Many similar questions arise often when dealing with various legal subjects. We have put together a list of the most frequently asked questions. If you do not find an answer to your question, please contact us.

Is there a limit to the maximum amount of rent a landlord can charge and are there rent control/rent stabilization policies or laws in Pennsylvania?

The state of Pennsylvania has not established limits on rental amounts, rent control ,or stabilization.

May I charge an application fee, late rent charge or a returned payment fee?

An application fee may be charged and may be nonrefundable; whether a tenant is approved or not. There are no statutes governing the limits on how much may be charged for an application fee. There are no statutes governing the limits on how much may be charged for a late fee however, late fees must bear a reasonable relation to the consequential damages that a landlord incurs in receiving rent late. Returned Payment Fee: A service charge if written notice of the service charge was specified within the lease shall not exceed $50 unless the payee is charged fees in excess of $50. If the payee is charged fees in excess of $20, then the service charge shall not exceed the actual amount of the fees. 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 4105

May I use a daily late charge?

There are no statutes governing whether a daily or per day late charge may be used however, the courts have held that they are not to be used as a penalty and that late fees must bear a reasonable relation to the consequential damages that a landlord incurs in receiving rent late.

What is the maximum amount I can collect as a security deposit?

Landlords may not require a sum in excess of 2 months’ rent for a security deposit during the first year. During the second and subsequent years of the lease, or during any renewal of the original lease, the security deposit may not exceed 1 month’s rent. Additionally, if a tenant has been in possession of a leased premises for a period of 5 years or greater, any increase or increases in rent shall not require a concomitant increase in any security deposit.

My tenant has moved out, what do I do with their security deposit?

Within 30 days of tenancy termination and acceptance by the landlord, the landlord must return the security deposit or provide the tenant with a list of damages, the cost of the repairs and a final account of rent still owing. The landlord must refund any balance of the deposit owing plus interest minus any monies owed for damages to the apartment and for rent.. No interest has to be paid to the tenant during the first two years. Beginning in the third year and thereafter, interest has to be paid to the tenant. The law does not set a rate of interest. Additionally, the landlord may retain an amount equal to one percent per year of the total escrow deposit as an administrative expense of the fund.

What is a common problem where security deposits are concerned?

At times landlords may try claiming deductions for items that are often characterized by the court as normal wear and tear. This situation may be prevented by realistically evaluating each deduction, providing proof of damage as well as including repair receipts and pictures. It is also important that the landlord return the security deposit or a portion thereof along with an explanation of the damages and what was deducted from the security deposit within 30 days, as provided for by law.

How can I end a lease agreement?

There are no restrictions or limits placed on the notice required to end a lease, other than what is specified within the lease agreement. However, a lease cannot be terminated for discriminatory or retaliatory purposes.

Are there circumstances where I am required to release a tenant from a lease agreement?

A landlord may be forced to release a tenant from a contractual agreement when the dwelling unit or premise is damaged and/or destroyed by fire or casualty not caused by the tenant, deeming the rental property unlivable or If the tenant is called to active military duty. Additionally, a tenant may seek release from a rental agreement with the court when a landlord does not abide by the state’s landlord obligations.

Can I require my tenants to obtain renter’s insurance?

Landlords may require tenants to obtain renter’s liability insurance, and can make the failure to do so a breach of the lease agreement.

My tenant has not paid rent; how much notice do I have to give a tenant in order to evict them?

If the landlord wishes to file an eviction, a 10 day notice to vacate must either be given to the tenant or posted on the door of the premises. The notice provided in the Landlord-Tenant Act may be for a lesser time or waived by the tenant if the lease so provides.

How long does the eviction process take?

As with any legal matter, exact timing is almost impossible as it depends on many factors. Overall, barring any complications, the eviction process, from start to finish, takes approximately 4-5 weeks from the time the Complaint is filed in the districts in Pennsylvania and approximate 6-8 weeks in Philadelphia.

How do I tell if my tenant has “skipped” out of the apartment?

Often times it’s best to look for the obvious, such as removal of personal goods, whether or not the tenant has come back to the premises at any time during a one week period, and simply no food in the refrigerator. It’s extremely important to document all of the “proof” gathered in order to determine abandonment. When in doubt, if payment of rent has not been made, the landlord may always file for eviction.

What should I do if a tenant vacates and abandons property in the apartment?

You must send notice to the tenant that he or she must contact you regarding the property.
Consider including an Abandoned Property Lease Clause in your lease.

What can I do if my tenant files for bankruptcy?

The procedures a landlord should take will be determined by bankruptcy court laws. Since the bankruptcy rules were changed in 2005, a bankruptcy will not stay an eviction if a judgment has already been obtained. United States Bankruptcy Code, section 362(b)(22). However, if a judgment has not yet been obtained, a Landlord should proceed with Relief from the Automatic Stay once the tenant fails to pay for postpetition rents. This is a complicated procedure and warrants at least a consult with an attorney.

Do I have the right to enforce no smoking in my rental property?

A landlord may establish a “No Smoking” policy by providing so in the lease.

Do I have to give the tenant notice before I enter the rental property?

The landlord must give the tenant reasonable notice, however, there are no restrictions, common sense prevails. Additionally, in an emergency situation, it is permissible to enter the unit to prevent or control said emergency.

Disclaimer: The information provided herein is intended as a general discussion of legal issues concerning landlord tenant law. Information provided is not legal advice or a legal opinion, and it is recommended that the reader seek independent counsel for any specific issue.

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