Whether you are a landlord or tenant in a residential property, it is important to have at least a cursory knowledge of landlord-tenant law in Pennsylvania, particularly the law on evictions.
Generally speaking, in Pennsylvania most aspects of a residential landlord-tenant relationship are controlled by the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951.
A lease between a landlord and a tenant is a contract to rent property. Like most other contracts, it can be oral or in writing. Since almost all the important terms of the rental are in the lease, it is important to read it carefully before signing. Neither the tenant nor the landlord may change or break a lease while it is in effect unless the other person agrees.
If the tenant wants to move out, the tenant should check the lease. If there is a written one, check to see whether the tenant must give the landlord notice, and if so, how many days notice is required before leaving. Most written leases automatically renew themselves unless the tenant gives written notice to the landlord several months before the end of the lease. Where the lease says nothing about giving notice, the tenant is not technically required to give the landlord notice, as long as the tenant moves out when the lease ends.
If a landlord wants a tenant to move out, the landlord must follow the notice requirements of any written lease. If there are no notice requirements stated in the lease or the lease is oral, then the landlord must give the tenant:
• Fifteen days written notice if the lease is for one year or less, for breach or expiration of the lease (such as a month-to-month lease);
• Thirty days written notice if the lease is for more than one year for breach or expiration of the lease;
• Ten days written notice if the tenant is behind in rent.
A tenant may be evicted if:
• The term of the lease for which the property was rented is over;
• The tenant is behind in the rent; or
• The tenant has broken some clause of the lease.
The landlord needs no reasons to evict the tenant if the landlord gives the tenant proper notice that he or she wants the property back at the end of the lease. Special eviction procedures exist for criminal activity.
What can a tenant do if there is a serious problem with the rental property after moving in? Typically, there are five things a tenant may be able to do, each of which applies only in certain circumstances:
(1) Have the problem repaired and subtract the cost from the following month's rent payment.
(2) Bring a lawsuit to get returned part of the rent that the tenant paid plus other expenses.
(3) Withhold rent until the landlord makes the necessary repairs.
(4) Get a court order to try to make the landlord make the necessary repairs.
(5) Move out.
Consumer Tip for Residential Tenants and Landlords
A number of townships, municipalities, boroughs, and Counties across Pennsylvania provide free checklists for existing and prospective residential tenants, to guide them in checking a rental property before they move in. These checklists can also be used to identify potential sources of complaints that a landlord may be called on to address if they arise during the lease period. The checklists are also very useful for landlords, to ensure they are providing a rental property that meets housing codes, avoids potential liability, and reduces the exposure to potentially costly repairs and inconveniences to tenants down the road.
Fabio A. Sciarrino, Esq.DISCLAIMER: The information presented in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice and is provided for general informational purposes only. Furthermore, the contents of this article do not establish an attorney-client relationship. The Law Office of Fabio A. Sciarrino, LLC does not in any way warrant or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information, descriptions, statements, quotations, citations or other content contained in this article. Based on the foregoing, you should not rely on the information contained in this article as a substitute for consulting with a qualified attorney.