Landlord-tenant disputes in Pennsylvania can quickly go sour. Miscommunication can easily go from a simple problem to litigation. You may need an experienced real estate attorney to represent you in your dispute. At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, we understand the issues that surround landlord and tenant claims. We work hard to make sure we resolve your case without resorting to litigation. And, if the parties cannot reach a resolution, our real estate attorneys will represent you in district court. We have the experience and the track record to make sure you get the best possible outcome for your case.
Landlord-Tenant Laws in Pennsylvania – Landlord-Tenant Disputes
Pennsylvania’s Landlord And Tenant Act of 1951 governs many of the aspects of landlord-tenant relationships, such as:
Leases – If a landlord wants the tenant to move out, he/she must follow the requirements of the written contract. If there are no requirements, the landlord needs to give the tenant 15 days written notice if the lease is less than a year, or 30 days written notice if the lease is more than one year. If the tenant is behind in rent, the landlord must give ten days written notice.
Security Deposits – Security deposits are not the same as rent. It is money that belongs to the tenant but held by the landlord in case the tenant damages the property. It cannot legally be used as the last month’s rent. Within 30 days after a tenant moves out, the landlord must either return the money or send a list of damages, the cost of repairs, and any money that remains from the security deposit. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant can sue to recover the funds.
Repairs – In certain circumstances, the tenant may be able to take action if the landlord refuses to repair damages that were not caused by the tenant. It is important to note that it is best to speak with an experienced landlord-tenant disputes lawyer before withholding rent to know where you legally stand.
Evictions – A tenant may be evicted if the lease has ended; the tenant is behind in rent, or the tenant has broken some clause in the lease. As long as the landlord gives proper notice, he/she needs no reason to evict a tenant at the end of the lease. However, the landlord must go through the appropriate court procedures before removing or locking a tenant out; otherwise, the tenant can sue.
In addition to the fundamental rights under the Landlord and Tenant Act, there are also the Pennsylvania Security Deposit laws under code sections 68 P.S. §§ 250.511a-250.512. Key takeaways include:
- Security deposits over $100 must be deposited into an escrow account. If the tenant lives in the rental property for 2 or more years, he or she is entitled to receive interest earned on the deposit, if the escrow is gaining interest.
- If a landlord wishes, they can also deposit the security deposit into a bond for you to receive when the lease is up.
- There is no minimum security deposit a landlord can request.
- The maximum security deposit is 2 months rent for the first year of renting and no more than 1 month’s rent for 2 or more years of renting.
- If the landlord does not abide by rules for security deposits like deduction cost of repairs, returning funds, etc. the tenant may be able to recover damages for twice the amount of the deposit.
- Your landlord can increase the security deposit if the cost of rent goes up. However, if you’ve lived in the rental for 5 or more years, the landlord cannot increase the security deposit, even if rent goes up.
Withholding Rent: What You Should Know
Tenants need to be aware that you can only withhold rent for specific circumstances: The repairs cost more than your rent to repair, and the home has become inhabitable.
For example, having a cracked toilet seat that your landlord refuses to fix doesn’t mean you can withhold your rent. However, if there is structural damage to the apartment that makes you unable to stay in the home, you have reason to withhold rent.
If you do withhold rent, you should do the following:
- Send a certified letter to your landlord, explaining the issue and ask for the problem to be fixed. Make sure you explain the issue in detail and keep a copy of any correspondence.
- If the landlord fails to act, send another certified letter. Make sure you let the landlord know the home has become uninhabitable and your intention to withhold rent until your problem reaches a resolution.
Only then should you be able to withhold rent but do not spend the money – if your landlord takes you to court and wins a judgment against you, you will have to pay that money back.
Fair Housing Laws – How They Relate to Landlord-Tenant Disputes
When you are looking to rent a new place, you may have needs that should be addressed like accessibility standards. Under fair housing laws, renters are protected from a variety of discriminatory actions.
An individual who has a disability seeking a rental should not be questioned by the landlord as to whether they have a disability or illness, nor can the landlord request medical records. Upon moving in, the landlord may be required to allow the tenant to make modifications to the living unit, however, the landlord is not responsible for the cost.
An individual seeking a rental cannot be discriminated against based on factors, including race, religion, national origin, familial status, disability, and sex.
Contact Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano For Assistance
Since 1962, the Scranton landlord-tenant dispute attorneys at Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano have been fighting for the rights of landlords and tenants throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. With decades of experience and a stellar track record, we know the ins and outs of real estate law in Pennsylvania and can assist you in your case.
If you are experiencing issues with either a tenant or a landlord, we’re here to help. Contact our NEPA landlord-tenant dispute lawyers today for a free consultation.