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How to Evict a Family Member in Pennsylvania

Things probably started out okay. A family member - maybe a parent, a sibling, a child, a cousin or anyone else - needed a place to stay or you needed help with rent. Now, though, the situation has deteriorated and it's time for your family member to leave. Except he or she won't. So what do you do? How do you evict a family member in Pennsylvania?

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Evicting a Family Member in Pennsylvania is Tricky

As living expenses rise, more people are living together as a way to save money. This includes family members. Usually having a family member as a roommate is intended as a temporary solution.

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Yet as time goes on, short term turns into long term and the family member shows no signs of moving out. Or maybe he or she just quit paying rent. Or he or she is partying too much.

But actually getting your related roommate out of your Pennsylvania home depends on a number of factors.

Is Your Family Member on the Lease?

If your family member is on the lease with you, then you have no authority to kick him or her out. That authority lies directly with the landlord, but even a landlord needs a legally valid reason to throw someone out if that person is on the lease. These reasons usually include not paying rent, using the home for illegal purposes or otherwise breaking the terms of the lease in some way.

The exception to this is if your family member is threatening you or is violent toward you. If this is the case, then you can get a restraining order and your family member must leave immediately.

It's worth remembering that a family member on the lease with you is actually a co-tenant and has much right to live in the apartment/house as you do.

Now What?

Unfortunately, if you live in Pennsylvania, then your options are limited if your family member is on the lease. You can try asking him or her to leave, but this doesn't always work and can lead to more conflict.

If you and your family member signed an agreement outlining rules of the house, everything from noise limits to cleaning duties and he or she breaks the agreement, then you probably cannot evict but you can sue for damages in small claims court.

Examples include your family member having loud parties that keep you from getting your work done if you work at home or your family member not paying his or her share of the utilities.

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While these situations could be grounds for suing, the risk is that if you sue, you may anger your family member but not enough to make him or her move out.

You can try talking to your landlord to see if he can get your family member to budge, but most landlords are content to leave things be as long as they are getting their rent and their property is not being damaged.

An exception would be if you can show the landlord that your family member is breaking the lease in some way, such as selling drugs from the home (illegal use of the property) or has a dog when pets are specifically forbidden in the lease.

You have to be careful, though, because your family member could claim that the dog belongs to both of you and your landlord could decide to evict you and your family member. In Pennsylvania, this is particularly true if your lease has a joint and/or several liability clause, which essentially means that all the tenants on a lease can be held responsible for what other tenants do.

Your landlord might be a reasonable person (or corporation), though, and decide to evict only your family member If this is the case, understand that it will take time. Your landlord must follow the law, which involves giving your family member notice of the eviction and time to remedy the situation.

For example, if the grounds for the eviction are that your family member has a dog and pets are forbidden according to the lease, then your landlord has to give your family member adequate time to find the dog a new home. If your family member does this, then he or she cannot be evicted. He or she can stay in the home and chances are he or she will not be happy with you.

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It is possible, too, that your family member may just ignore the eviction notice and decide to stay in the home. In this case, your landlord will have to go to court to ask a judge to tell your family member to go. If the judge agrees, then the sheriff will come to escort your family member out of the property. If, though, your landlord loses in court, then your family member can stay.

Things You Cannot Do with Regard to a Pennsylvania Family Member Roommate

No matter how much you want your family member to leave, there are things that the state of Pennsylvania says you cannot legally do to make him or her vacate the home.

For example, you cannot threaten him or her. You cannot change the locks. You cannot take your family member's personal property. If you do, you may be looking at criminal charges. No family member is worth that.

Is Your Family Member Not on the Lease?

If your family member is not on the lease then you have more options for getting rid of him or her.

Be careful here, though. If your family member is not on the lease because he or she came to stay with you without your landlord knowing, then you might be the one breaking the lease terms and end up facing eviction.

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If, though, you have a family member with your landlord's express or implicit permission - many landlords will let a family member stay in the home without signing the lease, or they will turn a blind eye to an extra tenant - then you can evict your family member.

There are, though, rules to follow, particularly in Pennsylvania.

If the eviction is for failure to pay rent, then you must give your roommate at least 10 days notice to leave.

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If the eviction is for something other than non-payment of rent, then you must give your family member at least 15 days notice if he or she has lived with you for less than a year. You must give 30 days notice if your family member has lived with you for more than one year.

You must put this deadline in writing. Say that you are terminating the living arrangement and expect your roommate out of the property within 10, 15 or 30 days. Explain why you want your roommate out.

Pennsylvania law states that the eviction notice must be hand delivered or posted in a conspicuous place at the leased property. Also send the notice to your roommate via certified mail so that you know he or she received it. Keep a copy.

If your family member ignores the eviction notice or thinks he or she has grounds to stay in the unit, then you will likely have to go to court. Pennsylvania law requires that each tenant and landlord be represented by an attorney during this process. Gather any and all documentation that you have and give it to your lawyer. Also be prepared to be stuck with your family member and have to pay his legal costs if you lose the case.

If your landlord is aware of your family member and you are on good terms with your landlord, then you might ask your landlord to help you evict your family member. The downside with this that is your landlord - even a tolerant one - might just decide to evict you and your family member and start fresh with new tenants. He would have legal grounds to do so if your family member is not on the lease because you have broken the lease by having the illegal tenant.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is evicting a family member in Pennsylvania is not easy. Evicting anyone anywhere is not easy, even for landlords with solid legal grounds. It is a complicated, contentious and often costly process.

Get Help

Ask an Eviction Law Question, Get an Answer ASAP!

If, though, you have decided that you have no choice but to evict your family member, then it is a good idea to talk to an experienced Pennsylvania eviction lawyer before proceeding. One small misstep could mean that you are the one having to look for a new home. You also don't want to cause an irreparable rift in the family. A good lawyer can help you resolve the situation while keeping family ties intact.

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