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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.