How do I Evict a Tenant?

If you’re a landlord, you might have faced this very real question: how do I evict a tenant? After all, it isn’t all that unusual to have an inconsiderate, messy, or possibly even dangerous tenant. So at some point, you may decide that it’s necessary to part ways and evict them from your property.

But here’s the catch. Evicting a tenant isn’t as easy as you might expect. For example, residential landlords are often surprised about the numerous requirements and the time it takes to evict. There’s also time and monetary costs to consider.

In Pennsylvania, the Landlord and Tenant Act governs the process. And strict compliance is vital to ensure that you evict a tenant legally. After reading this article, you may want to talk with a real estate attorney near you to cover all the bases. Our firm has years of experience assisting residential and commercial landlords in navigating their rights in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region.

Steps Required for Evicting Tenants

Although various jurisdictions may differ slightly, typically, the process for how to evict a tenant follows these steps:

  1. Ensure you have appropriate grounds for an eviction
  2. Serve an official written eviction notice to the tenant
  3. Serve a summons and complaint if the tenant fails to comply
  4. Attend a court hearing and judgment
  5. Issuance of a writ of execution evicting the tenant
  6. Gaining possession of the property

So, as you can see, the process can take some time, anywhere from a month to two months or more from start to completion.

Grounds for Evicting a Tenant

The first step in an eviction is determining the basis for the removal. Pennsylvania requires a landlord to comply with notice requirements. In addition, the notice must include the tenant’s violation prompting the eviction. And that violation must be a valid reason. There are plenty of factors in play currently due to the pandemic and it's fallout, so touching base with a real estate attorney would be prudent to get the latest information.

You have grounds to evict a tenant for any one of these violations:

Failure to Pay Rent

Unsurprisingly, the primary reason for an eviction notice is a tenant who fails to pay rent or does so habitually. In Pennsylvania, rent is late one day after due. A landlord can take steps to evict the tenant with a 10-Day Notice to Quit, giving them ten days to settle unpaid rent. If the tenant fails to pay after the notice to quit, a landlord can continue filing an eviction action.

Violations of the Rental Agreement

Pennsylvania allows a landlord to evict a tenant for violating written lease terms. For example, the tenant may have a pet or roommate prohibited by the lease agreement. In this case, the landlord presents a 15-Day Notice to Quit for tenants residing at the property for one year or less.

For tenants residing at the property for greater than one year, the landlord presents a 30-Day Notice to Quit.

In either case, the tenant must move out of the property within that timeframe. Otherwise, the landlord can file an action to evict them.

Illegal Activities

Landlords can give tenants a 10-Day Notice to Quit for performing illegal activities on the property. For example, if a tenant creates, distributes, or uses controlled substances. Or if police seize drugs from the tenant’s rental unit.

Other examples include using the property for gambling or prostitution. Landlords can also evict tenants for becoming a chronic nuisance or substantially damaging the property. Keeping records of dates and times and any police reports is important to strengthen your case.

Independent of sufficient cause, a landlord must wait for the tenant to commit some violation. Otherwise, the only remedy is to wait for their lease to expire.

It’s critical to note that the Landlord and Tenant Act require that the notice to quit be served personally to the tenant. That being said, you can post the notice on the principal building or the lease premises. However, you cannot deliver the notice to quit by mail. This is important information for landlords that may live out of town and don't have easy access to the property in question.

While typically expected, notice to quit isn’t always required. Sometimes tenants waive receipt for a notice to quit in the lease agreement. Make sure your lease agreements are up-to-date and signed is extremely important.

What Happens if the Tenant Fails to Leave?

It's likely that a tenant may fail to comply despite receipt of a notice to quit. Don't panic. In that case, the landlord must file a recovery of possession of real property action in the Magisterial District Court of the count where the property resides. Although you can file the action yourself, a real estate attorney has the experience to do so properly to avoid delays in eviction.

The court serves the tenant the action and sets a hearing date between seven and 15 days after the complaint’s filing.

On the hearing date, the landlord must appear in person and present their case to the judge. The tenant can also submit their claim.

