In the state of Pennsylvania, a rental agreement is valid wherever a tenant agrees to exchange rent for occupying a property. According to Pennsylvania law (Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act), tenants have certain rights, such as the right to enjoy the property without undue disturbance and the right to a safe and livable space.
Landlords also have rights, such as the right to be reimbursed for costs from damages that exceed normal wear and tear and the right to obtain payment for rent in a timely manner.
Note: These rights exist regardless of a rental agreement stating otherwise.
Landlord Responsibilities in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania landlords are required to maintain the unit in a livable condition and must make repair requests in a “reasonable” amount of time, although reasonable is not defined. If they do not, the tenants may take some forms of alternative action, such as withholding rent payments or the right to repair and deduct.
Here is a list of essential amenities that Pennsylvania landlords may or may not be responsible for.
|Dwelling structures||Not addressed|
|Electricity and wiring||Not addressed|
|Stairs and railings are safe||Yes|
|Pest abatement (including bed bugs)||Not addressed|
Tenant Responsibilities in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, apart from paying rent, tenants must:
- Keep the unit clean and in a habitable condition.
- Remove all hazards and garbage.
- Keep fixtures clean and in working order.
- Not permit any person to destroy or damage any part of the property.
- Not disturb other tenants or neighbors.
Evictions in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania landlords may evict tenants for the following reasons:
- Nonpayment of Rent – If a tenant misses a rental payment then the landlord may issue a 10-Day Notice to Quit. If they do not pay and remain on the property, the landlord may file a Summons and Complaint with the appropriate court.
- Lease Violation – If a lease violation occurs, then the landlord may issue a 15-Day Notice to Quit for tenants who lived at the rental unit less than one year and a 30-Day Notice to Quit for tenants of more than one year. Landlords are not legally required to give tenants a chance to remedy the infraction, though it is customary. If the terms are not met, then the landlord may begin eviction proceedings.
- No Lease/ End of Lease – If a tenant continues to reside at the rental unit past their lease term, the landlord must give the tenants a notice to quit before evicting them. The amount of time required in the notice depends on the length and type of tenancy.
- Illegal Drug Activity – If a tenant is involved with an illegal drug, landlords may issue a 10-Day Notice to Quit before beginning the eviction process.
Landlords are prohibited from evicting tenants in retaliation or as a form of discrimination.
Security Deposits in Pennsylvania
- Standard Limit/Maximum Amount – 2 month’s rent (1 month for tenants who last more than a year, no deposit after 5 years).
- Time Limit for Returns – 30 days.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – If a Pennsylvania landlord wrongfully withholds rent, then they will forfeit the deposit and may have to pay up to twice its original amount.
- Allowable Deductions – Repairs for damages that exceed normal wear and tear, unpaid rent.
Lease Termination in Pennsylvania
Notice requirements. Tenants who are on a periodic lease must give the following notice if they wish to break the lease:
|Rent Payment Frequency||Notice Needed|
Early termination. Tenants are legally allowed to break a lease for the following reasons:
- Early termination clause
- Active military duty
- Uninhabitable unit
- Landlord harassment
If a tenant breaks a lease early then they may be required to pay the remainder of the lease agreement. Pennsylvania landlords are not obligated to make an effort to re-rent the unit.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Pennsylvania
- Rent control. Pennsylvania neither preempts nor enforces rent control policies. Thus, landlords may charge what they wish for rent, although rent control policies may be put into place sometime in the future.
- Rental increases. Similarly, landlords are not limited by how much they raise rental prices. They also do not have to give notice or justification for rent hikes.
- Rent-related fees. Pennsylvania does not currently regulate late fees although there is a $50 returned check fee limit.
Housing Discrimination in Pennsylvania
Protected groups. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. These rules do not apply to owner-occupied homes or homes operated by religious organizations. Pennsylvania has state-level protected that prohibits discrimination based on age or pregnancy status.
Discriminatory acts & penalties. The Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission handles cases involving housing discrimination. The following behaviors have been highlighted as potentially discriminatory when directed at a member of a protected group:
- Refusing to rent or sell on a bona fide offer
- Falsely denying unit availability
- Offering different terms, conditions, or privileges
- Charging a fee for a support animal
- Failing to make reasonable accommodations
- Denying certain financial services
Victims of housing discrimination can file a complaint on the Commission’s website. However, there are very few details about the discrimination investigation process or applicable penalties.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Pennsylvania
Landlord Right to Entry in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania does not have any laws regarding landlord right to entry. As such, landlords are legally allowed to enter units whenever they want, though most landlords and tenants have some kind of entry notification policy in the lease agreement. Emergency entry is usually understood to be permissible without prior notice.
Small Claims Court in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania small claims court will hear rent-related disputes valuing up to $12,000 including eviction cases. Philadelphia courts have different rules and allow small claims cases of any value.
Mandatory Disclosures in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania landlords must make this mandatory disclosure:
- Lead-Based Paint – Landlords who own units built before 1978 must provide info about concentrations about lead paint.
Changing the Locks in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law does not specify guidance about changing locks. Thus, tenants may be allowed to change the locks but are not recommended to do so without asking for landlord permission first. Landlords are forbidden from unilaterally changing locks as a form of eviction.
Local Laws in Pennsylvania
Landlord tenant rights are not exclusively governed by state law. Cities and counties may enact their own rules and regulations for renters.
Philadelphia Landlord Tenant Rights
As of 2019, Philadelphia law requires landlords to always give tenants 30 days’ notice for one of several specified “good causes.”
Pittsburgh Landlord Tenant Rights
Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County have ordinances that protect tenants from discriminations based on sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
Check your local county and municipality for additional landlord tenant regulations.