Pennsylvania Habitability Laws

Last Updated: June 27, 2022 by Elizabeth Souza

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.

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
Questions? To chat with a Pennsylvania landlord tenant attorney, Click here

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.
Questions? To chat with a Pennsylvania landlord tenant attorney, Click here

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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Lawsuit – Tenants do have the right to take legal action for damages resulting from habitability issues.
  4. 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.