Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Law: Holdover Tenancy and Eviction

Under Pennsylvania law, a holdover tenant is an
individual who “unjustifiably refuses to surrender possession of a leasehold
premises at the end of the term of the lease.”  U.S.
Gypsum Co. v. Schlavo Bros., Inc.
, 668 F.2d 172, 182 (3d Cir. 1981) (citing
Restatement (Second) of Property, Landlord and Tenant § 14.1 n.1 (1977)).  A landlord may sue a holdover tenant for
possession and recovery of damages suffered due to the tenant’s refusal to
surrender the property.  See id.

“When a tenant holds over the
landlord has a ‘choice of remedies.’  He
[the landlord] might have looked upon the tenant as a trespasser and summarily
ejected him, or he might have treated him in holding over as a tenant by
sufferance, or he might have regarded the holding over as a continuance under
the terms of the lease.”  H. F. D. No. 26, Inc. v. Middletown
Merchandise Mart
, 467 F.2d 253, 255 (3d Cir. 1972) (quoting City of Pittsburgh v. Charles Zubik &
Sons
, 171 A.2d 776, 778 (Pa.
1961)).  “Once a landlord has exercised his choice of
remedies and determined how he plans to treat a holdover tenant, he may not
alter his position.”  H.F.D., supra at 256 (citing Emery v. Metzner, 156 A.2d 627, 631(Pa.Super.
1959)).

A landlord who repossesses rental
property through eviction suspends the tenant’s
obligation to pay rent.  Walnut-Juniper
Co. v. McKee, Berger & Mansueto, Inc.
, 344 A.2d 549, 551 (Pa.Super. 1975).  Once a
landlord retakes possession from the lessee tenant, the landlord is precluded
from a claim of holdover tenancy as a matter of law.  See Restatement
(Second) of Property, Landlord and Tenant § 1.2 (stating: “[a] landlord-tenant relationship
exists only if the landlord transfers the right to possession of the leased
property.”). 

Although the termination of the
landlord-tenant relationship may restrict a landlord from asserting a claim of
holdover tenancy, a landlord may pursue other legal remedies.  For example, a landlord who reclaims
possession of the premises is still entitled to recover damages if the former
tenant leaves behind personal property.  See Restatement (Second) of Property, Landlord
and Tenant § 12.3 cmt. l (stating that landlord may recover from tenant cost of
removing and storing personal property left behind, and for any other damages
he sustains).

If you think that you might have a claim—as either a landlord or tenant—for
legal remedies stemming from a landlord-tenant relationship, please contact the
experienced lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green in Philadelphia, who are
licensed to practice law in all courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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