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LANDLORD AND TENANT: A few things to remember about appealing from the Magistrate.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | October 22, 2014

No. 1,115

Image: landlords scoop.wordpress

Image: landlords scoop.wordpress

Here are some things for lawyers and their clients to be aware of when filing appeals from the Magisterial District Judge in landlord tenant cases. Yes, this stuff can get complex.  Thats why God made some of us with the aptitude to be lawyers.

1. Appeal in an action for possession must be filed ten days after the decision.  This applies to appeals by landlords, too.  Landlords don’t lose too often at the magistrate level, but when they are seeking possession, they too must file in ten days. Of course, if the tenant has moved out or if either party wants to appeal damages only, an appeal of the damage part of the award can be made within 30 days after the magistrate’s decision.

2.  When the tenth day falls on a weekend or court holiday, the last day to appeal falls on the next day that the Prothonotary (Department of Court Records in Allegheny County) is open for business. Some days you might think are court holidays are not — and vice versa. A lot of them, like Columbus Day, are statutory Monday Holidays. Moreover, the courts may occasionally be closed on days when the Prothonotary or Department of Court Records is open.

3.  If a tenant wants to appeal in forma pauperis, it is necessary for him or her to obtain a court order from the motions judge. Ideally, you should arrive at the Prothonotary or DCR at or before 9 AM and have enough time to take care of everything.  They will give you the forms to take to court.  Be prepared to wait, possibly an hour or more. Allow yourself the full morning to get everything done. Also, be aware that motions court may be cancelled on certain days, including certain Fridays.

4.  It is hard to get information on the telephone. In Allegheny County, if you call the main number, you will get a an array of choices — all on tape. You may have to go in person to have your question answered. Don’t wait until the last day to go in in person.

5.  It is not a bad idea to check the docket on the day after filing.  There may be mistakes in spelling, addresses or other important information.

6.  The affidavit regarding federally subsidized housing is often misunderstood by tenants filing appeals. This affidavit only applies when the federal government is paying part of the rent.  If you pay half and your girlfriend/boyfriend pays half, this affidavit does not apply to you.  While submitting the form may initially cause you to pay less into escrow, if the error is discovered later, you may not be able to catch up on the overdue escrow payments.  That could lead to termination of the lease.

7.  If the magistrate decided both a landlord tenant case and a cross-claim, it may be necessary to appeal both cases separately. If the cross-claim is not appealed, it stands. And it is possible to appeal the cross-claim and not the landlord-tenant case from which it arose.  Of course, there are two separate appeal forms and two separate appeal fees.

8.  If you do appeal both the LT case and the cross-claim, you will want to present a motion to have them consolidated before they go to trial.  Otherwise, the odds are excellent that they will be scheduled for trial on separate days.  This can also lead to inconsistent decisions and even double awards.



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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