Landlords in Philadelphia face a challenging set of rules and regulations. Below are my answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I hear.
What is a Certificate of Rental Suitability and when is it required?
All owners that rent property are required to obtain a Certificate of Suitability issued by the Department of Licenses and Inspections no more than sixty (60) days prior to a tenant moving in.
The certificate can be issued for properties that do not have critical code violations. The printed certificate will include the required owner's attestations.
The following is An excerpt from the August 2011 HAPCO Newsletter -- August 24, 2011
"Property owners after October 1, 2011 will be required to obtain a “Certificate of Rental Suitability” at the beginning of every new tenancy. The certificate, which is available on line, must be obtained no more that 60 days prior to the commencement of the lease. The owner is also required to provide the new tenant with a copy of the "City of Philadelphia Partners for Good Housing Handbook".
In order to obtain the Certificate, the owner will be required to confirm that
- the owner has a current annual Housing Inspection license;
- that the property is fit for human habitation;
- that fire/smoke detection equipment for the premises is in proper operating condition;
- that the property will be maintained during the term of the lease in a condition fit for human habitation, and that fire/smoke detection equipment will be maintained as otherwise required by existing law.
Pursuant to the PA Commonwealth Court Order, no fee will be charged for issuance of the Rental Suitability Certificate.
Violation appeals can be initiated with the Board Administrator at the Municipal Services Building, 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard."
Where can I obtain a Philadelphia Rental Certificate?
A Certificate of Rental Suitability is required of landlords who wish to rent a property to new tenants. You may apply online at the Department of Business Services website or you may apply in person at the Department of Licenses and Inspections, Certifications Unit, Public Services Concourse in the Municipal Services Building, 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
(Greg Damis 10/2016)
What is a Business Privilege Tax (BPT) Identification Number?
BPT are no longer required. It is replaced by the Commercial Activity License
What is a Commercial Activity License?
A Commercial Activity License is required of every person who wants to engage in business in Philadelphia. This includes the generation of rental income. A commercial Activity License is free and required before getting your rental license. Go here for more information.
When do you need a rental license?
Any property owner who rents his/her property to others needs to have a current rental license. The license is issued by The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections.
In order to get a rental license, property owners need the following: an active Business Privilege License number, an active Business Privilege Tax Identification number, and knowledge of the property and what type of license is needed. Owners will need a license for each rental property they have.
(Greg Damis updated 12/20/11)
Regarding a Condominium Unit:
As a result of a court action, legislation was adopted by City Council changing housing license requirements for multiple family condominium buildings in the City of Philadelphia. Individually owned condominium units which are rented, no longer are required to have a separate residential rental license. you only need you Business Priviledge License. Condominium Association or Condominium Management is requires to take out the rental license for all of the units in the building.
When is a 'Partners for Good Housing' Handbook Needed?
The city has compiled a 21-page handbook that outlines minimum health, safety and maintenance standards for houses and apartments. The handbook should be given to new tenants upon their signing of a lease.
The Partners for Good Housing handbook is based on the Philadelphia Building code, and it outlines the responsibilities for both landlords and tenants.
The Philadelphia City Council has enacted a new law mandating notice to tenants before rent can be increased. The provisions of the law apply only in the City of Philadelphia. The Law require owners to provide tenants on a year-to-year lease with at least 60 days’ notice of a rent increase. Longer notice can be provided if the owner so desires. Month-to-month leases require 30 days’ notice before the rent can be increased. The law requires that tenants must respond with their intention to vacate the property or renew the lease within 30 days of receiving the notice. The bill was introduced by the recently reelected Philadelphia Councilman at large William Greenlee.
... Continue reading here
Amending the act of April 6, 1951 (P.L.69, No.20) providing for disposition of abandoned personal property is amended 3.23.11 by adding a section to read:
Section 505.1. Disposition of Abandoned Personal Property.--
(a) At the time a tenant has relinquished possession of thereal property, the tenant shall remove from the premises all items of the tenant's personal property. For the purposes of this section, a tenant shall be deemed to have relinquished possession of the premises upon any of the following:
(1) Execution of an order of possession in favor of thelandlord.