Tenants can assert any number of defenses during the eviction process:

  • The landlord's allegations were false
  • The breach of the lease wasn’t severe
  • The complaint wasn’t reasonable
  • Improper serving of the notice
  • The landlord failed to remedy a condition of the property such as leaks, mold, or another dangerous issue
  • The eviction violates the Fair Housing Act - this could entail discriminating on the basis of race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, pregnancy/childbirth, national origin, familial status, and disability

However, if the court rules in the landlord’s favor, tenants typically have ten days to appeal the judgment.

In addition to judgment for possession of the property, the judge can enter judgment for outstanding rent due, damage to the property, and lawsuit costs. The judge may also award the landlord attorneys’ fees if the lease agreement allows for their recovery.

Order for Possession

Fifteen days after the judge’s decision, the landlord can request that the court issue an order for possession. Within 48 hours from receipt, a constable or sheriff must serve the order to the tenant.

That order states that the tenant must vacate the property ten days after service (15 days for a non-residential tenant). If the tenant has not left after that timeframe, the constable may forcefully evict the tenant from the property. After the constable delivers possession of the property, the landlord has legal possession.

Even after the constable delivers possession of the property, additional issues may arise if the tenant has left their personal property at the residence. Further, a tenant could delay the eviction if they file an appeal of the court’s decision.

Self-Help Evictions

In some instances, landlords take measures into their own hands. For example, they may change the lock or shut off utilities. So here’s a word of advice if you’re a landlord considering this approach – don’t do it.

Most states frown on landlords forcing tenants from the property. You can only evict a tenant following a successful lawsuit. Even then, only a sheriff or constable can evict the tenant.

More importantly, the tenant can ask for an injunction prohibiting their removal during the court action. In addition, they can sue you for damages plus violations. Finally, the court can grant the tenant the right to stay on the property.

Need to Evict Someone?

Landlords are often unaware of the numerous legal requirements to evict a tenant. However, if a landlord doesn’t follow the correct procedures and provide the proper notices, it can lead to redoing steps in the process.

Missteps can form a basis for a tenant to file an appeal, further delaying the landlord’s recovery of possession. Even worse, they could lead to the tenant suing the landlord.

You can learn more about your rights by reading the Consumer Guide to Tenant and Landlord Rights. Published in June 2022, the guide covers legal requirements and best practices for renting a property.

Ultimately, a real estate attorney well-versed in landlord-tenant law can provide cost-effective assistance so that the process proceeds as smoothly as possible.

Our law firm has offices in Bucks County and Montgomery County, PA. The Best Lawyers in America recognized 16 of our attorneys for 2023. So, you can count on our firm to deliver experienced representation for any legal issue.

For more information about landlord-tenant law, contact Kevin Cornish at (610) 275-0700 or by email at kcornish@highswartz.com.

The information above is general: we recommend you consult an attorney regarding your circumstances. This information is not legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

Mark R. Fischer, Jr. Named President of the Montgomery Bar Association Trial Lawyers Section

High Swartz LLP is pleased to announce that firm partner, Mark R. Fischer, Jr. has been named President of the Montgomery Bar Association Trial Lawyers Section for 2023. The Section is a forum for the exchange and discussion of ideas and information relating to the specific needs and interests of trial attorneys, per the section summary.

"I’m honored to serve as President of the Montgomery Bar Association Trial Lawyers Section for 2023. I really look forward to working with the Board to plan and present another year of the great events and CLEs that make this Section such a wonderful part of the MBA," says Fischer.

Mark is no stranger to trial work. As a business litigation attorney, he represents companies in breach of contract, payment collection, construction defect & consumer protection disputes in PA and NJ. He's also had the opportunity to develop his trial experience over several years as regional litigation counsel to a multinational retail company. As with any good trial lawyer, Mark finds value in the art of cooperation and collaboration with other attorneys to determine the best strategies for effectively handling matters.

On top of litigation work, Fischer is also a member of High Swartz's municipal law group, representing townships on various legal issues, land development matters, zoning disputes, and litigation matters in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas and Commonwealth Court. Mark currently serves as assistant township solicitor to Lower Macungie Township and assists the municipal group in various other Pennsylvania townships.

