Warranty of Habitability in Pennsylvania

Last Updated: June 29, 2023 by Elizabeth Souza

In Pennsylvania, a landlord’s obligation for providing a habitable living space is primarily governed by case law, Pugh v. Holmes. 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.

Quick Facts Answer
Landlord Responsibilities Not Specifically Addressed
Time Limit for Repairs Within a “Reasonable” Time
Tenant Recourse Options
  • Withhold Rent: Yes
  • Repair & Deduct: Yes

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?
Single family Yes
Multi-family Yes
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. Yes
Provide working HVAC equipment. Yes
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 Yes
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. Yes
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 rental property 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.

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Repairs, Recourse & Retaliation in Pennsylvania

If a rental property is in violation of the implied warranty of habitability in Pennsylvania, state laws outline how the repair process works, what tenants can do if repairs aren’t made, and how tenants are protected against retaliating landlords.

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.

Renter’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania renters have the right to repairs for issues they didn’t cause which affect health and safety or otherwise prevent the expected use of the property. The landlord must fix issues within a reasonable time after getting notice about the problem from the renter.

If the landlord fails to repair in a timely manner, the renter could move out and cancel the rental agreement, repair and deduct the cost from rent, withhold rent (usually into an approved escrow account), seek a fine or injunction in court, or use failure to repair as a defense in eviction or payment actions. Read More

Landlord Retaliation in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania landlords can’t retaliate with raised rent, reduced services, or threatened eviction against tenants who recently paid to restore or maintain utilities. Some cities (like Philadelphia) also prohibit retaliation after:

  • Citations for, or complaints about, code violations.
  • Participation in tenant organizations, or exercise of rights.
  • Sexual or domestic assault victimizations.

Non-retaliatory, good-faith motivations fall under an exception. For example, proportionately increasing rent after an increase in property tax isn’t retaliatory.

Tenants can respond to utility services retaliation by suing for monetary damages, plus court costs and attorney fees. Other, locally banned retaliation (like Philadelphia) usually means fines for the landlord.