Pennsylvania Habitability Laws

QUICK FACTS
  • Landlord Responsibilities. Working heater, sanitation facilities, smoke detectors, and hot and cold water supply must be provided in the rental unit (read more).
  • Making Repairs. Landlords are required to make and pay for repairs for items under their responsibility. They must do so within a “reasonable time” after receiving a written request from tenants (read more).
  • Tenant Options. If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, tenants can withhold rent, repair and deduct, report the issue to a public official, or file a lawsuit (read more).
  • Retaliation. If a landlord is reported to a local city or county inspector for housing code violations, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate, such as by threatening eviction (read more).

The implied warranty of habitability in Pennsylvania does not apply to all types of dwellings. See the table below for which are & 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

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. Heat only
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). Yes
Provide a trash can (for trash pickup services). Yes
Ensure that any stairs and railings are safe. Yes
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. Not addressed
Provide a working washer/dryer. Not addressed

As you can see, very few landlord responsibilities are addressed at the state level. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t specifically addressed by the municipality in which the rental unit is located.

Check with your local government for any additional responsibilities landlords and tenants may have.

Rodents, Pests, and Vermin

In Pennsylvania, landlords are required to keep multi-family units free from rodents, pests, and vermin. If the landlord or tenant discovers a bug or rodent infestation after the tenant moves in, the landlord has a duty to take the appropriate steps to exterminate or otherwise treat the infestation.

Making Repairs

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

If repairs aren’t made in a timely manner, the tenant has a few possible options for resolving the issue.

  1. Withhold rent – Pennsylvania landlord tenant law allows tenants to withhold rent in response to habitability issues.
  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, 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, or
  • exercising a legal right such as withholding the rent.

Sources