediately.

The Notice to Quit must be served one of three ways: personally on the tenant (by handing him or her a copy), leaving the notice on the entrance to the residence, or by posting the notice conspicuously on the premises.

The Notice to Quit must contain the following information:

  • Name and Address of Tenant being evicted
  • Date of service
  • Grounds for Eviction
  • Total rent due and owing
  • Amount of time to leave the property before an eviction is filed
  • Notice that the Landlord may pursue legal action

The Notice requires that a certain amount of time must pass between the time that the Notice to Quit is served and eviction is filed. For failure to pay rent, the time is 10 days. For either termination of term or breach, the time required is 15 days for leases that last 1 year or less, or 30 days for leases lasting longer than 1 year.

Pennsylvania Act 129 of 2012 provides rules regarding abandoned property of tenants.

Tenants are required to remove all personal property upon eviction or when they vacate the leased premises. Upon eviction or vacating, the landlord must give notice to the former tenant within ten days regarding their intent to remove the personal property. If the tenant contacts the landlord within ten days and notifies him or her that they want the property back, the landlord must keep the property for thirty days. The tenant may responsible for the costs of storing the property. If tenant fails to contact the landlord within ten days, the landlord may discard the personal property.

If the tenant leaves without a court order and/or giving notice of vacating, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant that the personal property will remain on the property and must be retrieved within 30 days. A tenant then must provide written notice within 10 days of the notice postmark date that the tenant will be retrieving the property. If no notice is received within that 10 day period, the landlord may dispose of the personal property at his or her discretion.

If the landlord sells the personal property, any proceeds shall first go to the landlord for outstanding monies owed, with any balance refunded to the tenant via certified mail. If no forwarding address was provided, the landlord must keep the funds for thirty days, and may retain the proceeds if not notified by the tenant.

There is an implied Warranty of Habitability when you rent a premises in Pennsylvania. In other words, the rental unit must be habitable: i.e. there must be water and heat, and the property must be safe and sanitary.

If a problem develops after you move in, contact the landlord immediately. While I recommend calling the landlord, send a follow-up confirmation letter/email. Make sure that all communication is documented. Also, keep a copy of any written correspondence for your records. (Do not record phone conversations).

If the issue is not resolved within a reasonable time-frame, then let the landlord know that you are placing the rent into an escrow account until such time as the problem is resolved. You may also let the landlord know that you will be fixing the problem yourself with the costs deducted from the following rent payment.

If the landlord disagrees and you find yourself in court, bring pictures and copies of your correspondence, as well as proof that the rent is in an escrow account. When you see the judge, you may receive an abatement of rent for the time that the premises was not habitable.

Documents tenants should bring to court:

When you go to a landlord-tenant eviction hearing, you will need to bring several documents.

The lease is perhaps the most important document to provide. It is the instrument that shows how much rent is to be paid each month, when the rent is due, when the lease begins and ends, whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for certain amenities (such as electric, water, and cable), and other rules that govern the time of occupancy.

If your landlord is seeking unpaid rent, bring receipts or bank statements showing that the rent was paid.

If your landlord is asking for cost of repairs, bring pictures showing that the rental unit was left in excellent condition will help your case.

If you believe that the rental unit is not habitable, bring proof of the unit’s condition as well as documentation (i.e. letters, text messages, emails) showing that you requested the landlord make repairs.

If your landlord is keeping the security deposit, he or she must provide the deposit or a list of repairs within 30 days. Bring photos or witnesses who can say that the place was left in the same condition as when you moved in. If you have proof that the notice was not served within 30 days, bring that evidence. For example, if you moved out on October 30 and the letter is postmarked December 2, then that would be evidence. Furthermore, bring proof that you gave a forwarding address to the landlord.

The most important thing that a landlord can get after an eviction hearing is the property itself. After a hearing, the tenant has 10 days to appeal, or else the landlord may request (and pay for) an Order for Possession. 10 days after that, the sheriff/constable will come and evict the tenant.

In addition to the physical property, the landlord can get past-due rent, late fees, and other unpaid bills (such as utilities and water, if they are the tenant’s responsibilities). Furthermore, the landlord is entitled to filing fees as well as the fees paid for the Order for Possession. There may also be a provision in the lease that states that the tenant is responsible for rent for the entire duration of the lease.

If the lease permits, then the landlord is also entitled to reasonable legal fees. However, not all leases allow for this, so it is important to read the lease in its entirety.

The landlord may also sue the tenant for damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused to the premises during the tenancy. Make sure to take photos, obtain estimates for repairs, and keep receipts.

To file a landlord/tenant eviction, you must pay the court’s filing fees. The fees are based on several factors: the number of defendants, amount seeking in damages (i.e. unpaid rent, destruction of property, legal fees), where you are filing (i.e. Bucks County vs. Philadelphia county).

Many leases provide for the landlord to receive legal fees if successful. Unless the lease states this, each party will be responsible for their own legal fees even if they prevail. The legal fees awarded is at the judge’s discretion.

Some attorneys charge a flat fee for representation, while others charge per hour. The advantage to a flat rate is that the party knows the fee up-front, whereas the hourly charge could depend on the length of trial and amount of time needed for preparation. Court itself can be as short as 15 minutes to several hours. This is determined on the complexity of the issues and whether the tenants have any defenses.

Finally, if a landlord is successful in obtaining an eviction, they must pay for the sheriff/constable to serve the Order of Possession. This will then enable the sheriff to forcibly remove the tenant if he refuses to leave on his own.

In Pennsylvania, before an eviction may be filed, the landlord must serve the tenant(s) with a Notice to Quit. The Notice to Quit must explain why the tenant is being evicted: Nonpayment of Rent, Termination of the term (i.e. the 12-month lease is over and the lease was not renewed), or Breach of a term of the lease (i.e. no pets). However, the lease sometimes allows for the waiver of the Notice and permits the Landlord to file for eviction immediately.

The Notice to Quit must be served one three ways: personally on the tenant (by handing him or her a copy), leaving the notice on the entrance to the residence, or by posting the notice conspicuously on the premises.

The Notice to Quit must contain the following information:


Name and Address of Tenant being evicted

Date of service

Grounds for Eviction

Total rent due and owing

Amount of time to leave the property before an eviction is filed

Notice that the Landlord may pursue legal action

The Notice requires that a certain amount of time must pass between the time that the Notice to Quit is served and eviction is filed. For failure to pay rent, the time is 10 days. For either termination of term or breach, the time required is 15 days for leases last 1 year or less, or 30 days for leases lasting longer than1 year.