Supersedeas - How to Obtain (or Terminate) a Stay of Eviction in a Philadelphia Landlord-Tenant Appeal
Almost all residential landlord-tenant cases are heard initially in the Philadelphia Municipal Court, or outside Philadelphia in the local Magisterial District Court. After trial, both landlord and tenant have the right to a de novo appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. “De novo” is a Latin term meaning “of new” or “anew,” which means that the case starts from the beginning with no consideration of the outcome in the first proceeding. However, there is an important exception to the de novo rule: if the trial judge found in favor of the landlord, the landlord retains a judgment of possession and can proceed with eviction while the appeal is pending.
If the landlord has a judgment for possession, the tenant must apply for a stay of eviction, called a supersedeas, in order to stop the eviction while the appeal is underway. Supersedeas is another Latin term meaning “you shall desist.” In Philadelphia, supersedeas is governed by Local Rule 1008. In order to obtain a stay, the tenant must post the amount of rent actually in arrears at the time of appeal or the equivalent of three months’ rent, whichever is less. Most tenants are unable to meet this requirement: if they were able to pay, they most likely would have done so before the original proceeding.
But once again, there is an exception: Local Rule 1008(d) allows low-income tenants to obtain a stay of eviction if they pay just one-third of the monthly rent into escrow with the court at the time they file an appeal. Read this carefully: the rule requires just one-third (⅓) of one month’s rent, not one-third of the total amount due. The tenant must then deposit two-thirds (⅔) of the monthly rent within 20 days of filing the appeal, and an additional deposit of one month’s rent each 30 days after filing the appeal.
Let’s consider an example of how this works. Say a landlord obtains judgment for possession against a tenant who owes three months of rent. The rent is $1,000 per month; to keep this simple, we’ll eliminate costs and fees and say the judgment amount is an even $3,000. Under the regular rule, the tenant must post the entire $3,000.00 to obtain a stay. But under subsection (d), the tenant can obtain a stay by paying only $333 - leaving the landlord $2,667 short!
The rules are similar in the counties surrounding Philadelphia, although in my experience the county courts are somewhat more strict in granting IFP (in forma pauperis, or low-income) status. Tenants often make procedural errors with supersedeas payments, so it’s important to check the docket and ensure strict compliance with all deadlines. If the tenant pays late, the landlord can ask the court to lift the stay and proceed with eviction - but it won’t happen automatically. That's one reason it's a good idea to retain an experienced attorney to resolve the situation.
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William R. McLaughlin, Esq.