Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Law
Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Law
Pennsylvania has an estimated 12.8 million residents. Generally, Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law is landlord friendly. This guide will cover Pennsylvania, as well as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia landlord-tenant law. Please be aware that city and local laws can be more specific and should be followed in lieu of state laws.
Security Deposit Laws in Pennsylvania
Is a security deposit required in Pennsylvania?
The landlord is not required to collect a security deposit from the tenant. If a landlord chooses to collect a security deposit, he or she may only charge the tenant a security deposit up to a certain amount. Specifically, the landlord may only charge a tenant the equivalent of two months’ rent for the security deposit for the first year of renting and the equivalent of one month’s rent during all subsequent years of renting.
We surveyed our landlords in Pennsylvania to find out what deposit amount they collected:
When must a landlord return the deposit by in Pennsylvania?
The landlord is required to return either part or all of the security deposit to the tenant 30 days after the tenant has vacated the premises.
Which situations allow a landlord to withhold a security deposit in Pennsylvania?
While the landlord is required to return the tenant’s security deposit, the landlord may withhold all or a portion of a tenant’s security deposit from the tenant for damage in excess of normal wear and tear, unpaid rent, or breach of lease.
The landlord must notify the tenant of the deductions within 30 days after the tenant has vacated the premises.
Finally, if the landlord does not return the tenant’s security deposit within the 30 days, the landlord may be liable to pay the tenant double the amount of the deposit they are owed.
Storage Requirements for Security Deposits in Pennsylvania
According to Pennsylvania law, landlords are required to comply with certain requirements in the storage of security deposits. For security deposits over $100, landlords must deposit the funds in a federally or state-regulated institution.
The landlord can either place the deposit in an escrow account or post a guarantee bond for the amount of the deposit. After a landlord receives a tenant’s security deposit and places it into an account, the landlord must notify the tenant in writing with the name and address of the bank and amount of security deposited.
Do landlords have to pay interest on security deposits in Pennsylvania?
Whether the landlord is required to pay the tenant interest on a security deposit depends. Tenants who occupy the rental unit for two or more years are entitled to interest paid on the security deposit beginning on the 25th month of occupancy. Otherwise, the tenant is not entitled to any interest.
Can security deposits be commingled with other assets in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, landlords are allowed to commingle the tenant’s security deposit with any of the landlord’s personal assets. However, we advise separating these funds. As stated above, the landlord may owe the tenant interest on the amount, so in that case, the deposit would need to be held in a separate, interest-bearing account.
Rental Agreement Laws in Pennsylvania
Are rental agreements required in Pennsylvania?
Rental agreements are required for tenancies that are 12 months or longer in Pennsylvania. Even for leases that are less than 12 months, we encourage our landlords to enter into written rental agreements with their tenants for added legal security. In a survey of our Pennsylvania landlords, 87% had a written rental agreement. We recommend having a signed rental agreement, no matter how long the rental term, for added legal security.
Get started now by creating an online rental agreement with Rentalutions. Our state-specific rental agreements include all the necessary notices and disclosures based on your property’s address. It’s never been easier to create, modify, and sign a rental agreement. And check out our tips to make your rental lease even better.
What are the general lease provisions in Pennsylvania?
Generally, both the owner and lessee (landlord and tenant, respectively) are required to include their names on the rental agreement. The landlord should also list the:
- Conditions of occupancy
- An adequate description of the leased premises
Other lease provisions include:
- The term of the lease
- A clear description of the rental space
- Who is liable for utility expenses
- The amount of rent
- The date rent is due
- Penalties for late rent payments
- Landlord’s responsibilities
- Tenant’s responsibilities
- Provisions regarding painting
- Whether pets are allowed.
Tenants living in the rental unit must be at least 18 years old.
What are the rental agreement notice requirements in Pennsylvania?
On a month-to-month lease, the landlord is required to provide 15 days’ notice to tenants when there are changes to the lease. Absent a rental agreement, the landlord is required to provide the tenant with at least 15 days’ notice of any changes to the lease.
Regarding a year-to-year or definite lease term, at least 30 days’ notice is required if the landlord wants to make any changes to the lease or terminate the tenancy.
Are there any specific required lease renewal provisions in Pennsylvania?
There are no specified lease renewal provisions in Pennsylvania.
