Lehigh Valley Legal Services: Tenants' Rights

Your Rights and the Eviction Process (rev 7/96)

When Can My Landlord Sue to Evict Me?

A landlord can sue you if you have not moved out after getting an eviction notice. But some tenants do not have the right to get an eviction notice - read on!

How Much Notice Does the Landlord Have to Give Me?

It depends whether you have a written lease or just a verbal lease. If there is a written lease, the amount of notice is written in the lease. The lease is allowed to say that the landlord doesn't have to give you any notice at all. It all depends what the lease says.

If you and your landlord just have a verbal agreement about renting your home, you are entitled to get a written notice if he wants to evict you. If the reason the landlord wants you out is because you are behind in rent, or if your eviction is based upon a drug conviction, the landlord must give you 10 days' notice. If you are being evicted for other reasons, the landlord must give you 15 days' notice.

Should I Go to The District Justice Hearing?

By all means, yes! Especially if you have a "defense" or "counterclaim" against your landlord. You should go even if you made an agreement with your landlord or your landlord said he was going to cancel the hearing. (He may not follow through like he promised!) If you cannot go on the scheduled date, call the District Justice and ask if it can be rescheduled.

I Admit I Owe Rent But I Need More Time to Move.

You have no right to demand more time in order to find a place and move. If you owe rent, your landlord has an absolute right to have you evicted. It doesn't matter whether you got behind in rent because you were sick and lost work or because you spent your money on other things.

However, maybe you can make an agreement with your landlord to let you stay longer. Write down any agreement you make and ask your landlord to sign it. That way you'll have proof if he tries to have you evicted anyway.

My Situation Is Special - I Can't Be Evicted, Right?

Wrong. For example, even if you're a senior citizen or you have several children, you have the same responsibilities as other tenants. If you're behind in your rent or you broke your lease some other way, the landlord can evict you.

However, if your landlord has singled you out because of your age, sex, race, national origin, religion, disability, or family status, you might have some special protections. Consult a lawyer if this happens to you.

What Happens If I Can't Pay a Money Judgment Against Me?

The landlord has the option to "execute" against your belongings. This means a constable will come to your house and tag your property for sale (by giving you a notice or posting it on your door). This is called a "levy." After a levy, you cannot move or sell the property. A sale will then be scheduled; you will get at least six (6) days' notice.

Can I Stop a Sale of My Belongings?

You can stop or put off a sale in several ways. You can file a "Claim for Exemption" at the District Justice's office. (The law allows you keep, as exempt, up to $300 worth of property, or you can take $300 in cash from the proceeds of the sale instead.) If you want to keep your property, the sale will be canceled and there will be a hearing by the District Justice to decide how much your property is worth. If the District Justice decides your property is worth more than $300, the sale will be rescheduled.

To stop the sale, you can also pay the landlord the amount of the judgment. You should make payment through the constable, not directly to your landlord. Call the District Justice's office to arrange payment. Also, you can consider filing for bankruptcy. You need to consult a lawyer about this option. It may or may not be a good choice for you.

Is There Any Way to Stop My Being Evicted?

If you are being evicted for the sole reason you are behind in your rent, the law allows you to pay the amount of the money judgment up to the time of the scheduled eviction and save your tenancy. You need to pay the money you owe to the constable, not directly to your landlord. Call the District Justice's office to arrange payment. (If the judgment includes rent for the future, consult with a lawyer. This may not be legal.)

If you don't have the money to pay the judgment, you can try to make an agreement with your landlord to make payments over time. If you can come to an agreement, write it down and ask your landlord to sign it. That way you'll have proof if she tries to have you evicted anyway.

You may also be able to file for bankruptcy. You need to consult a lawyer about this option. It may or may not be a good choice for you.

How Much Time Do I Have After the Hearing to Move?

You will have at least 21 days before you have to move out. The actual number of days depends on what the landlord does. He can do nothing until at least 10 days have passed following the District Justice's decision. He can request an "Order for Possession" from the District Justice on the 11th day or any day after that.

The landlord will send you the Order for Possession and a constable or sheriff will serve you with the Order by handing it to you or posting it on your door. It will give you a final 10 days to move. On or after the 11th day following service of the Order for Possession, the constable or police can physically evict you if you haven't moved out. They can change the locks and put your stuff outside.

My Landlord Has Threatened to Lock Me Out. Can He?

The law does not allow a landlord to lock a tenant out without going to court first. If your landlord illegally locks you out (or turns off your heat or utilities), consult a lawyer immediately. With a lawyer's help, a Judge may force your landlord to let you move back in or turn your heat back on.

I Don't Have Anywhere to Go. What Should I Do?

You need to find a place for both you and your belongings. Do not leave your property behind. Your landlord is not required to keep it for you and if he does, he can charge you storage fees. (However, he cannot hold your stuff hostage for the rent you owe.) Call around to storage companies or make arrangements with family or friends to keep it for you.

If you have not been able to get a new place to live, you can contact the local shelters. Here is a list of some shelters and how to contact them:


Sixth Street Shelter
Families with children only

Salvation Army
Single women; women with children

Allentown Rescue Mission
Men only


New Bethany Ministries

Center City Ministry Shelter
Men only

Bethlehem YMCA
Men only


Easton Area Neighborhood Center
Families with children only

Third Street Alliance/Easton YWCA
Single women; women with children

Safe Harbor
Single men and women

The law often changes. Each case is different.
This pamphlet is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.