What is the legal eviction process?

To lock you out legally, a landlord must:

  • File a complaint against you in court
  • Win 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 a tenant by:

changing the locks without a sheriff or a landlord-tenant officer
  • using force
  • turning off the tenant’s utilities
  • removing the tenant’s 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?

  • Call Municipal Court at 215-686-7334 between 9AM and 4:30PM. The 
court can tell you if your landlord followed the legal eviction process.
  • If it was an illegal lockout, call the police by dialing 911. Show the officer your lease or photo ID.
If the police officer does not assist you, get the name of the officer and call the district. Ask to speak to the Captain or the Community Relations Officer about an illegal lockout. You can reference the name of the law—Prohibition Against Self-Help Eviction Practices Philadelphia Code 9-1600.  You can also reference the Philadelphia Police Directive 3.17 available here.