Investing in Pennsylvania real estate is a great way to earn extra income. As a landlord, it’s important to be aware of Pennsylvania landlord-tenant laws (Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951) to protect your rights, as well as the rights of your renters, including things like the security deposit or the eviction process.
Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law was established in order to regulate the rental business in the state. Both landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities, and it’s essential to know what these are to prevent potential issues with your residents in the future. Landlord and tenants both understanding the laws will keep the tenancy going smoothly.
Landlord Disclosures in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania landlords are mandated to disclose certain information to their renters. According to Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law, the following disclosures should be included in the rental agreement:
1. Nonrefundable Fees
In Pennsylvania, nonrefundable fees are considered an optional disclosure. However, most landlords do include all non-refundable charges in the lease agreement, and it's strongly recommended. Otherwise, according to Pennsylvania tenant-law, that tenant may be eligible for a refund.
2. Security Deposits
According to Pennsylvania landlord-tenant laws, a landlord is allowed to charge their tenant a security deposit. Landlords can use the security deposit to make repairs if the tenant fails to take care of the rental property and there are damages beyond normal wear and tear.
There is no state law about the security deposit being a mandatory disclosure by the landlord in the rental agreement. However, it is best to include this in the lease or rental agreement, as well as the allowable deductions to a security deposit and how soon the tenant will receive the security deposit back after they move out of the property.
3. Rights of Domestic Violence Survivors
Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law protects residents who are victims of domestic violence by providing them with certain rights, such as the right to terminate the lease early.
Although there is no specific statute in Pennsylvania that requires landlords to include the tenants’ rights as domestic violence victims in the lease agreement, it’s recommended to disclose this so that renters will know and understand their rights.
4. Move-In Checklist
A move-in checklist is an optional disclosure that will help Pennsylvania landlords determine if there are damages to the property that are beyond normal wear and tear. This checklist will also help the tenant perform the necessary repairs and end-of-tenancy cleaning upon the end of the lease term before they move out.
5. Owner or Agent Identity
Under Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law, the identities of the landlords and/or authorized agents who will act on behalf of the property owner are considered an optional disclosure. However, it is recommended to include this information in the rental agreement to create a smoother communication process between landlords and renters.
The names of the landlords and any authorized representatives, including their addresses and contact information, should be written on the rental agreement or provided together with the lease.
6. Lead-Based Paint
Landlords in Pennsylvania are required to completely fill out and attach the lead-based paint disclosure form to the rental agreement. Landlords are also required to provide tenants with additional records about the presence or hazards of lead-based paint on their rental properties.
Pennsylvania Tenant Rights and Responsibilities
Landlords and tenants both have legal rights and responsibilities. A tenant in Pennsylvania has the following rights:
- Live in safe and habitable housing.
- Enjoy staying at the rental unit without undue disturbance.
- Hold the landlord accountable if the landlord fails to provide a habitable unit.
- Not be evicted due to landlord retaliation.
- Fair housing opportunities in accordance with the Fair Housing Act.
- Legally break a lease in Pennsylvania due to justifiable reasons.
- Receive the security deposit back from the landlord, or what remains of it, after the allowable deductions.
The following are the basic responsibilities of a tenant in Pennsylvania:
- Maintain the cleanliness of the rental unit.
- Keep the property in a habitable condition.
- Get rid of all safety hazards and trash in a timely manner.
- Maintain fixtures and keep them in working order.
- Prevent anyone from destroying or damaging any part of the rental unit.
- Prevent anyone from disturbing other Pennsylvania tenants or neighbors.
Pennsylvania Landlord Rights and Responsibilities
Laws in Pennsylvania outline these as the state's basic landlord rights:
- To receive the rent on time, have tenants pay rent in full, and apply a late rent fee if necessary.
- To charge tenants for costs from damages that exceed normal wear and tear
- To file for eviction if tenants violate the lease. Note that Philadelphia has an eviction diversion program for the eviction process. Reasons for evicting tenants can include breaking the lease or unpaid rent.
- To hold tenants accountable for the terms of the lease agreement, including unjustifiably breaking the lease early
- To deduct any allowable deductions from the security deposit.
And the following are the basic landlord responsibilities according to state laws in Pennsylvania:
- Abide by the health and building codes that apply to the rental property.
- Provide a habitable dwelling space for the tenants.
- Comply with fair housing laws, notably during tenant screening and selection.
- Follow the terms of the lease.
- Make sure that tenants understand the terms of the lease, as well as their rights and laws applicable to them.
- Return the tenant's security deposit less the allowable deductions within the timeframe.
- Make the necessary repairs within a reasonable timeframe.
An Overview of the Landlord-Tenant Laws in Pennsylvania
1. Tenant Privacy and Landlord’s Right to Enter the Dwelling
Pennsylvania state law has no statute on the amount of notice a landlord must provide before entering a rental unit. Usually, a 24-hour notice is recommended, and while not required, a written notice is always preferred. You may want to seek help for any legal questions you may have about these laws when jugging certain processes.
2. The Condition, Maintenance, and Repairs
Pennsylvania landlords must maintain the their rental properties to make it livable and safe. Landlords must ensure that any necessary repairs are performed within a reasonable timeframe. Also, essential amenities must be provided to tenants.
3. Housing Discrimination Laws
The Fair Housing Act in Pennsylvania prohibits discrimination in housing based on certain conditions that tenants cannot control, such as race, color, sex, national origin, religion, familial status, or disability. Pennsylvania law also provides additional protection against housing discrimination based on age or pregnancy status.
4. Security Deposits
Landlords in Pennsylvania can charge a tenant a security deposit that does not exceed two months’ rent or one month’s rent for a tenant whose leases last more than a year. Landlords are required to return the security deposit within 30 days after the tenant moves out of the rental unit.
Pennsylvania renters are entitled to earn interest on their security deposits after the second year, however, landlords are also entitled to take an administration fee of 1% of the interest.
5. Required Landlord Disclosures
In Pennsylvania, the only required disclosure is for lead-based paint. However, there are other recommended disclosures that we have listed above.
6. Renters’ Rights to Withhold Rent
If landlords fail to perform important repairs within the allowable timeframe, a tenant in Pennsylvania can withhold rent payments or repair the damages themselves and deduct the cost from their rent.
7. Small Claims Court
Pennsylvania small claims court will hear rent-related disputes with a value of up to $12,000. Eviction cases are also included. It’s worth noting that the Philadelphia courts have different rules and may hear small claims cases of any value.
Landlord-Tenant Laws in Pennsylvania: Bottom Line
If you want help navigating Pennsylvania and Philadelphia rental laws or landlord-tenant relationships, contact the professionals at TrustArt Realty. We are a full-service property management company trusted by property owners across Philadelphia. We would love to help you manage your rental property!
Disclaimer: This blog does not constitute legal advice from a licensed attorney in your state. Laws for landlords and tenants change, and this post might not be updated at the time of your reading. Please contact us for any questions you have in regards to this content or any other aspect of your property management needs.