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Pennsylvania Residential Lease
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- A lease runs from one specific date to another, and typically lasts for a year. The lease expires on its own; neither landlord nor tenant need give notice. The terms of the lease cannot be modified midlease unless both parties agree.
- A month-to-month rental agreement self-renews every month, unless landlord or tenant gives the required amount of notice. Landlords may modify the terms of the agreement using the same notice period.
- Unusually large rooms or rooms that can function as a bedroom or other living room. You may need to allow more occupants if your bedrooms are unusually large and would accommodate more residents.
- Limits in your infrastructure. In rare instances, landlords may be justified in permitting fewer than two persons per bedroom. For example, a limited septic system may justify varying the general rule. But these variations can be extremely hard to justify.
- You've collected more than one month's rent as a deposit, and
- The tenant has stayed more than one year.
- Alterations by a person with a disability. Under the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act, tenants who have a disability may modify their living space to the extent necessary to make the space safe and comfortable, as long as these modifications don't pose an unreasonable burden to you.
- Use of the "rent withholding" procedure. Tenants in Pennsylvania have the right to withhold rent when the premises have been declared uninhabitable by the local public health department. (35 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. Section 1700-1.) The tenant must deposit the rent into an escrow account.
- Use of the "repair and deduct" remedy. Tenants in Pennsylvania may repair a serious defect that the landlord has failed to remedy, despite reasonable notice. (Pugh v. Holmes, 405 A.2d 897 (1979).)
- Satellite dishes and antennas. Federal law gives tenants limited rights to install wireless antennas and small satellite dishes.
Pennsylvania landlord? Create a residential lease for your state
If you’re a Pennsylvania landlord, you need a lease or rental agreement that covers Pennsylvania-specific landlord-tenant laws. Nolo’s Pennsylvania lease has been written to comply with state law.
In your legally binding lease or rental agreement, you'll set out, in plain English, all the important terms of the tenancy, including who may occupy the unit, the rent, when rent is due and how it must be paid. It states the amount of the security deposit and explains how the law allows you to use it for damage, necessary cleaning, or unpaid rent. To set clear expectations, the lease explains your legal right to enter the unit, and the responsibilities of both tenant and landlord for keeping it safe and maintained.
You can also include other terms: for example, restrictions on guests, allowed uses of the property, and your policies on late rent and bounced checks. Finally, you can make legally required disclosures about environmental hazards or other issues.
To prepare your lease or rental agreement, just follow the step-by-step instructions, which clearly explain each clause and show you how to fill in required information.
Are you making a lease or a month-to-month rental agreement?
This rental form allows you to create either a fixed-term lease or a rental agreement.
Are you renewing an existing lease you made with Nolo?
If you've made a lease using this platform and have an existing account, you can renew the lease by duplicating the old lease and entering any changed information. For example, make sure the contact information for you or the manager is current. (To duplicate your form, open the original lease and click "Duplicate" in the blue menu bar.)
If you want to apply the security deposit you collected originally to the renewed lease, you'll have an opportunity to do so. You can either roll-over the amount you have on hand, or add to it (within the limits of the law, of course). If you're required to pay interest on deposits, don't forget to follow the rules regarding disbursement, and to calculate interest based on the new, higher amount if you've increased the deposit.
How do I establish a legal occupancy policy for this rental?
In order to avoid overcrowding, you may want to limit the number of people who will reside in the rental. An occupancy policy of two persons per bedroom is presumed reasonable. This means that you may need to adjust your policies, depending on the situation:
Be certain that you do not apply an occupancy policy in a way that discriminates against families with children. And be realistic -- the presence of a newborn or infant usually will not create overcrowding.
What does "joint and several liability" mean?
Your rental document advises multiple tenants that each tenant will be responsible for paying rent and abiding by all the terms of the agreement. (If you're renting to a single tenant now, it puts this tenant on notice that tenants who join the lease later will also be subject to this rule.) The rule means that you can legally seek the entire rent from any one of the tenants should the others skip out or be unable to pay. It also gives you the right to evict all of the tenants even if just one has broken the terms of the lease.
