In Pennsylvania, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by case law, Pugh v. Homes. This legal requirement, commonly known as the “implied warranty of habitability”, also outlines the rights of tenants when repairs are not made in a timely manner.
Applicable Dwelling Types in Pennsylvania
The implied warranty of habitability in Pennsylvania does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are and aren’t included.
|Dwelling Type||Landlord/Tenant Laws Apply?|
|Fraternities/Sororities/Clubs||Not specifically addressed|
|RV parks||Not specifically addressed|
|Mobile home parks||Yes|
|Condos||Not specifically addressed|
|Hotels/Motels||Not specifically addressed|
Landlord Responsibilities in Pennsylvania
The following chart lists possible landlord responsibilities when it comes to habitability. Not all of them are requirements in Pennsylvania, as indicated below.
Note: Some of the below items may not be addressed at the state level but may be addressed on a county or city level. Check your local housing codes to see which additional requirements may apply.
|Habitability Issue||Landlord Responsibility?|
|Provide windows and doors that are in good repair.||Not addressed|
|Ensure the roof, walls, etc., are completely waterproofed and there are no leaks.||Not addressed|
|Provide hot and cold running water.||Not addressed|
|Provide working HVAC equipment.||Not addressed|
|Provide working plumbing and electrical wiring/outlets/ lighting.||Not addressed|
|Provide working gas lines if used for utilities/cooking||Not addressed|
|Provide working sanitation facilities (bathtub/shower, toilet).||Not addressed|
|Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services).||Not addressed|
|Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe.||Not addressed|
|Ensure that all floors are in good condition and safe.||Not addressed|
|Provide fire exits that are usable, safe, and clean.||Not addressed|
|Ensure storage areas, including garages and basements, do not house combustible materials.||Not addressed|
|Provide working smoke detectors||Not addressed|
|Provide a mailbox.||Not addressed|
|Provide working wiring for one telephone jack.||Not addressed|
|Provide working kitchen appliances.||Not addressed|
|Provide working carbon monoxide detector.||Not addressed|
|Provide a working washer/dryer.||Not addressed|
Although there is no specific state statute on the implied warranty of habitability, landlords should make sure that the premises is habitable, safe and sanitary.
Each municipality may have their own rules, for instance, in the city of Harrisburg, the minimum housing codes address water, heat, waste disposal, bath and kitchen facilities, keeping the roof, ceiling, walls, and floors in good condition, etc.
Check with your local government for any additional responsibilities landlords and tenants may have.
Tenant’s Right to Repairs in Pennsylvania
Landlords are required to make and pay for any repairs to make the unit livable that are not caused by the tenant.
- Sending Notice – When repairs are needed, the tenant must inform the landlord in writing and give the landlord ‘reasonable time’ to make the repairs. What’s reasonable depends on the severity of the issue. Emergency repairs must be resolved as soon as possible.
- Landlord Access – Tenants are required to give the landlord access to the property to make necessary repairs. However, a landlord must give tenants “reasonable” notice. There may be additional limitations on a landlord’s right of entry depending on which city, town, or municipality the rental unit is located in.
Tenant’s Options if Repairs Aren’t Made in Pennsylvania
If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.
- Withhold Rent – Pennsylvania’s landlord tenant law allows tenants to withhold rent in response to habitability issues. If the dwelling unit is deemed as unfit for human habitation by the health department or a local code authority under the City Rent Withholding Act a tenant can place the monthly rent into an escrow fund instead paying the landlord directly. The landlord must fix the violation within six months to obtain the rent payments, or the rent money will be returned to the tenant. Note, this Act is only applicable to cities in the first three classes (including any city in the first class, second-class, second-class A, or third class).
- Repair and Deduct – Tenants have the right to repair the issue themselves and deduct a reasonable amount for the repair from the following month’s rent. However, the total cost of repairs to be deducted should not exceed the amount of the rent still left on the lease.
- Lawsuit – Tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
- Reporting to Public Officials – Landlords can be reported on a city or county level to housing inspectors if they are found to be in violation of any local housing codes.
Landlord Retaliation in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for the landlord to retaliate against a tenant who has exercised a legal right, including,
- Filing a complaint to a government agency, such as a building or health inspector, about unsafe living conditions.
- Joining or organizing a tenant union.
- Exercising a legal right such as withholding the rent.