Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Landlord and Tenant: Multiple Appeals

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | June 19, 2011

No. 631

Landlords and Tenants should be aware that not only can a decision by the Magisterial District Judge be appealed to Arbitration, but that the arbitrator’s award can be appealed again to Common Pleas Court.  Moreover, either party could request a jury trial.  After that, the case could be appealed again to the Superior Court.

At each level the rules of the game become more complex and the trier of the case becomes more unforgiving of the lack of procedural knowledge.  Representation by a lawyer is recommended on the arbitration level, since lack of knowledge of the rules of civil procedure and evidence can get you into trouble, as can your lack of experience in presenting your case. While it is possible to win a case without a lawyer before a judge, too many unfamiliar situations are likely to turn up.  It is virtually impossible to try a case before a jury without a lawyer.  The same is true concerning an appeal to the Superior Court.  There is just too much to learn and no time to learn it.

Appeals to arbitration are becoming quite common, in part because tenants facing imminent eviction have nowhere to move. The eviction is postponed so long as the tenant makes rental payments into escrow.  But appeals to a judge, once fairly rare, are becoming more common, too.  This move can put the landlord in a financial bind, since the expenses (taxes, mortgage) go on, while the revenues stop.  When a landlord is experiencing hardship, the Court may grant a release of escrow funds through a motion.  Motions involving LT cases seem to be turning up more often, too.  Thus, you could have four hearings before the case is over — Magistrate, arbitration, motions and trial before a judge.  This involves time and delay, of course, but it will often involve attorneys fees.

Of course, you opponent might drag you all of the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. However, the Court must accept the appeal, something that is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain.

The point is, you must be prepared for a potentially long ride.


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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