How do I establish a legal late fees policy?
Late fees can be a powerful motivator for on-time rent payments. But they must not be excessive, or a thinly disguised profit center. A late fee isn't to penalize the tenant -- it's to compensate you for your losses caused by the late payment.
Pennsylvania does not regulate the imposition of late fees. But this doesn't mean that the sky's the limit, or that you can choose an excessive fee in order to pressure the tenant to pay on time. A late fee isn't to penalize the tenant -- it’s to compensate you for your losses caused by the late payment.
Likewise, Pennsylvania does not require a grace period -- a number of days after the rent is due but before you'll impose your late fee. You may choose a grace period if you wish.
To estimate your losses, consider the interest you'll lose on the unpaid rent, the staff time it will take to document unpaid rent and request that it be paid, and other direct consequences of late payments. As a general rule, total late fees that are more than 3% to 5% of the total monthly rent are targets for lawsuits. So, for example, if the monthly rent is $1,500, you shouldn't charge more than $45 to $75 as a total late fee. You could write your policy like this: “$25 for the first day the rent is late, plus $10 per day for each succeeding day, up to a maximum of $75.”
What are the rules concerning security deposits?
Pennsylvania allows you to collect up to two months' rent as a deposit. The law not only limits the amount you may collect -- it requires you to refund a portion if the following occurs:
When this happens, you'll need to refund the difference at the start of the second year. For example, if you collect two months' rent and the tenant stays more than one year, you need to return a months' rent to the tenant. Pennsylvania does not require that you pay interest on deposits.
What are the rules regarding repairs and alterations?
This clause makes it clear that the tenant may not make alterations and repairs without your consent. It also covers locks and other security devices.
The "except as provided by law" language in subsection a refers to the fact that in certain situations, tenants have a narrowly defined right to alter or repair the premises, regardless of what's in the rental agreement. Examples include:
What does the "possession of the premises" clause mean?
This clause explains that the tenant who chooses not to move in (take possession) after signing the lease must still pay rent and satisfy other conditions of the agreement.
The clause also protects you if you're unable, for reasons beyond your control, to turn over possession after having signed the agreement -- for example, if a fire spreads from next door and destroys the premises, or if former tenants refuse to move out. The new tenant is entitled to consider the lease terminated, but your financial liability to the new tenant will be limited to the return of any prepaid rent and security deposit (the "sums previously paid").
What does the "covenant of quiet enjoyment" mean for both landlord and tenant?
Your rental document requires both landlord and tenant to refrain from violating laws and causing disturbances, and to maintain the tenant's right to "quiet enjoyment." In particular:
Landlord. Your promise to give the tenant "quiet enjoyment" means that you will preserve the ability of the tenant to use and enjoy the rented premises. Examples include not allowing garbage to pile up, dealing with a rodent infestation, and controlling a neighboring tenant on your property whose constant loud music makes it impossible for other tenants to sleep.
Tenant. This clause also forbids tenants from interfering with other tenants' or nearby residents' ability to reasonably enjoy their homes. For instance, a tenant who hosts loud, late parties has interfered with others' quiet enjoyment. Serious and repeated violations of the covenant of quiet enjoyment on the part of the landlord entitle the tenant to break the lease and move out. Such violations on the part of the tenant allow the landlord to terminate the tenancy.
How do I supply legally-required lead-hazard documentation?
With some exceptions, all landlords must complete the federally required Lead Paint and Lead-Paint Hazards Disclosure form and give it to prospective tenants. Your lease includes a clause in which landlords who are not exempt from this requirement state that they have complied with the rule (exemptions are explained in the Help sections of the clause). You can download the Disclosure of Information on Lead-Based Paint and/or Lead-Based Paint Hazards from the EPA website. Fill it out by hand. Be sure to keep a copy for your records.
Note that if you're renting a unit in a multitenant building, the requirement that you disclose information includes records and reports concerning common areas and other units, when such information was obtained as a result of a building-wide evaluation.
If you are not exempt, you will also need to give your tenant a copy of the EPA pamphlet Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home, available at the EPA website.