Legal Updates

Certificate of Rental Suitability

WHAT IS THE CERTIFICATE OF RENTAL SUITABILITY?

The Certificate of Rental Suitability is a document certifying compliance with the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code.  Landlord’s must provide the Certificate to the Tenant’s at the inception of the tenancy.  The Certificate of Rental Suitability can be obtained here. Under PM-102.1 the Rental Suitability must be handed to the tenant at the inception of the tenancy.  The main purpose of the Certificate of Rental Suitability is to ensure landlords pay their taxes, are subject to regulation, and comply with the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code.

CAN I COLLECT RENT WITHOUT A CERTIFICATE OF RENTAL SUITABILITY?

A.  Probably Not.  In Philadelphia Landlord-Tenant Court a landlord may not recover back rent or possession in most cases.  However, there is some support that a landlord may collect rent in higher courts.  The Pennsylvania Superior Court recently upheld a recovery without the Certificate of Rental Suitability.  The Court held in Richetti that a landlord may collect back rent after bringing his property into compliance with the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code.  In the lower Philadelphia Court, a landlord has been unable to collect back rent for any period of time when she did not have a Housing License, Certificate of Rental Suitability, or Partner for Good Housing Handbook.

This is a major breakthrough, since landlords are usually barred from rent collection without having these documents at the inception of the tenancy.  In Richetti C., v. Ellis , the Superior Court suggested that a landlord may collect unpaid rent after meeting requisite Philadelphia licensing requirements. In Philadelphia a Housing License, Certificate of Rental Suitability, and Partners for Good Housing Handbook is required to rent property. PM-102.1  Without these documents, the City of Philadelphia will not allow you evict or collect rent from a tenant who breached the lease.

Philadelphia also disallows self help evictions.  This makes it exceptionally difficult for a landlord to evict a tenant if he was unaware of the City’s stringent rental requirements.  Under the old law, a landlord could not sue for any back rent during any time she was in noncompliance with the Property Maintenance Code.  It should also be noted the Richetti decision was non precedential, and therefore may not be used as supporting case law.

The Certificate of Rental Suitability is legally required to collect rent and obtain possession in most cases. However, recent case law in the Superior Court suggests landlords may be more successful in higher courts without compliance.

DO I NEED A CERTIFICATE OF RENTAL SUITABILITY FOR EVICTION?

A.  In most cases yes.  Note the Rental Suitability requirement is specific to Philadelphia, PA.  If you rent property in the surrounding counties a rental suitability certificate is not required.  Additionally, there are exceptions to the Certificate of Rental Suitability requirement.

There are multiple legal requirements for a landlord to legally evict a tenant.  First the landlord must obtain the requisite licenses. This may be hindered by a tenant who reports housing violations to Philadelphia Licenses and Inspections. Housing violations will bar a landlord from getting required documents until passing an inspection. Sometimes the tenant will then obstruct a landlords entry to make necessary repairs. Without the ability to enter and repair, the landlord is unable to obtain a Certificate of Rental Suitability in some situations.

In situations such as this, it is critical you speak with a Philadelphia landlord tenant lawyer to discuss your options. Our lawyers will subpoena Philadelphia police and/or license and inspection officers to court to argue licensing is not required under such circumstances. We have successfully processed evictions in cases where tenants thwart landlords entry to repair properties.

HOW DO I REMOVE A TENANT WITHOUT A RENTAL SUITABILITY?

A. You may be able to file an eviction under the exceptions to the Rental Suitability.  If the individual is a squatter you may file an ejectment. Per Richetti, after obtaining a license the landlord can collect back rent.  A landlord can now reasonably ask for back rent during a period of noncompliance with the Property Maintenance Code.  If you are having difficulty evicting a delinquent tenant because of no Certificate of Rental Suitability, Housing License, or Partners for Good Housing Handbook contact the Law Office of Mark D. Copoulos. We will help you obtain these documents, and now we can help you collect unpaid rent during a period of noncompliance with the law. Call now for a free consultation of your legal matter and get your property back.