Pennsylvania has some unique legislation that affects PA landlord tenant law. The Pennsylvania Consumer Bill of Rights has shaped the Pennsylvania landlord tenant law to ensure an amicable and fair agreement for both parties of a residential rental property.
The relationship between Pennsylvania landlords and their tenants is governed by 68 P.S. Sec 250.101-250.602 and by various court rulings. However, the most important source governing the landlord tenant law Pennsylvania provisions is the rental agreement itself, whether written or oral.
The following is a list of provisions that are specific to Pennsylvania rental statutes:
• Any change in a rental agreement must be made in writing, even if in an oral lease, and must be signed by all parties to the lease.
• A landlord may not evict a tenant without cause, as defined by the Pennsylvania Property Code, or disturb the tenant’s right to live in peace and quiet.
• A landlord may not interrupt utilities, if provided, unless there is a bona fide emergency.
• A landlord must provide a fit place to live. Tenants have the right to demand that the landlord repair any condition that materially affects health and safety. Pennsylvania statutes grant justices of the peace authority to order landlords to repair or remedy conditions affecting health and safety, as long as the cost of the repair does not exceed $10,000. Tenants can go to the Justice Court without an attorney to obtain a repair order. Landlords do not have a duty to repair any damage that was caused by a tenant’s negligence.
• Pennsylvania landlords must provide working smoke detectors and tenant may not waive this provision or disconnect the smoke detectors.
• Under Pennsylvania law, landlords must equip a dwelling with security devices such as door viewers, window latches, keyed dead bolts on exterior doors, pin locks and handle latches or security bars on sliding doors. These devices must be installed at the landlord’s expense. If such devices are missing or are defective, tenants have the right to request their installation or repair.
• If a landlord fails to make repairs needed to protect health, safety or security, the tenant has remedies under Pennsylvania law, but must follow certain procedures which are stated in the Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951, as amended.
The Pennsylvania Tenants Bill of Rights gives tenants additional protections, which has added to the complexity of PA landlord tenant laws. Some of these rights were already included in the Pennsylvania law however the Tenants Bill of Rights expanded on the details of that law. A few of the provisions of this bill include the following:
• There are limits placed on a landlord’s ability to lock out a tenant for non-payment of rent. A landlord may do so only temporarily in order to force a face-to-face encounter with the tenant, and only if the lease expressly states that the landlord has this right. Three days prior to the lockout, the landlord must inform the tenant of tenant’s right to receive a key to the new lock at any time, regardless of whether or not the rent has been paid. In any case, the tenant is entitled to a new key within two hours of asking for one. The landlord may not disconnect utilities as a means of forcing the tenant out. If the landlord has cause to evict the tenant, the landlord must follow all the necessary legal steps. This includes giving the tenant a written notice at least three days prior to filing a lawsuit with the justice of the peace.
• The landlord may not remove any of his own property (such as doors, locks, or appliances) in order to enforce payment of rent. In some cases the landlord may be allowed to take and resell some of the tenant's property to recover unpaid rent, if this is stated clearly in the lease. However, many personal items are exempt from this provision. Clothing, beds and bedding, toys, school books, kitchenware, food, medicine, and other essential items are protected from seizure.
• Landlords are required to repair or remedy any problems that might affect the health or well- being of the occupants. This would include sewage backups, pests, lack of hot water, faulty electrical wiring or other serious problems. The law does not cover less serious issues like poorly painted walls or worn carpets. In addition, landlords must ensure that the premises are secure. A smoke detector must be installed outside each bedroom. However, if one corridor connects several bedrooms, a single smoke detector may suffice.
• The landlord may keep part of the security deposit only in cases where the tenant is responsible for damages to the property, and only when this provision is clearly stated in the lease. The landlord may not use the security deposit to repair problems resulting from normal wear and tear. Examples of normal wear and tear would be worn carpets, small nail holes in the walls, or scratches in the sink. The security deposit must be refunded no later than 90 days after the tenant moves out. If the landlord has reason to keep part of the security deposit, he must refund the balance and provide a written description of the deductions within 30 days.
• In some special circumstances, a tenant may terminate the lease and leave without any obligation to pay future rent. In cases of domestic violence or abuse, the tenant must have a protective order or injunction against a co-tenant or occupant, signed by a judge. In the case of military deployment or transfer, the tenant must provide the landlord with a written notice of termination, as well as copies of the deployment or transfer documents.
The PA landlord tenant law is complex and relies heavily on the provisions of the rental agreement, or lease provisions. The information provided in this article is meant to give landlords and tenants in the state of Pennsylvania a better understanding of rental law. If there is a question about any of the details of the law or acts governing the law, it is advisable to contact an attorney who is familiar with residential property law.
© Copyright 2015 LandlordStation LLC