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Clifford L. Tuttle Jr.
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Clifford Tuttle’s Answers

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  • For landlord-tenant deposits, is the date marked from when I receive it or post mark date?

    As a tenant, I moved out July 28, and the lease ended July 31. I followed up via email mid-August. I still have not received written word on damages or the deposit as of Sept. 1 (no emails, texts, or letters). As I understand it, 68 PS 250.512 ...

    Clifford’s Answer

    The "mailbox rule" does apply. The date of postmark is the important date, not the day you receive the letter. So, wait a few days. Sometimes the mail is delayed. Of course, when the letter does arrive make sure you save the envelope.

    You will probably have to file suit magistrate's office in order to get the money. They will provide you with the form. They will also charge you a filing which becomes part of your judgment if you win the case.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law

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  • When I renew my lease, would the lease change at all if I don't initial anything but the rent increase?

    I'm breaking my lease and the lease I signed says that the fee is 4 months base rent. The landlord is saying it's 4 months full rent, so the base rent plus ancillary fees. When I renewed my lease I just signed a paper that stated the rent increase...

    Clifford’s Answer

    You are looking for a loophole but from what you state, there does not appear to be one. A lease renewal document can incorporate the original lease and raise the rent without the lease itself being attached. Plus, they are not going to accept less than the full amount of the increased rent for you to exit the lease. If you try to do something else, they will probably sue you. If there is an acceleration clause in the lease, they might sue you for the remaining rent under the entire lease. Be careful.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

    See question 
  • We went to court and evicted a tenant. Already got a judgment for back rent. Now need to get further judgment for damages. How?

    After tenant was out, we discover the house had been trashed. Thousands of dollars of damages remain. Can I supplement my prior judgment or do I have to file a whole new lawsuit?

    Clifford’s Answer

    You will need to file a new suit with the magistrate and get a new judgment. This will not be a landlord tenant suit, but a civil suit for damages.

    Was there a security deposit? Did they give you a forwarding address? If so, did you send them a letter setting forth the damages. If they did give you an address, hopefully you sent them a letter specifying your claim for damages to the house. If you haven't, and thirty days have not passed since the tenants moved out, you should do it immediately. Send the letter by regular mail, but get a certificate of mailing (Postal Service Form 3817) to prove that you mailed it on time. You usually have to ask for this form at the window at the Post Office -- they don't put them out because people use them for scratch paper. While it is not mandatory to obtain a certificate of mailing, it is excellent proof. Its the date of mailing, not the date of receipt that must be proven, so don't use certified mail.

    Of course, if they didn't give you a forwarding address, you can still sue, assuming you can find out where they live. As you know, they can appeal, so it may take time to ultimately win the case.

    Then, you must find a way to collect. If you obtain a judgment at the magistrate level, you should transfer it to the Allegheny County Department of Court Records. This way, it will appear on the public record and they should have to take care of it if they want to buy a house or a car in the future.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

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  • MY HOME WAS SOLD AT SHERIFF'S SALE BUYER JUST REC'D DEED, HE PLACED AT NOTE ON MY DOOR SAYING TO VACATE , HOW MUCH TIME DO

    I HAVE TO GET OUT AND WHAT CAN I DO

    Clifford’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    In order to force you out, new owner would have to file a new action in ejectment, serve it, obtain judgment and get a writ of possession. He would then have to get the sheriff to evict you. You have enough time to find a rental property and move. You should start on it immediately. Let the new owner know what you are doing. If he tries to short-cut the process by self-help, you need a lawyer. You may be eligible for legal services or a pro bono assistance program. It is worth the inquiry.

    Starting over is hard, but the hardest part is getting started. Good luck.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

    See question 
  • I want to have the house remain on the market. What are my options with only Power of Attorney and no Will? How do I reconcile

    My father recently died with no Will and is divorced. He has a house currently being advertised for sale in the state of Virginia. The ex-wife has already contacted the realtor demanding that he remove the house from the market. Since the divorc...

    Clifford’s Answer

    You need an attorney. You cannot address the situation yourself.

    Even though your father died without a will, an estate can and should be raised to deal with this problem. The estate will have to be raised in the county and state where he was domiciled (permanently residing) at the time of his death. Even that fact can be an issue in some cases. Get a lawyer to help you get this sorted out. Do it soon.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pissburgh, PA

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  • Being served with eviction

    Doesn't the landlord have to serve me before filing with court

    Clifford’s Answer

    However, if you mean does he have to serve you with a complaint, the court does that after filing.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

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  • Tenant Landlord situation

    Hi, first of all, thanks for your help. I am a landlord who is dealing with a tenant from hell. The tenant paid all the requirement deposit money at once in the beginning: security deposit, first month's rent and last month's rent. However, afte...

