Tenant Rights in Pennsylvania

Searching for a place to rent in Pennsylvania? Or you are a long-term renter trying to wade through the difficulties of landlord-tenant law? In any case, you should always know your basic tenant rights to avoid many unpleasant situations and lengthy discussions with landlords.

We have a guide to tenant rights on our blog, which you can always check out when in doubt. However, tenant law varies from state to state, which is why we take a closer look at each state specifically. Today it’s time to talk about tenant rights in Pennsylvania! 

Rental Application

Application fee: Not Indicated
Application fee refund: Non-refundable 
Rental agreement required: Oral or written

As in many other states, there are no specifics on the maximum amount of the application fee the landlord can charge you in Pennsylvania. Also, when applying, you have to be aware that the application fee is non-refundable by the law, no matter if you get approved or not.

By the rental law of Pennsylvania, both verbal and written agreement is considered valid when it comes to a regular lease concluded for not more than three years. If a lease term is more than three years, there is required a written rental agreement. 

However, it is usually safer for both tenant and landlord to have a written agreement, no matter the time period. Keep this in mind, as it will help you to eliminate many potential misunderstandings and disputes. And, of course, carefully read and make sure you understand everything in the rental agreement before signing!

Security Deposit

Pet deposit maximum: not indicated
Security deposit maximum: up to 2 months’ rent during the first year of a lease
Security deposit interest: yes, after two years of tenancy
Return deposit deadline: 30 days
Itemized list of charges and damages: required
Legal reasons to keep security deposit: to cover unpaid rent, damage, or normal wear and tear

Security deposit laws in Pennsylvania are pretty interesting and peculiar, so there are definitely some things to pay attention to! 

According to the law, the landlord cannot require an amount that is larger than two months’ rent during the first year of a lease. However, if the lease is renewed for a second year (and any subsequent years), the security deposit amount cannot exceed one month’s rent. And, if you stay in your rental for longer than two years, you are entitled to receive interest from your security deposit. 

If your security deposit, also called escrow in The Landlord and Tenant Act, exceeds $100, the landlord has to place those funds in the bank account and notify you in writing about the name and address of the institution where the deposit is being held as well as the exact amount. 

Rental laws of Pennsylvania state that the landlord can withhold all or some part of the deposit to cover any wear and tear, unpaid rent, or in case of a breach of contract by the tenant. However, if the landlord claims that the deposit is being held to compensate for wear and tear, they should provide a full itemized list of damages and deliver it to you with the rest of the escrow within 30 days.

Security and Comfort

Smoke alarms: required
Carbon monoxide detectors: required
Rekey requirements: not indicated

Pennsylvania laws require landlords to install working smoke detectors in each rental property. As a renter, you cannot remove or disconnect the smoke alarm. Additionally, the landlord should install carbon monoxide detectors in rentals with a fuel-fired heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage. Your responsibility is to keep the detectors in good condition, change batteries if needed, and inform the landlord in case of any malfunction.

When it comes to changing the locks in between tenants, there is no specific law in Pennsylvania that would regulate that aspect. However, many people consider it common courtesy, and you can encounter many landlords who would do so after an old tenant moves out. 

Rental Payments

Maximum rent: not indicated
Rent increase: allowed with a one-month notice for those renting month by month; not allowed until the lease ends for those renting long-term
Right to withhold rent for failure to provide essential services (such as water, heat, etc.): allowed
Late payment limit: up to 10 days

Pennsylvania is one of the states where there are no regulations on the maximum rent price, so it depends solely on the landlord. The landlord also has the right to increase the rent; however, you should be notified 30 days before if you rent the property month by month. If you signed a long-term agreement, the landlord has no right to increase the rent in the middle of the lease term. 

When it comes to repairs, you also have some responsibilities. The landlord is obligated to manage all necessary maintenance to keep the rental safe and habitable. However, on your side, you are required to inform the landlord in a timely manner if some serious issue, such as broken plumbing or heating, occurs. If the landlord does not handle the repairs within a reasonable timeframe, the renter can withhold the rent. Keep in mind that to do so, you have to follow the established procedure with the involvement of a house or health inspector.

Lease Terminations

Notice to terminate lease: not specified
Eviction notice for not paying rent: 10 days notice
Eviction notice for lease violation: 15 to 30 days depending on the lease term

The landlord can evict the tenant if they fail to pay the rent, refuse to move out after the end of the lease agreement, or violate the terms of the lease agreement. If the tenant fails to pay the rent, the eviction must be at least 10 days. If the eviction happens for any other reason, the notice should be 15 days if the lease term is for one year or less and 30 days for the lease longer than one year. 

Disclaimer: Although we have relied on Official State Statutes and other credible sources to find and analyze information for this post, you’re advised to use it as a starting point only and do not consider this article a substitute for legal advice. Some situations are unique, and it is always better to consult with a qualified lawyer or appropriate government agencies.

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1 Comment

  1. Jason Smith says:

    Pennsylvania tenants are lawfully entitled to a rental that meets primary structural, health, and safety measures.

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