Mr. Fischer is recognized for his litigation practice by numerous publications. Mark was included in his fifth consecutive Super Lawyers® list for his outstanding contributions in civil litigation defense work. He has also been listed as a Main Line Top Attorney in civil litigation since 2019.

MBA Trial Lawyer Section members meet monthly to discuss the status of the Montgomery County Courts and issues affecting trial lawyers. "Essentially, these meetings are great way to talk shop and generate camaraderie among the trial lawyers in the County," says Fischer.

High Swartz LLP has been named a Tier 1 National Law firm for Land Use & Zoning Law by U.S. News – Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms" in 2023

High Swartz LLP is pleased to announce it has received another "Best Law Firm" nod and has also been named a Tier 1 Philadelphia Area “Best Law Firm” in six practice areas.

Of note is the rise of the firm's Real Estate Litigation ranking from National Tier 3 in 2022 to National Tier 2 in 2023. Real Estate Litigation also rose from a Metropolitan Philadelphia Tier 2 to Tier 1. To achieve a "Best Law Firm" ranking, a firm must have at least one lawyer included on The Best Lawyers in America© list. For 2023, 16 High Swartz attorneys were listed in the 2023 editions of The Best Lawyers in America® and the Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America.

The "Best Law Firms" rankings are based on a combination of client feedback, information provided on the Law Firm Survey, the Law Firm Leaders Survey, and Best Lawyers peer review.

Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. More than 116,000 industry leading lawyers are eligible to vote (from around the world), and we have received more than 17 million evaluations on the legal abilities of other lawyers based on their specific practice areas around the world.

For the 2023 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®, more than 12.2 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in more than 71,000 leading lawyers honored in the new edition.

"Law Firm of the Year" awards recognize a single top firm for its work in a specific legal practice area nationwide. Awards are determined based on a handful of factors including lawyer feedback, the number of lawyers included in Best Lawyers® for that firm and practice area, the number of office locations a firm has, historical analysis of the firm’s "Lawyer of the Year" awards, materials submitted by firms and the firm’s overall scope and areas of expertise.

When you're looking for attorneys near you in the Greater Philadelphia, Bucks County, and Montgomery County areas, get in touch with our law office. National and local resources consistently cite our law firm and its lawyers and attorneys. Talk to best -- High Swartz.

William F. Kerr, Jr. named the Best Lawyers® 2023 Real Estate Litigation Lawyer of the Year in Philadelphia

High Swartz LLP is pleased to announce that real estate attorney William F. Kerr, Jr. has been recognized as the Lawyer of the Year in the Philadelphia Metro region for 2023. Best Lawyers® selects only one attorney in each legal service to represent a city's region. Mr. Kerr represents land developers, property managers, and owners in real estate matters including real estate tax assessments and various transactions.

Although this is his first recognition as Lawyer of the Year, Bill has been included in editions of Best Lawyers® in America since 2018, in multiple categories including Municipal Law. Kerr serves as a Zoning Board Solicitor and special zoning, development, and real estate tax counsel to several southeastern Pennsylvania municipalities. He also provides outside counsel on real estate matters to the Philadelphia International Airport.

Of special importance to Mr. Kerr is his work as a member of Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery and Delaware Counties Board of Directors. Habitat has helped thousands of our region's families build, repair and improve their homes, while assisting them in becoming financially stable.

Additionally, Bill represents numerous Pennsylvania affordable housing developers in various aspects of the affordable housing development process. These include properties financed with Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Bill has been commended for his work with an affordable housing industry group that successfully pursued an amendment to Pennsylvania’s assessment law as it affects affordable housing.

Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers lists are compiled based on an exhaustive peer-review evaluation. Almost 108,000 industry leading lawyers are eligible to vote (from around the world), and we have received over 13 million evaluations on the legal abilities of other lawyers based on their specific practice areas around the world. For the 2023 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©, 9.4 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in more than 67,000 leading lawyers being included in the new edition. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor.