(2) If the tenant has physically vacated the premises, removal of substantially all personal property and the providing of a forwarding address or written notice stating that the tenant has vacated the premises.
... Continue reading here
What does a Landlord do when their Tenant passes away during the lease period?
The General Assembly of Pennsylvania - HOUSE BILL #447 - ENACTED 4/15/15
Amending the act of April 6, 1951 (P.L.69, No.20), entitled "An act relating to the rights, obligations and liabilities of landlord and tenant and of parties dealing with them and amending, revising, changing and consolidating the law relating thereto," providing for death of a tenant.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. The act of April 6, 1951 (P.L.69, No.20), known as The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951, is amended by adding a section to read:
Section 514. Death of Tenant.—
(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this act or law, and if the deceased tenant is the sole tenant of the residential unit, the executor or administrator of the estate of a tenant who dies during the term of a residential lease shall have the option to terminate the lease upon fourteen days' written notice to the landlord on the later of:
(1) the last day of the second calendar month that immediately follows the calendar month in which the tenant died; or
(2) upon surrender of the rental unit and removal of all of the tenant's personal property.
(b) Nothing under this section shall be construed to relieve the tenant's estate of liability for rent money or any other debt incurred prior to the date of termination of the lease, including damages to the premises and any expenses the landlord may incur as a direct result of the tenant's death, except that the tenant's estate shall not be liable for damages or any other penalty for breach or inadequate notice as a result of terminating a lease under subsection (a).
Section 2. The addition of section 514 of the act shall apply to leases entered into or extended on or after the effective date of this section.
Section 3. This act shall take effect in 60 days.
Are fire extinguishers required in rental properties?
SB 24 (D-Kitchen)
The Residential Transfer Portable Fire Extinguisher Act requires every dwelling unit located in a building without a sprinkler system, at the sale, lease or transfer of the dwelling unit, to be equipped with at least one portable fire extinguisher, at the expense of the seller, landlord or transferor, in conformance with rules and regulations promulgated by the Department of Labor and Industry. The regulations shall specify the required maintenance and periodic testing of portable fire extinguishers. The landlord, lessor or transferor may deduct the cost of a portable fire extinguisher from the security deposit provided by the tenant, lessee or transferor if the portable fire extinguisher has been discharged or removed from the dwelling unit at the lessee’s departure. An occupant may deduct the cost of a portable fire extinguisher from the monthly
rent at one point during the course of the occupant’s agreement with the landlord, lessor or transferor provided that a receipt
is provided as evidence that the occupant purchased a portable fire extinguisher for the dwelling unit and a portable fire extinguisher was not located in the dwelling unit at the beginning of the lease term. In any case in which a change of occupancy of any dwelling unit in a building without a sprinkler system installed in accordance with the International Building Code is subject to a municipal ordinance requiring the issuance of documentary certification of compliance with laws and regulations relating to the safety and maintenance of the premises, no such certificate shall be issued until the officer or agency responsible for its issuance has determined that the dwelling unit is equipped with at least one portable fire extinguisher. The bill provides for penalties.
01-20-09 Introduced and referred to committee
on Senate Urban Affairs and Housing
From Pugliese Associates
Bill Status Report:
August 26, 2010 For the Pennsylvania
Residential Owner’s Association
To download complete report, got to:
What is PGW's Landlord Cooperation Program (LCP)?
Landlords can be held liable for tenants' unpaid gas bills. To help protect owners against the placement of liens on their rental properties for unpaid tenant gas bills, the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors, the Homeowners Association of Philadelphia, Bob Elfant (Elfant Wissahickon Realtors), Mark Seidman, Greg Damis (2006 President, Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors), Paul Cohen (Cohen & Wilwerth) and Philadelphia Gas Works set up the Landlord Cooperation Program in 2006.