    Clifford’s Answer

    You only have a potential tenant from hell at the moment. I have seen them much worse. However, you don't trust him and are concerned that the situation may become more serious over time.

    The good news is that up to now you have been paid, albeit late. The bad news is that you may be required by law to make some or all of these repairs if they make the premises uninhabitable. Habitability issues arise from such things as broken furnaces, sewage back up, vermin and the like -- things that can make a property unlivable. You suspect that he is breaking things to make repair demands, but such an accusation may be very hard to prove.

    Make it clear to him verbally that his pattern of being late each month is not acceptable. After the rent is late each month, deliver (don't mail) a notice that you intend to file an eviction proceeding with the magistrate if the rent is not paid in ten days. State that if you file an eviction, he will be responsible for the filing fees. Do it every month if you have to. And then, when the rent is not paid in ten days, file the complaint. It will cost you around $150.00. But if you threaten and don't do it, you won't solve the problem.

    When a tenant starts out being significantly late each month, it is probably only a matter of time before he goes into the second month. However, you may be able to break him of the habit by not permitting the first month to go by without payment. It requires work and possibly lost rent and filing fees on your part, but it may save you more money in the long run.

    Of course, if he pays the rent and filing fees, he stays. But you may have to go through the same procedure next month.

    Make sure that you do not permit the lease to automatically renew. If written notice is required in the lease to stop automatic renewal, do it.

    How long does it take to evict? In my locality, if he does not appeal the magistrate's ruling and you act promptly, about a month. It may be longer in Philadelphia. 1 -2 weeks for the hearing to be scheduled. Ten days for appeal. If there is no appeal, you file the eviction papers, which are posted by the constable. Your tenant then has ten days to pay or you can schedule a lock out with the assistance of a constable. You must be prepared to change the locks, the constable just keeps the peace.

    If he appeals the magistrate's ruling, it may take much longer. It may be two months or more before the arbitration hearing. However, the tenant is required to make rent payments into an escrow account administered by the Prothonotary while the appeal is pending. If he fails to do so, you can terminate his occupancy by following certain procedures established in the Rules of Court.

    Worst case -- he has the right to appeal again to a judge. Few do this, but I have had it happen. If the tenant thinks he has a viable habitability defense, he may appeal and even ask for a jury. Tenants who are trying to stay in a school district until the end of the academic year may do it too.

    Good luck.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

    See question 
  • Can we void a lease agreement due to a flea infestation (uninhabitable) Lease just signed the day before!

    We just signed a 1 year lease for a home. The day after signing the lease we entered the home to clean before moving in and discovered the house completely infested with fleas. We NEVER would have signed if we knew of this issue. We have not moved...

    Clifford’s Answer

    From a practical perspective, do you have someplace else to live? Do you know what it takes to eradicate fleas? (I don't) could it be done in an empty house with a single treatment? Or would multiple treatments be required?

    Have you talked to the landlord? Tell him that you cannot move your belongings into the house because it is flea infested and the fleas will soon be laying eggs in your clothes, furniture, etc. Ask him to treat it immediately. If he refuses, you will have to take the risk that he will sue you under the lease and you will have to defend yourself at a magistrate's hearing.

    You could also pay to treat the fleas yourself and deduct the cost plus the lost days of occupancy. If the landlord disputes this, you could end up in court. I think you should win, but that depends on the magistrate and upon how well you present your case. I suggest you hire a lawyer with landlord-tenant experience.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

    See question 
  • Id like to know is do I have rights to claim property that we have taken care of for 12 yrs and how do we claim it

    My husband and I own our own property and home we bought it in 2003 and we have been taken care of the land on the other side of our property since we bought our land and the previous owners of our property told us that as long as we take care of ...

    Clifford’s Answer

    No. You must have adverse possession for 21 years. Moreover, the facts you recite show a lack of one of the elements at least -- hostility. You have a deal with the true owner. If you filed a lawsuit to claim this land, such as a quiet title action, you would lose. Perhaps you can buy the land at a reasonable price.

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

    See question 
  • Landlord trying to evict for roaches found 9 months AFTER I moved in

    My apartment had an infestation. No idea where they came from I have lived here for 9 months and never saw any. They came to exterminate. My apartment had the most (ground floor above basement) not only have they been verbally abusive they are now...

    Clifford’s Answer

    Absolutely you have a chance!

    The landlord has a duty to provide you with a habitable apartment. Your landlord has it backwards. He has the duty to eradicate the roaches. Assuming that he cannot prove that you are the source of the infestation, he cannot evict you.

    I suggest you find a lawyer who has some landlord-tenant experience. Tell him that I told you that this case is governed by the rule in Pugh v Holmes, 486 Pa. 272, 405 A.2d 897 (1979).

    Clifford L. Tuttle, Jr.
    Attorney at Law
    Pittsburgh, PA

    See question