What is the legal eviction process?

To lock you out legally, your landlord must:

  • File a complaint against you in court
  • Get a judgment against you in court
  • File the writ of possession and alias writ of possession
  • Schedule a lockout date
  • A sheriff or landlord-tenant officer will complete the lockout and give you a blue eviction notice or post it on the property.

After a judgment in court, you have at least 21 days before you can be legally evicted.

What is an illegal lockout?

It is illegal for a landlord to evict you by:

changing the locks without a sheriff or a landlord-tenant officer
  • using force
  • turning off your utilities
  • removing your possessions
  • removing doors or windows from the house
  • any other means except a sheriff or landlord-tenant officer

What do I do if I have been illegally locked out?

  • Confirm that the lockout was illegal.  Call Municipal Court at 215-686-7334 between 9AM and 4:30PM to see if your landlord followed the legal eviction process.  You can also tell if your landlord followed the legal eviction process by searching here.
  • If the lockout was illegal, call the police by dialing 911. Show the officer your lease, rent receipts, utility bills or photo ID to prove residency.
If the police officer does not assist you, call 911 again and ask for a supervisor to come to the scene.  You can reference the name of the law—Prohibition Against Self-Help Eviction Practices Philadelphia Code 9-1600.

For the law against illegal lockouts, click here.

For Philadelphia Police Directive 3.17 regarding illegal lockouts, click here.