When Letters of Intent are Involved in Litigation

What is a Letter of Intent?

A letter of intent (LOI) is a document which states proposed terms for a final contract. Depending upon what is written, an LOI may be categorized as “binding” or “non-binding.”  This is often the threshold issue in litigation concerning letters of intent – whether or not the LOI may be considered to be a binding contract.

Frequently, purchase/sale negotiations are founded upon a letter of intent.  For purposes of this article, I am focusing on LOIs as they relate to real estate transactions.

Why the Details of Letters of Intent are Crucial

Even if non-binding, it may be difficult to vary the terms set forth in an LOI; accordingly, it is important to deal with all items of significance in the letter of intent. Failure to set forth important details can lead to difficulties later, for the following reasons:

  • The parties’ negotiating leverage will be reduced if key provisions such as purchase price, deposit amount, due diligence period, land development approvals, and other items of significance are not included in the letter of intent.
  • Misunderstandings and negotiations can be minimized, along with associated costs.

Binding or Non-Binding Letters of Intent

 Typically, the parties involved do not intend LOIs to be binding, but they may still be interpreted as such.

  • Binding Contract. In the absence of specific language, the courts may look to various factors, including the terms of the letter, the context of negotiations, and partial performance, to determine whether a letter of intent is binding.  A party who breaches such a binding agreement may be subject to specific performance or damages.
  • Obligation to Negotiate in Good Faith. Where a letter of intent contains such language as “make every reasonable effort to agree,” or an agreement to “negotiate only with the other party,” the courts may impose an obligation to negotiate, even if the letter states that it is “non-binding” or subject to a formal agreement.  Even if this standard does not lead to a finding that a final contract has been created, it may be held to bar a party from abandoning negotiations, or insisting on conditions that do not conform to the terms of the LOI.

Different Degrees of Value of Binding in Letters of Intent

As discussed above, there isn’t always a clear-cut standard to determine whether a letter of intent is binding or non-binding, but there are ways to express the intentions of the parties as one or the other.

  • A letter of intent may have legitimate, binding aspects to it, even though ultimate liability may be conditioned upon execution of formal documents.  For example, a statement that the property will be kept off the market during negotiations for a specified time period, and that the seller will not negotiate with another party during the same period, may serve both parties’ objectives.
  • In order to preserve the intention that a letter of intent not be binding, the letter should not only provide as such, but should further provide that it imposes no legal obligation to continue negotiations to reach agreement.  Alternatively the letter might provide that the parties are obligated to negotiate in good faith and the like, but that if no formal agreement is reached within a prescribed period of time, either party may terminate. Termination must be “without liability” of either party.
  • If it is intended that the letter be fully binding, it might provide that if the negotiations break down, a written position statement must be prepared by each side, which is then subject to arbitration using an identified standard agreement of sale form as guidance.  Although elementary from a legal perspective, it is important to remember that a document will not be enforced if it omits an essential part of the bargain.  Thus, if an LOI is to be enforceable, it should highlight all of the basic terms.

As negotiations for real estate transactions may be extended and costly, a letter of intent can serve as a useful tool to ensure everyone is on the same page. To review the structure of your LOI and avoid future headache, consult a real estate transaction attorney who specializes in business transactions.

Note:  The information above is general; we recommend that you consult with an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content contained herein is not meant to be considered as legal advice or as a substitute for legal representation.

What are Consentable Lines in Pennsylvania?

Proving Consentable Lines and Property Lines in Pennsylvania can be a difficult process. 

When an actual, de facto boundary between two adjoining properties exists apart from the legal descriptions of both properties by deed, Pennsylvania Law provides that property lines which are respected and mutually acquiesced to for a statutory prescribed period of twenty-one (21) years become the legal boundary between the properties. Talk to a real estate lawyer near you for questions.

Pennsylvania Law disfavors hyper-technical, rigid determinations of real property rights where the facts and circumstances warrant a departure from the broader rules of general application. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recognized the doctrine of “Consentable Lines” to settle issues concerning mistakes as to the boundary between adjoining properties.