Owners can visit PGW's LCP site to register for the program. Once owners are registered and remain in a cooperative status, their residential rental property will not be liened during the term of the LCP. If owners are not registered, they can be liened for unpaid gas bills beginning Sept. 1, 2009.
(UPDATE: April 2010)... Various organizations are monitoring LCP registered properties and the L&I landlord database to make sure everyone is in compliance with the terms and conditions of LCP. If a landlord is not in compliance, he/she will be removed from LCP and its protections. PGW has the legal right to file liens against all properties, including residential rental properties, for unpaid gas bills. However, if a property owner registers for and fully cooperates in our LCP, he or she can receive lien protection for eligible tenant-occupied, residential rental property(s). In order to take advantage of the program, or for more information, please visit the PGW’s website at www.pgworks.com. Property owners are not eligible to register their own residences, properties for which the owner is or is legally required to be the customer of record, or non-residential properties. If you have questions, we’re here to help you, so email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Does Philly have a Smoking Disclosure Policy?
In April 2016, the city of Philadelphia amended Chapter 9-800 of The Philadelphia Code, requiring landlords of multi unit housing properties, to give their renters written information regarding their building rules on smoking. A complete version of the bill can be found at phila.legistar.com.
(1) In addition to any other applicable requirements of Section 10-602, relating to smoking in public places, a landlord who enters into or renews a lease or tanancy for a residential dwelling unit in a multi-family building shall disclose, in writing, to the tenant or prospective tenant, the building policy on smoking in individial dwelling units. The dissclosure must be made part of the lease and shall state whether smoking is prohibited in all dwelling units, permitted in all dwelling units, or permitted in some dwelling units. If smoking is permitted in some dwelling units, the lease shall identify the units where smoking is permitted.
What are the city's requirements for smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors?
Philadelphia Code (Bill No. 192) states that smoke detectors are required in one- & two-family dwellings. It also establishes that the owners and occupants/tenants are responsible for upkeep and testing. Owner certifications of installation and operation are mandatory upon application and renewal of rental property licenses.
Upon the sale of a one- or two- family dwelling, the Seller needs to certify in writing to the Buyer that the required smoke detectors have been installed according to code. For the sale of a 3-plus unit building, there must be a system for the common area that operates on a secondary power source. For more information, please consult the Philadelphia Fire Code.
Location of smoke detectors (Bill No. 192): Within each dewlling unit, smoke detectors shall be installed outside of each sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms and on each additional story of the family unit including basements and excluding crawl spaces and unfinished attics. A smoke detector should be located on each story. Smoke detectors shall be installed in the locations as follows, or as recommended by the manufacturer:
(a) In dwelling units with only one bedroom area on one floor, the smoke detector shall be located between the sleeping area and the rest of the family unit.
(b) In dewlling units with more than one bedroom area of with more than one sleeping area, a smoke detector shall be provided to protect each sleeping area.
(c) In two family dwellings, smoke detectors also shall be installed in the common hallways and stairways not contained within a dwelling unit. The smoke detector shall be located on each story at the top of the stairway leading to a dwelling unit.
Philadelphia also recently passed an ordinance bill #070870 requiring carbon monoxide detectors in all one- & two-family dwellings. The law took effect Jan. 1, 2009, and it states that the alarms must be made by a nationally recognized laboratory and include detection and alarm devices. Owners and occupants/tenants are responsible for upkeep and testing.
- The ordinance requires placement of a carbon monoxide alarm within 15 feet of the entrance to every bedroom, or within 15 feet of a bed in sleeping areas where there is no enclosed bedroom, eg: loft or studio apartment.
- In existing buildings, the carbon monoxide detector does not need to be hard-wired. Battery powered alarms, or wall plug-in alarms, are permissible.
