FAQs About Landlord-Tenant Law
Q: What documents do I need to file an eviction?
A: At a minimum, to file an eviction in Philadelphia, PA you will need a Housing Inspection License, Certificate of Rental Suitability, Partner for Good Housing Handbook, Notice to Vacate, and a Lease. In some situations you may not need all these documents. If the tenant has children aged six or younger you may also need a lead safe certificate.
Q: What basis do I need to evict a tenant in Philadelphia?
A: In Philadelphia a tenant can be evicted for three specific bases: nonpayment of rent, termination of the lease, or breach of the lease. Breach of the lease may include, but is not limited to, threatening behavior, unsanitary conditions, illegal activity or any other breach of the lease term.
Q: Can a landlord go to jail if they evict me without the courts?
A: Technically, yes. A self-help eviction is a violation of 9-1600 of the Philadelphia Code. Violation of the Code is a summary offense. Therefore, a landlord could potentially face imprisonment for engaging in self-help eviction. However, it is very unlikely. It is more likely the landlord would be assessed a fine or money judgment.
Q: What can happen if I do not pay my rent?
A: The landlord can file an eviction. Even if you subsequently pay your rent this will have a detrimental impact on your credit. It may also impact your ability to rent property in the future. Once an eviction is filed, there is no way to “take it back.” The history of the eviction may haunt you for years.
Q: What is the maximum security deposit a landlord can demand?
A: A landlord cannot insist on more than two months security deposit. With that said, a landlord can reserve the right not to rent to you if you have credit issues. A landlord cannot refuse to rent based on race, sex, age, or any other legally protected classes.
Q: Can I evict a tenant without a lease?
A: If the rest of your documentation is in order (i.e., housing licenses, certificate of rental suitability, etc.) you may be able to evict without a lease. If an oral lease existed you can testify in-person as to the lease. Further, if the lease is lost you can still proceed with eviction. The problem is that you will not have a written document to substantiate your claims. Therefore, it is unlikely you will make any monetary recovery.
Q: Can a landlord file an eviction against a squatter?
A: Yes, but it’s not a good idea. If the landlord tries to evict a squatter (no lease) by way of eviction, the case may be dismissed. Evictions are for cases where there is a landlord-tenant relationship. If no landlord-tenant relationship (i.e., lease) exists, then the proper legal action would be an ejectment.
Q: Who is responsible for structural damage to the property?
A: Generally, a landlord is responsible for structural repairs like pipe breakages, heating issues, and/or leaking ceilings. This may not be the case if the tenant cause the actual damage. Speak with a landlord-tenant attorney about who should bear the cost of damages.
Q: Can I sue for double my deposit if the landlord doesn’t give it back?
A: Maybe. In Pennsylvania, a landlord has an obligation to return your deposit within thirty days. The law requires that you provide the landlord a forwarding address. If a forwarding address is not provided, then the landlord is not obligated to return your deposit. If a forwarding address is provided, the landlord must either return your deposit or send an itemized list of damages within thirty days. If the landlord does not take this action, he may be liable for double the amount of your deposit after thirty days.
Q: Can a landlord come into my apartment whenever they want?
A: In most situations, a landlord must give 24 hours notice to enter your apartment. The lease may speak to landlord access. The landlord does not have a right to enter at-will without consulting the tenant, or for any reason. Speak with a landlord-tenant lawyer or consult your lease.