Whenever a landlord seeks to evict a tenant for whatever reason, the eviction request must be decided by a judge. Once the judge issues a decision to evict a tenant, the landlord must wait a certain period of time before being able to actually regain possession of the property.
Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court modified some of the timeline rules for when a landlord can regain possession of residential property following an eviction. After winning a residential eviction case, a landlord must wait at least 10 days, but not more than 120 days, to file a Request for Order of Possession of the property. This Request for Order of Possession is the order that allows a landlord to have the tenant actually removed from the property.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the various suspensions and moratoriums of residential evictions, the Minor Court Rules Committee considered requests to extend the 120-day deadline. This committee is appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to make recommendations on rule changes to magisterial district and other minor courts.
In its final report on the issue, the committee made two recommendations to change the rules, both of which are beneficial to landlords.
First, the committee recommended an extension of the 120-day deadline to 180 days. Part of the reasoning in recommending this change is to “provide the parties with greater flexibility to negotiate and enter into private forbearance agreements.”
The second recommended change is the inclusion of a landlord being able to request up to two extensions of this 180-day deadline, with each extension being for 60 days. However, the landlord must request the first extension before the 180-day period expires.
These recommendations were submitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which approved both recommendations. These rule changes will become effective on Jan. 1, 2021.
Landlords generally view eviction as an option of last resort. Many landlords are willing to try and work with tenants who are behind on their rent and allow them an opportunity to catch up, even after filing for eviction and obtaining judgment for possession. With these changes, landlords now have the option to work with tenants for up to 300 days after receiving the judgment for possession before having to actually file a Request for Order of Possession.
With ever-changing eviction moratoriums, rules, and requirements during the COVID pandemic, landlords should consult with qualified legal counsel before proceeding with any effort to evict a tenant.