Rental Payment Laws in Pennsylvania
What are the rules regarding rent payments in Pennsylvania?
The landlord is free to charge any rent price agreed upon by the parties because there is no rent control or limit required by the state.
Similarly, there are no legal requirements for how rent is to be paid.
Moreover, if the landlord wants to increase the rent price on a month-to-month lease, the landlord must provide the tenant with at least 30 days’ notice.
Are tenants allowed to withhold rent under the laws of Pennsylvania? If so, for what purposes?
In Pennsylvania, tenants are allowed to withhold rent when a Government agency or department certifies that the premises are uninhabitable. If the tenant is withholding rent, he or she tenant can elect to deposit rent into an escrow account rather than pay the landlord directly.
What are the rules and regulations pertaining to receipt of rent payments in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the landlord is not required to provide a receipt when the tenant’s rent has been received. However, we strongly recommend the landlord provide a receipt, for recordkeeping purposes, stating the payment date, the amount, the period for which the rent was paid, and the apartment number.
Are there any provisions regarding rent control in Pennsylvania?
There are no provisions regarding rent control in Pennsylvania.
Late Fees and Grace Period Laws in Pennsylvania
Is there a legal requirement for late fees in Pennsylvania?
There is no legal requirement for late fees. While there aren’t any restrictions on charging the tenant with late fees, most landlords do charge late fees, which should be reasonable under the circumstances. Learn how to set a late fee.
Does Pennsylvania have a law regarding grace periods?
There is no required grace period. However, if the tenant fails to pay rent 10 days after rent is due, the landlord is allowed to declare the tenant in default under the lease agreement or accept the rent and the appropriate late fee.
Pennsylvania Laws on Repairs: Tenant’s Right, Landlord’s Duty
Pennsylvania tenants are legally entitled to a rental that meets basic structural, health, and safety standards. It must also be in good repair pursuant to the landlord’s implied warranty of habitability, an implied right in every written or oral residential lease.
Under the implied warranty of habitability law, the tenant’s obligation to pay rent and the landlord’s obligation to maintain habitable (safe, sanitary and fit) premises depend upon each other. If the landlord breaks his obligation to keep the premises in a reasonable condition, this may relieve the tenant from his obligation to pay part or all of his rent until the landlord makes necessary repairs.
The landlord must be given notice of defects and a reasonable opportunity to make repairs, but he does not have to promise to repair before the tenant withholds rent. Furthermore, while there is no mandated notice before the landlord enters the premises to correct a repair, we recommend providing the tenant with 24 hours’ notice.
Pennsylvania Laws on Eviction
What are the Pennsylvania laws on eviction?
In Pennsylvania, the landlord may evict the tenant for the following reasons:
- The rental term is over and the tenant hasn’t moved out
- The tenant is behind on rent
- The tenant has breached some provision of the rental agreement
The landlord-tenant act of 1951 highlights the timeline for eviction proceedings.
First, the landlord must provide the tenant with an eviction notice. The landlord must give the tenant written notice of the reason for the eviction and the date that the landlord wants the tenant to vacate the premises. The eviction notice must be personally delivered to the tenant or posted on the dwelling. Please note that a mailed notice is void.
A written lease may state how many days of notice must be given by the landlord before the landlord can evict. However, if the lease does not state how much notice is required, the general rule is as follows:
- If the lease term has ended, or the landlord claims the tenant has breached the lease, the landlord has two options:
- If the lease is for less than one year, the landlord must give the tenant 30 days’ notice.
- If the lease is one year or more, the landlord must provide 90 days’ notice.
- If the tenant is behind on paying rent and has an oral lease with the landlord, the landlord needs to give only 15 days’ notice between April 1st and September 1st, but 30 days’ notice between September 1st and April 1st.
Next, the landlord files the complaint with the appropriate District Justice’s office. Once the complaint has been filed, the hearing occurs, in which both the landlord and tenant present their cases. The District Justice will decide whether or not the landlord is entitled to a judgment for possession of the property. If the landlord wins a judgment for possession, the landlord can then enforce the judgment, meaning the tenant must move. If the tenant wins, the tenant is legally entitled to stay on the premises.
Whenever the landlord sues the tenant, the tenant has the right to defend him or herself. The tenant may stop the eviction proceedings by paying rent or proving that he or she was not in breach of the lease.
