Each state has a unique set of laws that govern the rights and responsibilities of tenants. Having an understanding of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant is a wise move before entering into a legal agreement with a landlord.
It is easy to forget that renting an apartment is more than a place to live, it is an actual binding contract between the landlord and the tenant. It is important to proceed with caution by reading the details of the lease to ensure that your rights are protected under the laws that govern the state of Pennsylvania. Use common sense and create a verifiable paper trail protect your rights as a tenant. However, keep in mind that oral agreements are also legal in Pennsylvania but may be hard to prove in court.
Basic Tenants Rights
A tenant has certain rights under Pennsylvania law. Knowledge of your rights as a tenant can greatly increase your options should you run into problems with your landlord during the duration of the lease. Believe it or not, safety, cleanliness, and privacy are just a few of the rights afforded to you as a tenant. The lease should be written and provided to the tenant as proof of the tenant/landlord arrangement. In addition, the tenant has a right to dwell in the residence during the entire duration of the lease. Following the end of a lease and the vacating of the rental property, the landlord must return the deposit within 30 days.
The tenant has a right to peaceful possession of the property inhabited. A landlord can not harass a tenant by entering the rental unit without proper notice and without a valid reason. Appropriate reasons for entering a rental unit include emergencies, repairs, or showing the unit to rental prospects. Furthermore, a landlord cannot legally turn off utilities or change the locks.
Pennsylvania law requires that a landlord goes to court in order to legally evict a tenant or recover any unpaid funds. Any landlord that attempts to evict a tenant without a court hearing is breaking the law. If you happen to find yourself in a position where you are forcibly being asked to leave, understand that before the landlord can evict you, he or she must notify you in writing with a “notice to vacate.” This notice must be given to the tenant prior to filing for eviction. Even after the court hearing has taken place both landlord and tenant have the right to appeal any initial court decisions. A landlord can not legally retaliate against a tenant that makes formal complaints or appeals a court decision.
Awareness of the tenant laws that govern the state you reside in can often be the difference between being taken advantage of or possessing the knowledge to handle your rental woes in a proactive manner. Tenants’ rights, just as well as landlords’ rights, are in place to protect both parties and to make sure that everyone benefits from the agreed upon legal terms.