Sometimes referred to as “boundary by consent and acquiescence,” the Doctrine of Consentable Lines permits the passing of title to property where adjoining landowners establish a mutually respected boundary either by mistake and inadvertence or dispute and compromise, each landowner claims and occupies the land on his side of the boundary as his own, and the occupation continues uninterrupted for a period of twenty-one (21) years. This twenty-one year requisite can include “tacking” of years from one owner to his successor in order to aggregate to a twenty-one year sum.

How do you prove a Consentable Line in Pennsylvania?

There are two ways in which one may prove a consentable line: by dispute and compromise or by recognition and acquiescence. There are three requirements for the establishment of a binding consentable line by dispute and compromise:

  1. A dispute with regard to the location of a common boundary line,
  2. The establishment of a line in compromise of a dispute,
  3. The consent of both parties to that line and the giving up of their respective claims which are inconsistent therewith.

The requirements for establishing a binding consentable line by recognition and acquiescence are:

  1. A finding that each party has claimed the land on their side of the line as their own, and
  2. A finding that this occupation has occurred for the statutory period of 21 years.

The doctrine of boundary by acquiescence (i.e., consentable lines), functions as a rule of repose to quiet title and discourage vexatious litigation. The determination of what constitutes actual possession of property, for purposes of establishing a binding consentable line under the recognition and acquiescence method, depends on the facts of each case and the character of the premise.

If you're facing an issue with consentable lines, reach out to a real estate attorney at our local law firm.

Compromising on a Property Line

There is, however, no requirement that activities be conducted on the entire property in order for a party to prevail under the doctrine. The establishment of a consentable boundary line is always a matter of compromise, in which each party supposes he or she gives up for the sake of peace something for which in strict justice he or she is entitled.

There is an express mutual abandonment of their former rights, upon an agreement, that whether they be good or whether they be bad neither is to recur to them on any pretense whatever or claim anything that he or she does not draw from the terms of the agreement.

A consentable line is not created if the parties, from misapprehension, adjust their fences and exercise acts of ownership, in conformity with a line which turns out not to be the true boundary, or if permission is ignorantly given to place a fence on the land of a party. Whether proving a consentable line by dispute and compromise or by recognition and acquiescence, it is not necessary that the boundary line be substantial. A real estate lawyer can determine which route to take.

  • Based upon a rule of repose sometimes known as the doctrine of consentable line, the existence of a boundary line by acquiescence may be proved either by dispute and compromise between the parties or recognition and acquiescence by one party of the right and title of the other.
  • Acquiescence, in the context of a dispute over real property, denotes passive conduct on the part of the lawful owner consisting of failure on his part to assert his paramount rights or interests against the hostile claims of the adverse user.
  • A determination of consentable boundary line by acquiescence requires a finding:
    1. that each party has claimed the land on his side of the line as his own, and
    2. that he or she has occupied the land on his side of the line for a continuous period of 21 years.

Talk to Our Real Estate Attorneys

Because the finding of a consentable boundary line depends upon possession rather than ownership, proof of the passage of sufficient time may be shown by tacking the current claimant's tenancy to that of his predecessor; to do so, however, the claimant must show sufficient and credible proof of delivery of possession of land not within but contiguous to property described by deed of conveyance, which was previously claimed and occupied by the grantor and is taken by the grantee as successor in such interest.

Contact our law offices for any real estate litigation needs you may have. The real estate lawyers in our Montgomery County and Bucks County PA law offices are here to help.

Storage Unit Laws

Pennsylvania has distinct storage unit laws that protect occupants and owners. And yes, they can auction off your contents.

Have you ever seen an episode of Storage Wars and wondered, can someone legally sell property in a storage facility? Storage Wars takes place in California, and I am not here to discuss California law. However, Pennsylvania does have a law governing self-storage facilities and the short answer, in Pennsylvania, is yes, they can do that.

In Pennsylvania, the Self-Service Storage Facilities Act, 73 P.S. § 1901 et seq. (“Act”), governs these self storage facilities. Importantly, the Act provides that:

the storage facility owner has a lien on all personal property stored in the facility. The lien is superior to all other liens except those that existed prior to the placement of the personal property in the facility.  The rental agreement must inform the occupant of this lien.