Furthermore, the tenant may bring a cause of action against the landlord based on retaliatory eviction, which occurs when the tenant believes he or she is being evicted out of retaliation. Please see below for more on retaliation.
Pennsylvania Laws on Retaliation
Landlords are prohibited from harassing or retaliating against tenants who exercise their rights. In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for the landlord to retaliate against a tenant who has exercised a legal right, including, complaining to a government agency, such as a building or health inspector, about unsafe or illegal living conditions assembling and presenting your views collectively—for example, by joining or organizing a tenant union, or
exercising a legal right allowed by your state or local law, such as withholding the rent for an uninhabitable unit.
Pennsylvania Laws on Domestic Violence, Sexual Misconduct, and Sexual Assault
In most states, the law affords special protections to victims of domestic violence. However, in Pennsylvania law, tenants who are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence are not protected. Specifically, state law fails to explicitly mention a landlord’s duties and tenant’s rights pertaining to circumstances where the tenant has been a victim of a sexual crime or domestic violence.
Pennsylvania Laws on Changing the Locks and Security Devices
Landlords are required to change the locks before a new tenant moves in. Furthermore, landlords are required to install:
- Deadbolt lock
- Pin lock and security bar lock
- Window latch
- Window guards
- Smoke detectors
After the tenant has made a request for the landlord to install one of these devices, the landlord must respond within a reasonable amount of time.
Pennsylvania Pet Laws
Pennsylvania does not have any specific pet laws. Landlords are allowed to create their own requirements for pets, most notably, they can decide if pets are allowed, what size is allowed, etc. Under Pennsylvania law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities may bring their service animals to all public accommodations, such as government buildings, hotels, restaurants, stadiums, and stores. These laws also require those who operate transportation services to allow service animals. Both laws protect people in Pennsylvania who use service animals, and tenants are entitled to rely on whichever law gives them the most protections.
The Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Act does not allow for a separate pet deposit (aside from a security deposit). A pet deposit is viewed in the same manner as any security deposit and the landlord is subject to the same limitations which are described above, that is, no more than two months’ security deposit may be held for the first year of the lease and, after the first year of the lease no more than one month’s security deposit may be held.
Pennsylvania Rental License
Landlord rental licenses are not required by Pennsylvania law. However, we do advise that you check your local jurisdiction for rental license laws in case it is required locally.
Notice of Entry Laws in Pennsylvania
Do landlords in Pennsylvania have to provide notice of entry?
The landlord is not required to provide notice of entry and therefore may enter the premises for the following reasons:
- Non-emergency maintenance and repairs
- Showing the unit to prospective tenants
That being said, we recommend at least 24 hours of notice. The majority of our Pennsylvania landlords noted that they provide the tenant with at least 48-hours notice before entering the premises.
The notice must be given in writing and must state the nature of the repair.
“Reasonable time” is usually interpreted as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, holidays excluded.
Sublease and Assignment Provisions in Pennsylvania
Subleasing occurs when the original tenant rents the unit to another individual. In most states, subleasing is not allowed unless the landlord consents.
A typical sublease provision in the State of Pennsylvania reads as follows:
“Lessee shall not sublet the Premises or any part thereof, nor assign this lease, without obtaining Lessor’s prior written permission to sublet or assign. Lessor shall not unreasonably withhold permission and will accept a reasonable sublease as provided by ordinance.”
In Pennsylvania, the landlord may impose certain penalties if the tenant violates the terms of the rental agreement by subleasing the premises. Any sublet that does not comply with the lease clause will constitute a breach of lease and could potentially result in eviction.
Abandonment of Property Provisions in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, there are specific procedures on how to handle abandoned property. First, the landlord must send a notice to the tenant stating that personal property has been left behind with contact information for the landlord. The tenant then has 10 days from the notice date to contact the landlord.
If the tenant contacts the landlord within the 10-day period, the landlord must allow the tenant a total of thirty days (the first ten plus twenty more) to get the items. After the first ten days, the landlord may move the items to another location and charge the tenant for storage. If the tenant does not contact the landlord within ten days, the landlord may dispose of the items and absolves him or herself of all future responsibility.
Required Pennsylvania Rental Agreement Disclosures
Lead Paint Disclosure: Federal law requires landlords to disclose known information on lead-based paint and lead-based paint hazards before leases take effect. Additionally, landlords must give an EPA-approved information pamphlet.
