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How to Evict a Roommate in Pennsylvania

Things usually start out well. A couple of friends decided to become roommates to share expenses or someone needed a place to stay. Things were fine for awhile, but after time, they started to go downhill and now it's time for a roommate to leave. Except he or she won't. So what to do now? How is a roommate evicted in Pennsylvania?


Evicting a Pennsylvania Roommate is Tricky

As living expenses rise, more people are living together as a way to save money. As a result, more people are discovering that living with a roommate is not all it's cracked up to be.


Some roommates want to party all night. Others think house rules apply to everyone but them. In Pennsylvania, getting rid of a obnoxious roommate, though, depends on a number of factors.

Is the Roommate on the Lease?

If the roommate is on the lease, then the only person who can kick him or her out is 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 the roommate is threatening or is violent. If this is the case, then the court can issue a restraing order and the roommate must leave immediately.

It's worth remembering that a roommate on the lease is actually a co-tenant and has much right to live in the rental space as any other roommate.

Now What?

Unfortunately for people who live in Pennsylvania, options are limited if a roommate is on the lease. The roommate can be asked to leave, but this doesn't always work and can lead to more conflict.

If the roommate signed an agreement outlining rules of the house, everything from noise limits to cleaning duties and he or she breaks the agreement, then the roommate probably cannot be be evicted but can be sued for damages in small claims court.

Examples might include a roommate having loud parties that cause work interference or the roommate not paying his or her share of the utilities.

renters rights

While these situations could be grounds for suing, the risk is that suing the roommate may anger him or her but not enough to make him or her move out.

Talking to the landlord to see if he can get the roommate to budge is an option, 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 landlord the landlord sees that the roommate 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.

It is important to be careful, though, because the roommate could claim that the dog belongs to all roommates and the landlord could decide to evict everyone in the rental space. In Pennsylvania, this is particularly true if the 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.

The landlord might be a reasonable person (or corporation), though, and decide to evict only the roommate. This can take time. The landlord must follow the law, which involves giving the roommate notice of the eviction and time to remedy the situation.


For example, if the grounds for the eviction are that the roommate has a dog and pets are forbidden according to the lease, then the landlord has to give the roommate adequate time to find the dog a new home. If the roommate 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 others in the house.

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

Things That Can't Be Done with Regard to a Pennsylvania Roommate

No matter how annoying or obnoxious a roommate is, there are things that the state of Pennsylvania says cannot be legally done to make him or her vacate the home.

For example, no one cannot threaten him or her. The locks cannot be changed. The roommate's personal property cannot be taken or hidden. If any of this happens, then whoever did it may be looking at criminal charges. No roommate is worth that.

Is the Roommate Not on the Lease?

If the roommate is not on the lease then there are more options for getting rid of him or her. Be careful here, though. If the roommate is not on the lease and the landlord does not know that he or she is in the home, then other people in the rental unit might be breaking the lease terms and end up facing eviction.


If, though, the roommate is in the rental unit with the landlord's express or implicit permission - many landlords will let a girlfriend or boyfriend stay in the home without signing the lease, or they will turn a blind eye to an extra tenant - then the roommate can be evicted.

There are, though, rules to follow, particularly in Pennsylvania. Even without his or her name on a written lease the roommate is still treated as if he or she has a month-to-month lease.


If the eviction is for failure to pay rent, then the roommate must be given at least 10 days notice to leave. If the eviction is for something other than non-payment of rent, then the roommate must be given at least 15 days notice if he or she has lived in the renatl space for less than a year. He must be given 30 days notice if the roommate has lived in the home for more than one year.

This deadline must be put in writing and say that the living arrangement is being terminated and the roommate is expected to be out of the property within 10, 15 or 30 days. It should be explained why the roommate has to go.

Pennsylvania law states that the eviction notice must be hand delivered or posted in a conspicuous place at the leased property. The notice should also be sent to the roommate via certified mail so that the person initiating the removal knows that the roomate got the notice.

If the roommate ignores the eviction notice or thinks he or she has grounds to stay in the unit, then it will likely be necessary to go to court. Pennsylvania law requires that each tenant and landlord be represented by an attorney during this process. Documentation should be gathered and given to the lawyer. The roommate may end up staying in the home if he wins in court.

If the landlord is aware of the roommate and is easily approachable, then he might be willing to evict the roommate. The downside with this that is the landlord - even a tolerant one - might just decide to evict all roommates and start fresh. He would have legal grounds to do so if the roommate is not on the lease and considered an illegal tenant.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is evicting a roommate 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 endeavor.

Get Help

Ask a Pennsylvania Eviction Law Question, Get an Answer ASAP!

If, though, it is time to evict a roommate, then it is a good idea to talk to an experienced Pennsylvania eviction lawyer before proceeding. One small misstep could mean that everyone in the rental unit, not just the offending roommate, could end up looking for a new home.



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