What if I don't pay my rent?

In the event that occupant fails to pay rent for a period of 30 days, the owner can begin proceedings to sell the contents. The owner must provide notice to the occupant of the default. The notice must be delivered in accordance with the Act and contain information such as:

  • the amount due
  • a demand for payment
  • a lien statement
  • a designated person for the occupant to contact
  • statement the contents will be advertised and sold if the delinquent rent is not paid.

The owner also has the right to deny the occupant access to the space until the delinquency is paid.

What if I still don't make the payment?

If the occupant still fails to make payment, the owner can proceed with advertising a sale of the contents. The owner must advertise the sale two times in a newspaper of general circulation. There are various requirements for the contents of the advertisement. Read here and learn of the requirements for each state. Additionally, the sale must occur at least 10 days after the first advertisement.

If the delinquent amount remains unpaid, the owner is free to sell the contents of the storage facility to satisfy the owner’s lien. Third parties can bid on, and purchase, the contents of the storage unit.

If you are a self-storage facility owner or renter, it is vital to assure that your rental agreements comply with storage unit laws and all legal procedures are followed to sell personal property to enforce the lien.

If you have any questions, contact Kevin Cornish at 610-275-0700 or via email at kcornish@highswartz.com.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances. The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

Real Estate Transfer Tax in Montgomery County, PA

Real Estate Transfer Tax is something everyone in Pennsylvania needs to address.

Whether you’re dealing with commercial or residential real estate purchases or real estate development in Montgomery County, PA, you will inevitably be faced with having to consider whether you are obligated to pay a real estate transfer tax. Here’s what you need to know.

In Pennsylvania, there is a transfer tax imposed by the state as well as the county in which the property is located. In Pennsylvania, there is a 1% transfer tax. Montgomery County imposes an additional 1%, which is comprised of a .50% local tax and a .50% school tax.

Fortunately, Montgomery County’s real estate transfer tax is consistent with most counties throughout the state and not as high as Philadelphia County, which imposes a real estate transfer tax of 3.278%. So, on top of that whopping number, add another 1% from Pennsylvania and you're paying 4.278% in Philadelphia. 

When it comes to real estate transfer tax, most people only think of the sale of property in exchange for money, however, that is only one type of transfer on which the tax is imposed. In fact, transfer tax can apply to other transactions that involve the change in ownership of real estate by deed or other document, including long term leases.

While Pennsylvania provides exemptions from transfer taxes depending on the purpose or type of transaction and the parties involved, the law may not provide for exemption for all real estate transactions. Unlike Philadelphia, the only exemptions permitted for real estate transactions in Montgomery County are those permitted by state law.

Under Pennsylvania transfer tax law, parties such as the federal, state or local government or its agencies are excluded from being required to pay transfer tax on all transactions. However, if the party to whom the property is being transferred is not an excluded party, that party may in fact be responsible for transfer tax if the transaction itself is not excluded. These may include properties purchased at a judicial or sheriff’s sale or from a state or local government agency.

In addition to transfers to and  from the federal, state or local government or its agencies, Pennsylvania real estate transfer tax law excludes certain transactions from transfer tax. These may include deeds of correction or confirmation, transactions between certain family members, non-profits, corporations, and trusts. I’ll talk more about transfer tax exclusions in an upcoming blog.

For now, it is important to understand that transfer taxes exist in residential and commercial property transactions and that you may need to consult with a real estate attorney to protect your interests.

For more information regarding real estate transfer tax in Montgomery County, contact us about our legal services. We're one of the top real estate law firms in Norristown. Call 610-275-0700 or email us at info@highswartz.com.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney near you regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

Why Real Estate Commission Agreements Should Always be in Writing

It's easy as a real estate agent to forgo the signing of important documents when performing services for a new client, friend, or family member. All to often, not getting your real estate commission agreement signed could make for issues trying to collect in the end.

