What happens when a tenant appeals an eviction judgment for possession in PA?

Basics of the Eviction Process in Pennsylvania

When a landlord has a tenant who fails to pay rent, a landlord must file an eviction proceeding at the local magistrate court that has jurisdiction over the property. Once a complaint it filed, a hearing is scheduled.

The hearing is very straight forward. The landlord testifies that the tenant has failed to pay rent and a judgment is entered in the landlord’s favor for the amount of rent owed plus court costs and the court will grant the landlord possession.

If an appeal is not filed by the tenant within ten (10) days and the tenant remains in possession of the property, the landlord must then file an Order of Possession with the court so a constable to sheriff can perform the actual eviction to forcibly remove the tenant from the property.

Appeal Process When Tenant Appeals a Judgment Granting Possession

Although the tenant has failed to pay rent, the tenant can exercise their right to appeal the judge’s decision. Some tenants can be very good at “gaming the system” or taking advantage of their right to due process of law. The landlord-tenant appeal process is very aggravating for most landlords who simply want to remove a tenant who has stopped paying rent.

After the magistrate judge enters a judgment and awards a landlord possession, the tenant has the right to file an appeal to the possession portion of the judgment within ten (10) days. After the tenth day, the tenant can still appeal the money portion of the judgment within thirty (30) days of the judgement, but the tenant can no longer appeal the award of possession. Rule 1002.

A tenant would file an appeal with the Court of Common Pleas in the county the property is located in such as the Lehigh or Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. When a tenant files an appeal, they ask the court to enter a Rule to Show Cause, which would require a landlord to file a civil complaint in the court within twenty (20) days. Rule 1004. An appeal is conducted de novo, which means a new hearing is required. Rule 1007.

When an appeal is filed by a tenant, the tenant is required to post with the court the amount of rent in arrears or three (3) months rent, whichever is less. Rule 1008(B).  If rent is not posted with the court, the tenant will not be granted a supersedeas, which is a term that essentially means that the constable or sheriff cannot move forward with the actual eviction process while the appeal is pending. Furthermore, the tenant must deliver the notice of appeal to the magistrate court to be granted the suersedeas and serve a copy upon the landlord.

When a tenant fails to post rent with the court, the landlord can terminate the superseadas by filing a praecipe (“document”) with the court. Once this is done, the tenant’s appeal is terminated and the eviction process can proceed.

Indigent Tenants Filing Appeals

Where things can get more aggravating is if a tenant is claiming they are indigent and cannot afford to post the lesser of the rent in arrears or three (3) months rent. Under Pennsylvania law, the tenant is permitted to submit an affidavit stating they do not have the financial ability to post with the court the lesser of three (3) months rent or the actual rent in arrears and the court would permit the appeal to proceed.

If the tenant files this affidavit and has not paid rent in the month the appeal is filed, they’re merely required to pay one-third (1/3) of their monthly rent payment at the time of appeal. The remaining two-thirds (2/3) must then be posted within twenty (20) days of the appeal.  The tenant must then continue to pay rent every thirty (30) days after filing the appeal with the court. Rule 1008(C)(3).

If there tenant ever fails to pay rent with the court as they’re required to do during the appeal, the landlord can file a praecipe (“document”) asking the court to terminate the appeal so the eviction can proceed.

Getting Rent the Tenant Posts

In order to obtain rent after a tenant files an appeal, a landlord must file an application with the court so the sums posted by the tenant can be released from escrow. Rule 1008(C)(7).

Have Tenant Problems? Contact Me

If you are a landlord that has a tenant who filed an appeal after you obtained a judgment for possession, feel free to contact me at (484) 362-9286 or email me.

Don’t let your problem tenant take advantage of you. I can help you file a complaint in court, terminate the tenant’s appeal, proceed with the eviction, obtain any rent the tenant has posted with the court, and potentially collect the balance of the judgment awarded.

My office is located in Bethlehem, PA and I practice in Northampton County and Lehigh County.  I am happy to serve clients located in the Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton areas.

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