Residential Landlord Tenant Cases in Allegheny County
At some point even a good landlord or tenant will find themselves in need of legal representation concerning their residential lease. Most issues arise either from the return of the security deposit, non payment of rent, or other material breach of the lease. Sometimes court action is necessary.
All landlord requests for possession in Pennsylvania must be filed at the local magistrate or as an ejectment action. Ejectment actions are general docket cases and are not listed for trial on an expedited basis, which means that it could take about one year to get to a trial. As a consequence, almost all cases where landlords seek possession of their property are filed at the local magistrate in the area where the leased property is located. Filing fees vary from magistrate to magistrate. The magistrates do not have to hold law degrees or be attorneys in Pennsylvania.
Once the Landlord Tenant Complaint is filed with landlord tenant attorney Pittsburgh, the case must be scheduled within 7-15 days from the date the complaint is filed. The Complaint is frequently served by a constable posting it on the premises. Prior to filing a Landlord-Tenant Complaint, the lease must be carefully examined to determine if the tenant waived the notice to quit required by the Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Act of 1951, as amended (the “Act”). If the tenant has not waived the right to receive a notice to quit prior to the commencement of an eviction, then the landlord must serve the tenant with a proper notice to quit. Many landlords believe that this means they should send the notice to quit via certified mail.
However, this is incorrect. Review of the applicable law reveals no mention of service by certified mail. Section 250.501(f) of the Act only mentions serving the notice “personally,” i.e. handing the notice directly to the tenant (apparently for those not shy of confrontation), “by leaving the same at the principal building upon the premises,” for example sliding the notice under the tenant’s door, or “by posting the same conspicuously on the leased premises.” When required, notices to quit also must allow the tenant the correct number of days to vacate the premises. The Act also proscribes the number of days that the landlord must allow in the notice to quit depending on the type of lease violation.
The magistrate hearing is unfortunately all too often only the first step in the landlord tenant litigation process. If any party files a timely appeal from the magistrate’s decision, the case goes to the Allegheny County mandatory arbitration division and is heard by a panel of three volunteer attorneys. Occasionally, the tenant attempts to file an appeal after the applicable appeal period has run and care must be taken in the handling of such Petitions for Nunc Pro Tunc appeal. After an arbitration hearing, any party can then appeal again to a non-jury or jury trial. The appeal is considered “de novo” which means that the result of the prior hearing has no effect.
If you are faced with potential landlord tenant litigation, it is best to consult with an attorney. David M. Tkacik, Esq. is experienced with landlord tenant litigation in Allegheny and surrounding counties. Call Tkacik Law Offices at 412-414-9644.