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STROUDSBURG: In my last blog I told you how a tenant can file against a landlord. This blog will discuss how a landlord can file. As with this entire series, this is not legal advice, simply an overview of what happens at the magistrate courts through our experience as a property management company.

As a landlord, there are three specific items that you need to be aware of. The first is that you must give the tenant a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit. This can be served either in person, by posting or by regular or certified mail. It “sets the stage” for the rest of your filing. In that Pay Rent or Quit (there are a number of forms that you can find online which will show you a sample Pay Rent or Quit) it must state the number of days you give the tenant to make good on the rent. At NEPA Management Associates, we typically, we use five (5) days. Beware of leases in which the landlord claims that the tenant waives the right to notice; they do not holdup in the Pocono magistrate system.

The second piece of mail that is then delivered to the tenant is a 10-day Notice. That notice is (1) sent via certified mail; (2) sent by regular mail; (3) and posted or hand-delivered to the tenant. While some courts require all three of these delivery methods, you’re safest to do all three as opposed to doing only two or one of the three methods. Pocono magistrate courts like to see ample delivery.

If you do not do this, you run the risk that the filing may be thrown out and you need to start over again.

You will then receive a hearing date from the magistrate court. You must attend that hearing. If the tenant pays in full prior to the hearing date, you can dismiss the case. If they pay a partial rent, do not discontinue the filing; simply adjust the amounts due when you get to court. Since it is a landlord/tenant action, you must attend; you cannot simply file and let the court do all the work, like when you file a judgment.

At NEPA Management Associates, we like to add one month’s rent to the filing assuming that the case maybe continued or not promptly heard by the court. That way, you’re not going in and filing simply on past rent, but it should make you current with the rent that is due. That’s an office policy and I am not sure that it is something that we would advise people outside of our office to do.

At the hearing you need to show the judge (1) of the fully executed lease; (2) copies of the tenants’ ledger which show what payments have and have not been made and (3) any and all documents that you have sent to the tenant regarding the non-payment of rent. Don’t try to skip any of these steps; it’s essential that you prove your case.

If you have all of this information, then you should be successful at court. The judge will give the tenant two options on which they may appeal. They can appeal the court’s decision for possession within 10 days or for the monetary decision within 30 days. Nothing can be done during the appeal time period.

After the appeal period, then you can “re-file” at the magisterial court for possession of the unit in the event they have not done that. That will require additional funds to be paid and it will have the sheriff go out and physically evict the tenant from the property. Hopefully, the tenant will have left prior to that and you don’t need to go through the final act of the eviction.

On the Web
There are a number of sites available that give you more information and copies of the various forms to notify a tenant of a delinquency. The actual filing form you can get from the magisterial court. Remember, court is in that district that’s closest to where the unit is located. Any of the sites will give you the documentation that you’ll need.

You can use a Management company to perform this service for you; at NEPA Management Associates we handle such cases whether we represent you in collecting your rent or not. You must simply have to provide us the proper documentation that we need to be successful at court. Our track record is probably close to 90%+. We pride ourselves on being good at what we do.

Well, that’s how you file against a tenant who doesn’t pay rent. One thing to remember, the key to having a good tenant comes really in the very beginning. If you have a tenant that has good credit, good housekeeping, and good references, has been at their job for 2 years or longer, the risk that you run of them becoming delinquent is drastically reduced. It’s all in the application.

I’ve been a landlord for close to 40 years now and absolutely love it. Once real estate investing and income properties get into your blood… it’s hard to get out.

I hope you make a lot of money with your investments.

Thomas R. Wilkins is CEO of NEPA Management Associates, Inc. a full service management company located in the Poconos. NEPA Management Associates has a number of residential and commercial income producing properties that they manage for third party owners and/or lenders. NEPA Management has been in business for the past 20 years. During that time they have represented numerous owners and tenants in magisterial court.