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Department of Court Records Gives Added Scrutiny to Praecipes to Terminate Supersedeas

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | December 28, 2015

No. 1,240

Summary:  The Department of Court Records now requires approval by a supervisor before issuing a certificate to terminate supersedeas in a Landlord-Tenant Case.  It also requires the Landlord to pay the cashier before the certificate is released.

Image: Dauphin County

Image: Dauphin County

As every landlord knows, when a tenant appeals the award of possession to arbitration from the magisterial district judge (MDJ), the tenant must pay money into escrow.  If the tenant obtains an order of court authorizing him/her to proceed in forma paupers (IFP), the tenant pays no filing fees and must pay the MDJ’s award into escrow with the DCR (Prothonotary outside Allegheny County) up to a maximum of two month’s rent.  The MDJ makes a finding of the amount of the monthly rent for this purpose. [Reference: Rule 1008.]

The IPF tenant, however, is only required to pay 1/3 of one month’s rent at time of filing and the remaining 2/3 within 20 days.  Thereafter, all tenants are required to pay a full month’s rent each month on the date of the month of the original filing.

So long as the tenant continues to make escrow payments to the DCR, during the pendency of the case, the writ of supersedeas remains in force, preventing the landlord from obtaining possession of the leased premises.

However, if an escrow payment is not made on time, the DCR can terminate the writ of supersedeas.  But before this can happen, the landlord must serve a notice upon the tenant stating that if the escrow payment is not made within 10 days following the notice, the writ of supersedeas may be terminated.

The form of the ten-day notice can be obtained from the DCR, as can the form of the praecipe to terminate supersedeas for failure to make payment.  If you are performing this procedure for the first time, it is strongly recommended that you obtain and scrupulously follow the procedures set forth by the DCR.

The DCR requires a postal certificate of mailing (PS Form 3817), as well as a copy of the ten-day notice, be attached to the praecipe.  When you hand it to the floor person, expect that every detail — including counting the days elapsed — will be carefully checked.  For example, if the payment is due on the 4th of the month, the notice cannot be mailed any earlier than the 5th.  The praecipe cannot be presented until ten days have elapsed — not on the tenth day, but the eleventh day.  In the case of mailing on the 5th, that would be the 16th.  Of course, as with all court filings, if the tenth day falls on a weekend or day when the DCR is closed, the tenant has the next working day (in the case of a weekend, Monday, to make the payment.  Thus, if the 10th day falls on a weekend, the Praecipe cannot be presented until Tuesday.

Don’t be alarmed or offended if the floor person abruptly takes your praecipe to the back.  A supervisor now checks all such filings.  And don’t let it bother you that you are required to pay the cashier and return with a receipt before the floor person will relinquish the certificate.  This is now standard procedure.  According to my sources, certain persons failed to pay, spoiling it for the rest of us.


Afterthought:  Allow a minimum of 30 minutes to complete this procedure.  Long lines can stretch it out to an hour.  Floor people and cashiers go to lunch without being replaced on the line.  Thus, at lunch time in particular, the wait may be longer.  The best bet may be 8:30, but even that is not guaranteed.


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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