Pennsylvania's landlord-tenant laws, 69 P.S Landlord-Tenant Act of 1951, tend to be landlord lenient, even friendly. From limits on late fees to entry notices, landlords do not have stringent rules but are expected to practice professional conduct.
Your, the landlord's, responsibility is to create and preserve a safe and welcoming environment in exchange for rent. From the tenants' perspective, there are non-negotiable rights with which both parties need to be familiar.
Are rental agreements needed in Pennsylvania?
Yes, rental agreements are necessary for leases for at least 12 months in Pennsylvania. A written rental agreement is always recommended and can safeguard both the landlord and tenant.
These are essential elements to be included in the lease:
- Property owner's name and address
- Tenant name
- Agreement date
- Property address
- Term of the lease
- Rent amount
- Rent payment due date
- Late fees management
- Deposit requirements and handling
- Subletting permission
- Landlord & tenant rights and responsibilities
- End of lease
- Disclosures and local legal details
What are the security deposit laws?
- You are not required to collect a security deposit.
- You can require a security deposit - it can only be the sum of two months' rent for the first year, and for the following years, it can only be the sum of one month's rent.
- You must return the deposit within 30 days of the tenants' move out.
- The landlord is not required to return the tenant's security deposit, some or all, for property damage that exceeds normal wear and tear.
- Normal wear and tear is the natural degradation of the property over time.
- Normal wear and tear can be carpet or wall color fading due to sunlight or a few scrapes on a hardwood floor. It could also be loose handles or screws.
- Property damage is hard to the property caused on purpose or through neglect. This could be broken items or missing built-in objects: some examples - a broken mirror, a hole in the wall, or missing locks.
- If you do not return the deposit within 30 days, you may be required to pay double the amount owed.
- A security deposit does not have to accrue interest unless the tenant occupies the rental unit for two or more years, to initiate on the 25th month of residence.
When and how can you evict a tenant?
You may evict a tenant by going through the following process:
- Provide your tenant with a written notice ten days before filing an eviction case.
- If the reason for eviction is other than rent non-payment, a written notice should be given 15 days before an eviction case (if your lease is less than a year) or 30 days before an eviction case (if your lease is more than a year).
- The tenant has the right to appear before court, and you, the landlord, must also appear to justify tenant eviction.
- The tenant has the right to appeal within ten days if the judge rules in favor of the landlord and to stay at the property during that time.
- If tenants are evicted, they must contact the landlord within ten days of eviction to pick up their property within 30 days of eviction.
Eviction Process Schedule:
- Eviction Notice/Notice to Vacate
- Thirty days for leases less than one year (including month to month) or 90 days for leases of a year + for breach of lease or end of the lease term.
- Fifteen days between April – September or 30 days between September – April for non-payment.
- Setting a Hearing Date for Landlord-Tenant Complaint
- Up to 10+ business days to have a set court date once filed.
- The Hearing and the Judgement
- At the hearing or within five business days after the hearing.
- Filing an appeal within 30 days from the Judgement.
- Order of Possession
- You may have the police give the tenant an "Order of Possession" 15 days after the Judgement for Possession is entered and vacating the property Order can't be less than 15 days from the date the tenant is given the Order.
You may evict a tenant for:
- Not paying rent
- Drug-related criminal activity (this does not require any notice from the landlord)
- Lease breach
Evicting a squatter:
- In Pennsylvania, in most cases of squatters and their eviction, you can file an affidavit specifying your claim as the property owner to determine that the squatter does not have a legal claim to the property.
- The following step, a civil hearing in the Common Pleas Court, will decide if the decision favors the owner, where the squatter will no longer have rights to remain on the property. The judge may even set a jail sentence for 90 days.
- Finally, the squatter will be serviced with an eviction notice and a 10-day notice to vacate.
Rent and Payment laws
Can I charge late fees for rent payments?
- You, the landlord, can charge a late fee a day after the rent is due.
- It's common for landlords to charge a percentage of the rent (for instance, 5% of the monthly rent) as a late fee.
- There is no limit in Pennsylvania on how much you can charge as a late rent fee.
- There is no grace period for the late fee, and it should be clearly stated in the lease agreement.
- If landlords receive rent checks that the bank returns, you can charge up to the greater of the actual bank charge for the returned check or $50.
Does Pennsylvania have rent control laws?
- Pennsylvania does not have rent control laws. Landlords can freely decide on rent.
What are my tenant's duties and rights?
- The tenants will not destroy, impair, or remove any part of the rental unit, its equipment, or the facilities.
- The tenant needs to comply with all obligations applicable by law to tenants.
- The tenant will not disturb and maintain a peaceful environment on the rental premises.
- The tenant can invite to the property anyone as long as guests comply with the applicable law.
What do I as a landlord need to disclose to my tenants?
- Utility Disclosure: If a landlord stated in the lease to furnish and pay for water, gas, or electric services at the rented dwelling, is liable if the utility company has stopped services or has given notice to discontinue service to the apartment due to the landlord's non-payment of bills.
- Lead Paint Disclosure: If a landlord is aware of lead-based paint or paint hazards on the property before signing a lease, federal law requires full disclosure to the tenants and providing an EPA-approved information brochure.
What kind of insurance do landlords need for their rental properties?
Landlord insurance may cover multiple scenarios and can be tailored for your property needs:
- Liability coverage if a tenant becomes injured on your property
- Property damage:
- If a tenant damages your rental property
- In the case of fire, lightning or hail (??)
- Loss of rental income
Can I buy Honeycomb landlord insurance in Pennsylvania?
Honeycomb provides prompt and fully customizable landlord insurance for multi-family properties accessible online.
- Landlord property protection for damage repair from fire, lightning, wind, hail, vandalism, electric or gas failures, or tenant-caused issues.
- Landlord liability protection helps pay landlord expenses if found responsible when someone becomes injured on your property, if you are accountable for another property's damage, and legal defense costs and court decisions.
Additional rules and regulations
Accessing the rental property
- You must provide reasonable notice to access the apartment (usually at least 24 hours in advance).
Do I need to rekey (change locks) between tenants?
- Yes. Pennsylvania law requires landlords to change locks between tenants.
- The landlord must also install the following if the tenant requests:
- Deadbolt locks
- Smoke detectors
- Window guards
- Pin and security bar locks
- Window latch
- The landlord can decide if pets are allowed or not. If a tenant requires a service animal, the landlord must make suitable accommodations.