As a real estate agent in Pennsylvania, payment for your services is almost always contingent on the sale of a property. Such a commission structure assures that when you have closed a sale, you will be paid for your services. In order to assure that you get paid, your real estate commission agreement must be in writing and signed by your client.

The Real Estate Licensing and Registration Act (RELRA), 63 P.S. 455.606a, provides in relevant part:

“A licensee may not perform a service for a consumer of real estate services for a fee,  commission or other valuable consideration paid by or on behalf of the consumer unless the nature of the service and the fee to be charged are set forth in a written agreement between the broker and the consumer that is signed by the consumer. This paragraph shall not prohibit a licensee from performing services before such an agreement is signed, but the licensee is not entitled to recover a fee, commission or other valuable consideration in the absence of such a signed agreement.”

Further, the Pennsylvania Superior Court has upheld the requirement that a real estate commission agreement be set forth in writing and signed. In the case of Coldwell v. Dreslin, the realtor only had an oral agreement with its client for payment of a commission. When the realtor was not paid, the realtor filed a lawsuit to recover its commission. The court ruled that the oral fee agreement was not enforceable.

While it is often standard practice to obtain a written fee agreement prior to performing services, it is vital that the agreement is signed prior to performing any services for a client. Sometimes realtors may begin performing services expecting that the fee agreement will be signed in due course. However, if the client is successful in buying or selling a property quickly, the realtor could face a difficult position if the commission agreement has not been signed. This may be especially true in a situation where the realtor and client are friends, longtime business acquaintances, or family.

If you are not sure if you have an enforceable real estate commission agreement for the distribution of fees, you should contact a real estate lawyer.

As a realtor, you should always obtain a signed fee agreement in Pennsylvania before performing any services for a client. This holds true throughout the Commonwealth including for real estate transactions in Montgomery, Bucks, and Philadelphia County.

For more information about real estate agreement, feel free to contact Kevin Cornish at (610) 275-0700 or by email at kcornish@highswartz.com.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.

Can a Landlord Evict a Tenant for Late Rent?

In Pennsylvania, it's a landlord's right to file an order for possession in Magisterial District Court if a tenant fails to make timely rental payments.

Once a landlord receives an eviction judgment from the court, and no appeal is filed, the landlord has the right to request an order for possession of the property from the Court. An order for possession gives a sheriff or constable the right to evict a tenant from the leased property. However, a landlord may be faced with a tenant who wants to make payment of the judgment before the eviction.

Tenants in Pennsylvania have the right to pay and stay under the Landlord Tenant Act.  68 P.S. § 250.503(c).  This means that a tenant can make payment up to the actual time of the eviction and remain in the property.  The landlord would not be permitted to proceed with an eviction. But what amount must the tenant pay? And what amount must a tenant pay if additional rent came due after the date of the judgment?

What amount does the tenant have to pay to stay in the property?

The Landlord Tenant Act requires a tenant to pay “rent actually in arrears and the costs.”  68 P.S. § 250.503(c). This means that the tenant must pay the judgment amount plus the landlord’s costs in obtaining a court order for possession.

How much does the tenant pay if additional rent was due after the date of the court judgment?

In a situation when additional rent comes due after the judgment, a landlord may think that the tenant would also have to pay such additional amounts to remain in the property.  However, this is not correct. A tenant is required to only pay the amount of the judgment plus costs, even if additional rent comes due after the judgment and before the eviction.  Therefore, a landlord may be faced with a situation in which a tenant pays the outstanding judgment, but is still delinquent in rent.  The landlord must then proceed from the beginning with another lawsuit in Magisterial District Court to obtain a judgment and order for possession.

High Swartz LLP real estate attorneys continue a long tradition of handling all aspects of real estate transactions. This work includes the protection of the interests of landowners, buyers and sellers of land, municipalities and developers. This work is a vital area of the firm’s practice, which is situated in the dynamic Greater Philadelphia handling real estate transactions in Montgomery County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County and Philadelphia.

If you have any questions about Real Estate law, please contact Kevin Cornish at 610-275-0700 or kcornish@highswartz.com. Our attorneys in Bucks County and Montgomery County are here to assist you.

The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.  The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.