Pennsylvania Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Pennsylvania Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Last Updated: January 30, 2024 by Phil Ahn

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions Unpaid rent

Costs of damage

Expenses due to breach of lease

Return Deadline 30 days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return 2x Amount Due

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Pennsylvania, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the following can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear
  • Expenses due to a breach of the lease

Most states, such as Pennsylvania, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear and Tear in Pennsylvania?

“Normal wear and tear” is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it was designed to be used.

Examples include:

  • Gently worn carpets
  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded paint and flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

Damage” means destruction to the rental unit that occurs because of abuse or negligence by a tenant during the course of the tenancy.

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Pennsylvania?

Landlords can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond ordinary wear and tear.


A carpet that is slightly discolored or gently worn will be considered normal wear and tear. A carpet with visible stains, major discoloration and rips will be considered excessively damaged.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Pennsylvania?

Landlords in Pennsylvania can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures.

However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, landlords are allowed to charge a cleaning fee but only as necessary to bring the unit to the state it was in at the start of the lease term. Beyond that, landlords can only charge cleaning costs against the security deposit if documented in the rental agreement.

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

  • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
  • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

Normal wear includes:

  • Minor scrapes from daily use
  • Fading due to sunlight
  • Minor cracks in the original paint

Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Security Deposit Returns in Pennsylvania

Landlords must return a security deposit with interest, if due, and a written list of damages, if any, no later than 30 days after the end of the tenancy.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Pennsylvania?

Landlords have 30 days  from the end of the lease or the day the tenant vacates the premises, whichever is earlier, to return the security deposit with any interest due to the tenant.

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Pennsylvania?

Landlords owe interest on security deposits in Pennsylvania after the second year of the lease. The interest earned must be paid to the tenant every year on the anniversary of the lease. However, the landlord may take 1% of the security deposit as an administration fee which means there may be no interest due to the tenant.

How Do Landlords Give Notice in Pennsylvania?

The security deposit must be delivered with a written list  of damages, if any, to the tenant’s forwarding address.

If the tenant fails to provide the landlord with a forwarding address, in writing, the landlord shall be relieved from all liability.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent.

Landlords can include a provision in the lease agreement that the security deposit cannot be used for the last month’s rent until the tenant vacates the rental unit.

Security Deposit Disputes in Pennsylvania

If landlords do not return the security deposit within the 30-day period, tenants can file a claim in court for up to twice the amount due to the tenant.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for:

  • Failure to provide written notice when deductions are made from a security deposit
  • Unreasonable deductions

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Pennsylvania?

If a landlord fails to uphold their responsibilities to the tenant in returning the security deposit, the tenant can sue for a maximum amount of $12,000 in Small Claims Court, also known as Municipal Court in Philadelphia, or Magisterial District Court throughout the rest of Pennsylvania.

A small claims case must be filed within 4 years and an attorney is not required. Cases are filed in the court for the zip code where the property is located. Filing fees are $55 to $137 depending on the amount sought in damages and other factors.