Tenants in Pennsylvania have the legal right to repairs for issues that place the property in violation of state health and safety standards. To exercise this right, they must properly notify the landlord and allow a “reasonable time” for the repairs to be made.
Pennsylvania Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs
Pennsylvania landlords are primarily responsible for repairs as specified in the terms of the rental agreement. However, regardless of agreement, landlords must maintain:
- Heating (in winter).
- Electricity (if provided).
- Sanitation facilities.
- Hot / cold water.
- Garbage service.
- Other issues that might prevent the expected use of the property.
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania tenants are responsible for repairing issues that don’t affect the habitability of a property. This means a tenant usually has to repair all but the most serious issues. Things like stained carpet and dented walls are the tenant’s responsibility.
Requesting Repairs in Pennsylvania
There aren’t specific rules for how tenants request repairs in Pennsylvania. The general rule is to give the landlord “reasonable” notice of an issue that needs fixing. Written notice makes it easy to prove details of the request if the landlord doesn’t act within a reasonable time.
How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania landlords must make repairs within a “reasonable” time after getting notice about an issue. What’s reasonable is decided case by case; bigger issues get more time to address, emergencies less, etc. Courts consider what an ordinary person acting in good faith would do.
Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania landlords cannot refuse to make repairs that are their responsibility. It doesn’t matter if the tenant is behind on rent or breaking terms of the rental agreement.
Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania landlords are not required to pay for alternative accommodation during repairs.
Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania tenants can take any of the following actions if a landlord does not make timely and needed repairs:
- Self-help for repairs and deduct the cost from rent.
- Withhold rent (usually by paying rent into an approved escrow).
- Seek a fine or injunction in court.
- Use failure to repair as a defense in eviction or payment actions.
- Move out and cancel the rental agreement (constructive eviction), in severe situations.
Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania tenants can withhold rent if the landlord doesn’t make needed repairs within a reasonable time after notice. Withholding rent still means rent is owed. Once the landlord makes repairs, the tenant has to pay all the rent that’s been withheld.
In cities larger than 210,000 people, tenants must pay withheld rent into an approved escrow account. If the landlord hasn’t fixed the issue after six months of withholding, the tenant will get the payments back. The tenant is immune from eviction as long as there’s withheld rent in escrow.
Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania tenants can do repairs and deduct the reasonable cost, for repairs necessary to habitability that the landlord hasn’t fixed within a reasonable time after notice. The maximum amount deductible is the amount remaining on the lease.
Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania tenants can break the lease when there’s a serious issue with habitability that the landlord hasn’t fixed within a reasonable time after notice. This is called constructive eviction. For constructive eviction, the tenant must move out and notify the landlord that the rental agreement is ended.
Local laws often give tenants more options for ending a lease. For example, in Philadelphia, a tenant can break a lease with 30 days’ notice if they’ve recently become a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Can the Tenant Sue in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania tenants can sue to force repairs or recover monetary damages, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs after notice.
Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania tenants can report landlords for code violations that affect health or safety on a rental property. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If there’s an unaddressed code violation, the tenant could cancel the rental agreement, self-help for repairs, withhold rent, or sue.
Landlord Retaliation in Pennsylvania
It’s illegal for Pennsylvania landlords to retaliate with raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction against tenants who have recently paid to restore or maintain utilities. In some cities, like Philadelphia, retaliation is also illegal after the following situations occur:
- The landlord is cited for a code violation.
- The tenant complains about a potential code violation.
- The tenant joins a lawful organization or exercises any tenant rights.
- The tenant is victimized by sexual or domestic assault.
The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.
- 1 Kuriger v. Cramer, 345 Pa. Super. 595, 606 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1985) (internal citations omitted)
- 2 Pugh v. Holmes, 486 Pa. 272, 290 (1979)
- 3 Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Consumer Guide to Landlord and Tenant Rights, § IV.C. (June 2022)
- 4 Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Consumer Guide to Landlord and Tenant Rights, § IV.C. (June 2022)
- 5 Pennsylvania City Rent Withholding Act, 35 Pa. Stat. § 1700-1 (2022)
- 6 Kuriger v. Cramer, 345 Pa. Super. 595, 606 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1985)
- 7 There isn’t specific Pennsylvania law that limits the tenant’s deduction, but this is the commonly understood limit throughout the United States, as deducting more than the remaining rent owed would constitute actively billing the landlord rather than merely discharging the value of obligations within the scope of the existing contract.
- 8 Checker Oil Co., Etc. v. Harold H. Hogg, 251 Pa. Superior Ct. 351, 358 (1977)
- 9 Philadelphia Pa. Code § 9-804(2) (2021)
- 10 66 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1531 (2016)