Mold Disclosure: Pennsylvania home sellers must, by law, advise potential buyers of the property about “known material defects” that are not readily observable, including structural and other problems, before the sale is completed, including, but not limited to mold. See mold pamphlet here.
Utility Disclosure: A landlord who has expressly or impliedly agreed in the lease to furnish and pay for water, gas, or electric service to the tenant’s dwelling is liable to the tenant if the utility company has cut off utility service to the tenant’s dwelling. They are also liable if the utility company has given written notice to the tenant that such utility service is about to be cut off because of the landlord’s nonpayment of the utility bill.
Oft-Cited Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Law
Below you will find references to Pennsylvania’s Landlord-Tenant Act (1951) that govern rental properties and issues related to landlord-tenant law:
- 250.502-A. Landlord’s duties.
- Landlord has certain duties to the tenant throughout the lease term while tenant is occupying the premises. Specifically, the landlord is required to maintain the stairways, passages, roadways and other common facilities on the premises and further, has the duty of maintaining the premises for safe use.
- This responsibility of the landlord extends not only to the individual tenant, but also to his family, servants and employees, business visitors, and social guests.
- 250.503-A. Tenant’s duties.
- Tenant must comply with all obligations imposed upon tenants by applicable law.
- The tenant shall not destroy, deface, damage, impair, or remove any part of the structure or dwelling unit, or the facilities, equipment, or appurtenances.
- Further, the tenant shall not disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other tenants and neighbors.
- 250.504-A. Tenant’s rights.
- The tenant has the right to invite to his apartment or dwelling unit such employees, business visitors, tradesmen, delivery men, suppliers of goods and services, and the like as he wishes so long as he complies with applicable law.
- The tenant also shall have right to invite to his apartment or dwelling unit, for a reasonable period of time, such social guest, family or visitors as he wishes, as long as he or she complies with applicable law.
- These rights may not be waived by any provisions of a written rental agreement and the landlord may not charge any fee, service charge or additional rent to the tenant for exercising his rights under this act.
- 250.505. Abandoned mobile homes.
- If a mobile home is abandoned by the tenant(s) for a period of thirty days or more, the owner of the mobile home park or other person or persons responsible for the operation of the park may:
- Enter the mobile home and secure any appliances, furnishings, materials, supplies or other personal property therein and disconnect the mobile home from any utilities
- Move the mobile home to a storage area within the mobile home park or to another location
- Assess removal charges and storage charges against the former mobile home residents
- 250.511a. Escrow funds limited.
- During the first year of any lease, the landlord may only charge a security deposit less than or equal to two months’ rent.
- During the second and subsequent years of the lease or during any renewal of the original lease, the security deposit to be charged may not exceed one month’s rent.
- During the third or subsequent year of a lease, or during any renewal after the expiration of two years of tenancy, if the landlord requires a security deposit in the amount of one month’s rent amount, upon termination of the lease, or on surrender and acceptance of the leasehold premises, the deposit, with interest, shall be returned to the tenant.
Resources on Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Law
Rules and Regulations in Philadelphia
Landlord-tenant law in Philadelphia is essentially the same as Pennsylvania state law, with a few minor exceptions:
Housing Rental Licenses
Housing rental licenses are required for any type of housing rental in Philadelphia. Prior to getting this license, applicants should obtain a commercial activity license, business tax account number, federal tax identification number, or social security number, for individuals and zoning approval for two or more units.
In Philadelphia, the landlord-tenant law is governed by the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code (Section PM-102.6.4). Most notably, the code requires landlords to provide tenants with a copy of the City of Philadelphia Partners for Good Housing brochure.
Included within this brochure is a set minimum health, safety, and maintenance standards for houses and apartments in Philadelphia, as well as the responsibilities of owners, tenants, and landlords for maintaining houses and apartments in a safe and clean condition.
Additionally, the lead paint and disclosure certification law requires landlords to ensure that any property where children 6 years and younger reside is free of lead.
Rules and Regulations in Pittsburgh
Landlord-tenant law in the city of Pittsburgh is the same as statewide law.
This article is designed to convey information, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should not consider any information in this article to be legal advice. Readers should consider obtaining specific legal advice from an attorney in relation to any decision or course of action contemplated.