What is the legal eviction process?
To lock you out legally, your landlord must:
- Apply for the Eviction Diversion Program.
- File a complaint against you in Eviction Court.
- Get a judgment for possession against you in Eviction Court.
- File the writ of possession and alias writ of possession.
- Schedule a lockout date.
- A sheriff or landlord-tenant officer will complete the lockout and give you a blue eviction notice or post it on the property.
After a judgment in court, you have at least 21 days before you can be legally evicted.
What is an illegal lockout?
It is illegal for a landlord to evict you by:
- changing the locks without a sheriff or a landlord-tenant officer
- removing doors or windows from the house
- turning off your utilities
- removing your possessions
- using force
- any other means except a sheriff or landlord-tenant officer
What do I do if I have been illegally locked out?
- Confirm that the lockout was illegal. Call Municipal Court at 215-686-7334 between 9AM and 4:30PM to see if your landlord followed the legal eviction process. You can also tell if your landlord followed the legal eviction process by searching the eviction court docket.
- If the lockout was illegal, call the police from the property by dialing 911. Show the officer your lease, rent receipts, utility bills or photo ID to prove residency. The police should respond according to Philadelphia Police Directive 3.17.
- If the police officer does not assist you, call 911 again and ask for a supervisor to come to the scene. You can reference the name of the law—Prohibition Against Self-Help Eviction Practices Philadelphia Code 9-1600.
What if I still need help?
- File a complaint with the PA Attorney General at 800-441-2555 or attorneygeneral.gov/submit-a-complaint/consumer-complaint
- File a complaint with the Fair Housing Commission at 601 Walnut St, Suite 300-South, 215-686-4670 or Fairhousingcomm@phila.gov. Visit Can I file a Fair Housing Commission Complaint? for more information.
- File a complaint against a responding officer with the Citizens Police Oversight Commission.
- Call the Philly Tenant Hotline at 267-443-2500 and press 3 for legal help and information.
How do I sue my landlord for an illegal eviction?
- Send a demand letter. See this flyer in English or Español for a sample letter.
- You will need the landlord’s name and address.
- Go to Municipal Court at 1339 Chestnut St to file a Small Claims Complaint.
- File an “IFP” to not pay court costs.
- You can sue for actual damages, up to $2000 punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs.
- You will need evidence to prove your claim like documents/photos.
- Be careful. Your landlord can try to countersue you in court.