You purchased a property at Sheriff’s or Tax Sale and the prior owner is still living there. You want to begin eviction. It used to be that you went to a lawyer and were told to file an Ejectment Complaint in Common Pleas Court.

Let’s face it the Court of Common Pleas is bound by the Rules of Civil Procedure, which are not designed for speed. I have seen ejectment actions take from 8 to 28 months to work their way through pleadings, discovery, motions and trial.

The Old Secret Sauce

There used to be a secret to short circuit all the ejectment delays. Since there is a new Secret Sauce, I’ll let you in on the old trick. We would file the ejectment action and plead the occupant had no right to be in the house because he or she was not a tenant. The occupant, usually without aid of a lawyer, would file a knee-jerk Answer asserting he or she was a tenant. Then we would run over to the MDJ (small claims) Court and file under the Landlord Tenant Law. This got the occupant out in a matte of 45 days.

The New Secret Sauce

The Pennsylvania Superior Court, in the case of Assouline V. Reynolds, 184 A. 3d 970 (Pa. Super. 2018), changed EVERYTHING. It used to be that lawyers argued Magisterial District Judges could not handle ejectment because 1) it required a determination of who held title and 2) the occupant is not a tenant. Here are a few snippets from the opinion: “Initially, we reject Appellant’s suggestion that the magisterial district judge in this matter was deciding which party had proper title over the subject property.” …….. “Here, the trial court concluded that although the parties did not have a formal landlord/tenant agreement, the magisterial district judge had subject matter jurisdiction over the eviction proceedings. We agree.” REVERSED BY THE SUPREME COURT in November 2019

The Result

Eviction following a Sheriff’s Sale or Tax Sale is going to become a MUCH shorter process for those in the know. There are still a few tricks we hold up our sleeves to address what happens if the occupant appeals for the MDJ decision. WELL WE ARE BACK TO THE OLD METHOD. THIS NEEDS A LEGISLATIVE CORRECTION. THE SUPREME COURT CANNOT LEGISLATE.

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