By Arthur Zamosky, Esq.
In Pennsylvania, ejectment is an action by a party who does not posses certain land but has a right to do so. The action is brought against a Defendant who has actual possession of the land. An ejectment action can also be used to determine a question of title to real property.
Such an action can be distinguished from a quiet title action because an ejectment is used to determine the immediate rights between a Plaintiff and Defendant while a quiet title action is used to determine the relative and respective rights of all potential titleholders. It should also be noted that an ejectment action is a separate and distinct action from an eviction. An eviction is used to terminate a leaseholder’s interest before the end of the term for a breach of a lease while an ejectment is used to remove a (former) leaseholder from the property after the lease has expired.
A suit for ejectment should be brought in the county in which the property involved in the dispute is located. As with most actions in Pennsylvania State Court, the action can be instituted by the filing of a praecipe for writ of summons or a complaint. The only indispensable party to an ejectment action is the party or parties who possess the land. An interesting twist to naming parties is that when a person in possession of the property, who is not named as a party to an ejectment action, is served with original process, that person becomes a Defendant in the action.
The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure requires that the Plaintiff in an ejectment action specifically describe the land and describe an abstract of title upon which the Plaintiff relies. The Plaintiff must also plead that they have a right to immediate possession of the land. Some of the possible defenses to an ejectment action can be adverse possession, estoppel, res judicata or by proving that title exists as to a third person.
A judgment in an ejectment action should describe the land to be recovered with reasonable certainty. This description is necessary so that execution or a writ of possession may be issued upon the judgment. Judgment can be obtained by default, confession or on the pleadings. It should be noted that judgment on the pleadings can be requested by either party.
As with all areas of law, the specific facts of any scenario could change the manner in which to proceed. The preceding was intended to give a basic outline of an ejectment action in Pennsylvania. For a more specific analysis of an actual claim or dispute, you should consult an attorney.