The Delaware Valley is a densely populated area. Over 6.1 million people live here. To accommodate this growing population, hundreds of thousands of residents are stacked vertically in apartment housing. Even in less densely populated areas, such as King of Prussia, West Chester, or Doylestown, apartment and rental living still accounts for a major percentage of housing.
Of course, for every apartment building, every unit, and every tenant, there is a landlord, who expects to be paid in exchange for providing a resident with a place to live. When tenants refuse to pay rent or otherwise violate building policies, landlords may wish to retain landlord representation attorneys to protect their legal and financial rights from renter abuse — particularly because landlord-tenant legislature can be highly complicated. (The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951 is close to 30 pages long.)
Contrary to popular belief, a typical lease does not encompass all of the legal technicalities of the tenant-landlord relationship, and these technicalities can vary by location. (In Philadelphia, for example, the Landlord and Tenant Act is compounded by the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code.) For all of these reasons, having experienced landlord representation when issues with tenants arise is critical.
In order to lawfully evict a tenant, landlords must follow a specific procedure. This procedure is known as “Action in Ejectment.” Landlords who feel they have been wronged by a tenant sufficiently to warrant an eviction must ensure that their reasoning for the eviction is in accordance with the guidelines for Action in Ejectment. Reasons a landlord may be legally able to evict a tenant could be any of the following.
- A significant breach of lease provisions. (For example, removing a wall or making other major unapproved structural modifications.)
- Nonpayment of rent.
- Criminal activity on the property. (For example, illegally possessing a weapon that is kept in the apartment.)
- A tenant overstaying his or her lease — essentially, squatting.
If any of these criteria are satisfied, a landlord may be able to evict a tenant. But even then, there are still strict procedures that must be adhered to. In the state of Pennsylvania, tenants must be provided with 15 days of notice before the landlord files for an eviction in court. Additionally, the landlord must also provide tenants with an plan for those tenants to rectify the situation or behavior leading to the proposed eviction.
If, when provided with that plan, the tenant still fails to improve the situation, then the landlord may file an eviction 30 days later. If the court rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant will have 22 days in which to vacate the premises, or however long the court determines for that case.
Landlords should be aware that it is illegal to forcibly evict a tenant by way of locking their door, taking their key, etc. The procedures above must be followed.
Rent Collection Rights
The landlord must abide by the rent collection terms detailed in the lease to be provided to the tenant prior to the term of rental. Rent amounts, dates, late fees, and other policies should be clearly outlined. If a tenant does not pay rent, a landlord may wish to begin the eviction process detailed above.
If a building is rent-controlled, landlords will be prohibited from increasing the rent during a tenant’s stay. However, in most scenarios, it is within the landlord’s rights to increase rent after the term of a lease has elapsed.
Litigation Involving Landlords
Occasionally, property owners get sued for injuries that occur on the property, violations of codes or ordinances, and by contractors. In each instance, it is in the property owner’s best interest to speak with an experienced litigation attorney. Both Gerald Berkowitz and Robert Klein have represented property owners in commercial litigation disputes, insurance coverage disputes, and collections issues.