- New buildings must have CO alarms that are hard-wired to an un-switched circuit of the building's electrical system and must be provided with battery back-up in case of power interruptions.
The installation of a combination smoke and CO alarm is permitted.
(Greg Damis Updated 3/1/12)
New smoke detector laws went into effect today in the city of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers says smoke detectors that require a battery change once a year are now illegal in your home, even if they still work.
“So all of our residents will now have to have 10-year, non-removable battery, lithium-powered smoke alarms,” he says.
And Ayers says smoke alarms that don’t require a battery change for a decade are sure to save lives.
“Many of the house fires where we have fatalities, we find that they have smoke alarms that don’t work — dead or missing batteries, (or) located in the wrong area.”
Ayers say the fire department is working with hardware stores on their inventories, as some of the outdated smoke detectors may still be temporarily available. He says the ones you want are the ten-year, non-removable, lithium-battery smoke detectors.
Since 1988, Philadelphia law has required hard-wired smoke detectors in all new residential construction.
(Extracted from an article by Hadas Kuznits on CBSPhilly.com, January 9, 2013)
CO Detectors Bill Signed - December, 2013
Gov. Tom Corbett signed Senate Bill 607 (Browne, R-Lehigh), requiring homeowners to disclose on their seller disclosure form whether their property has carbon monoxide (CO) detectors installed, and requires the installation of detectors in certain rental properties. The bill doesn’t require any seller (or buyer) to install a CO detector – it simply requires sellers to inform buyers whether a detector is present or not. PAR’s Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement (SPD) already includes language for sellers to disclose whether or not a home has a CO detector. Realtors® who use PAR’s form for their sellers won’t need to do anything differently to comply with this new law.
Multifamily and rental properties are also affected by the bill. Owners of multifamily properties that have a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance, a fireplace or an attached garage are required to install a CO detector “centrally located” and “in the vicinity of the bedrooms and the fossil fuel-burning heater or fireplace.” The owner is responsible for installing the detector and repairing/replacing it between tenants, but while the property is occupied the tenant is explicitly responsible for all upkeep, including periodic testing and battery replacement. Further, if the unit fails during a tenant’s tenure, the tenant would be responsible for repair or replacement. As originally proposed in the last legislative session, this bill would have required a point-of-sale inspection for CO detectors and imposed further responsibilities on landlords.
(Greg Damis Updated 1/29/14)
How much can my landlord charge as a security deposit?
How can I get my security deposit back when I move?
How soon after I move must my landlord return my deposit?
What happens if my landlord doesn't return my deposit?
Can I sue to get my security deposit back?
... See answers here
How do I get the scoop on the latest security deposit laws?
A security deposit is money which actually belongs to the tenant, but is held by the landlord for protection against damages or unpaid rent. The Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Act places a limit on the amount of a security deposit that a landlord may charge.
After five years the landlord cannot increase a security deposit even though the monthly rent is increased. Problems and disputes can be directed to the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.
How does the Federal Fair Housing Act affect me?
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of dwellings, and in other housing-related transactions, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and handicap (disability).
Property owners must adhere to the federal guidelines when renting property to prospective tenants.
What are the essential documents to have for a residential lease in Philadelphia?
1) Pennsylvania Residential Lease Residential_Lease_-_1213_ts91650.pdf
2) Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home Pamphlet Lead_Paint_Brochure_-_September_2013_ts90088.pdf
3) Mold, Moisture and Your Home Pamphlet Mold_and_Moisture_Brochure_ts91650.pdf
4) Partners for Good Housing Handbook Partners for Good Housing.pdf
5) PGW Landlord/Tenant Cooperation Addendum (Greg Damis) PGW Tenant Addendum.pdf
I received a letter from the Streets Department that states I have to file a Commercial Solid Waste and Recycling plan. What's that?
