Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Laws
Landlords generally consider Pennsylvania rental law to tilt in favor of the tenant, mostly due to the fact that the eviction process in the state is time-consuming and costly. While statutes allow for eviction with 10 days notice, the tenant has many court options available to them that extend the process and can drag it out for months if they are determined to. It is important to keep up with local ordinances, however, as they can have an impact on this process.
The state does not have a requirement for landlords to have any sort of business licenses. Some localities have their own rules about this, however. For example, Philadelphia requires landlords to obtain a housing rental license. And the city of Pittsburgh requires a license for certain types of rentals, such as bed and breakfasts.
The information provided here is taken from state statutes and is accurate and up to date as of publication. However, it is important to understand that this information should not be considered to be legal advice or to be a substitute for the counsel of a licensed attorney.
What Laws Cover Landlord-Tenant Relationships in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania rental law is largely governed by Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 250.101-250.602, more commonly known as the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951. Of course, a law from 1951 would be inadequate for modern needs, so there is also an amendment (the Amendment to Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951) that was most recently updated in 2012. One other area of the law that has some bearing on landlord and tenant relationships is Title 68 of the Consolidated Statutes, which addresses real and personal property.
Security Deposit Rules
Statutes 68 P.S. 250.511a and 250.512 address the handling of security deposits. Landlords may ask for a deposit that is equal to as much as two months of rent in the first year of a lease, but must reduce that amount to one month of rent in any subsequent years. In the second year, the tenant also becomes entitled to earn interest on their deposit. The landlord must pay the tenant interest at a rate of 1% per year, with the first payment made at the conclusion of the second year. These funds must be held in a separate bank account if they are to be held for over two years and exceed the amount of $100. Landlords are required to notify tenants of the name and address of the bank where the deposit is being held.
Upon termination of the lease, landlords have 30 days to return the deposit to the tenant along with any interest owed to them. The landlord can withhold money from the deposit for unpaid rent or damages, but if they do they must provide the tenant with an itemized list of charges. If a landlord fails to comply with these requirements, they forfeit any right to any amount of the deposit regardless of damages. They also lose the right to bring a lawsuit against the tenant for recovery of damages. If the landlord withholds the deposit in bad faith, they can be held liable for double the amount of all money owed including interest.
There are no statutes in Pennsylvania law regarding application fees, non-refundable fees, or requirements to keep records of deposit withholdings.
Lease, Rent and Fee Rules
There are no statutes in Pennsylvania law addressing when rent is due, advance notice of an increase in rent, grace periods for paying rent, prepaid rent terms, or late fees.
Returned check fees are allowed by Statute 250, but are limited to no more than $50 unless the actual cost in fees to the landlord exceeds $50, in which case they may collect their actual cost. There is no statute allowing tenants to repair and deduct from the rent, but tenants may withhold rent if utilities are not provided and a government agency deems that the dwelling is not habitable. Landlords cannot recover attorney and court fees, but they also are under no obligation to mitigate damages when a tenant breaks the lease early or is evicted.
Personal property laws in Pennsylvania are somewhat complex and are governed by Statute PL 1091 of the Amendment to the Landlord-Tenant Act. If the tenant quits the property and leaves personal belongings behind after a successful eviction or voluntarily with written notice, the landlord must send notice to the tenant as soon as possible at their last known address. The tenant has ten days from the postmark date to get in touch with the landlord. If the tenant makes contact within this time, they are then given 30 days to pick up the items. After 10 days, however, the landlord may move the items to a storage unit and bill the tenant for it. If the tenant either does not get in touch within the initial 10 days, or does not collect the items within 30 days, the landlord is free to dispose of them.
Members of the military can terminate a lease early if they receive orders to active duty, to change duty stations or to be deployed for three months or more. They can also terminate the lease early if they are discharged from the service. Notice of 30 days is still required and the rent will be pro-rated for that time if necessary.
Notice and Entry Rules
Advance notice for a tenant to terminate the lease is governed by Statute 250.501. If the lease is indeterminate, the tenant can end it with 15 days notice. If the lease is longer than a year and open-ended, the tenant can terminate with 30 days notice. 15 days notice are required to end a month to month lease, and no time is specified for week to week arrangements. There is also no statute mentioning advance notice for a move-out inspection.
This same statute also stipulates that landlords must give tenants 10 days notice to terminate the lease for non-payment of rent. However, as mentioned at the outset of this article, if tenants avail themselves of all of the legal options available this process could potentially take months. There is no statute addressing termination for a lease violation.
There are no statutes on advance notice for entry, but most landlords will provide at least 24 hours in non-emergency circumstances as a courtesy. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that does not have specific statutes preventing lockouts, utility shutoffs or self-help evictions. However, as these practices are widely illegal in the rest of the country and the tenant will likely be able to get an injunction from the Court of Common Pleas restoring their access to the premises if any of these things are done by the landlord.
Required Disclosures and Notes
According to federal law, landlords must disclose any use of lead paint in a dwelling.
Pennsylvania landlord-tenant law does not offer any special legal protections to victims of domestic violence.
Retaliation is forbidden by Statute 250.505. Landlords cannot terminate a lease, refuse to renew a lease or reduce services in response to a tenant making a valid complaint, filing a complaint with a government agency or getting involved with a tenants organization.
Small Claims Court
The state sets a limit of $12,000 in small claims court, but some localities have different limits. The biggest exception is Philadelphia, which does not set any limit for cases involving landlord and tenant disputes. Eviction cases are allowed in small claims court throughout the state.