A businesss located in Philadelphia must recycle, and you must prepare a plan for recycling to file with the Streets Department. The plan may be prepared and submitted online at the city's website. In order to file a plan, you must have:
(1) a BRT number, (2) a recycling vendor's information, (3) information about the owner or manager of your property's business, and (4) the types of material that will be recycled. Violations or failure to implement the plan could result in a $500 fine.
What are the Regulations Governing Municipal and Private Collections of Refuse?
Section 8. Miscellaneous (pg. 24)
1. Placement of Private Business Litter Receptacles
Philadelphia Code Section 10-704 requires "... the placement of private business receptacles at all public entrance to places of business which prepare or sell food for takeout or consumption off the Premises during the business' normal hours of operation only."
- Such businesses shall place a Private Business Litter Receptacle at all public entrances, outside of the Premises, during all hours they are open or in operation.
- Such businesses shall store the Private Business Litter Receptacles inside the Premises during hours the business is not open or in operation.
- Any business receiving private Refuse collection must also use that collection to dispose of Refuse placed in a Private Business Litter Receptacle used by the business.
What should I know about Philadelphia Trash Regulations and SWEEPS?
Philadelphia SWEEPS officers are becoming increasingly active and are issuing more and more tickets. Take note of the following: (1) If your trash is collected by the City of Philadelphia, trash cannot be put out until 7pm the night before trash day. There is now a $300 annual fee for all commercial properties utilizing the city for trash pickup. For more information on this fee, please contact the Streets Department Solid Resources Unit at 215-686-5090 or email email@example.com (2) If your business has contracted with a licensed trash/recycling hauler, you must have a Dumpster License for all waste and recycling containers used by the business AND an RFI Medallion attached to each dumpster or trash container. Call the Department of License and Inspections at 215-686-8686 for more information.
Dumpster License Application - https://business.phila.gov/media/Dumpster-Private-or-Public.pdf
Medallion Attachment Instructions -https://philadelphiastreets.com/images/uploads/documents/medallion_attachment_instructions_updated.pdf
New Lead Certification rules for Philadelphia - Beginning October 1, 2020, landlords must test and certify rental properties built before 1978 as lead safe or lead free in order to execute or renew leases in Philadelphia. 11 zip codes will be affected immediately, with all zip codes phased in over 2 years. Click here for the link: LEAD CERTIFICATION LAW
Zip codes effective as of Oct 1 include 19121-19131-19132-19133-19138-
On September 26, 2019, Philadelphia City Council passed a new lead bill which amends the current law regarding lead in rental properties in Philadelphia and is effective October 1, 2020. Council member Blondell Reynolds Brown made sure landlords were the only properties who need to comply, even though majority of the residences in Phila are not rental properties. Not only are Homeowners are exempt, but daycares, schools, hospitals and other public spaces throughout the city.
In summary, the new bill does the following:
Expands the lead certification requirement to all pre-1978 RENTAL properties except student housing. No longer applicable are the prior law’s exclusions regarding: a) dwelling units in which children aged six and under do not and will not reside; and b) dwelling units owned or subsidized by the Philadelphia Housing Authority or its subsidiaries, or privately owned but currently leased under the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
Requires lead certifications on lease renewals as well as when the lease is originally entered into. The prior law only applied when the lease was first entered into.
Also ties the lead certification requirement to the issuance of rental licenses and renewals of rental licenses. This concept is completely new in the bill.
Expands the time period from 2 years to 4 years that a lead safe certification is valid. This was one of Councilmember Blondell Reynolds Brown’s major concessions to landlords.
Requires the tenant to cooperate and provide reasonable access to the rental unit for the landlord to have a certified lead inspector do an evaluation of the unit and to have any corrective action performed.
Requires the Health Department to: a) publicize a list of all certifications received by the City and all violations issued based on the lead-safe ordinance; and b) test the home of a child who has a demonstrated elevated blood level.
Requires submission of a lead safe certification or proof that the unit is lead-safe, lead-free or student housing before a landlord can proceed with an eviction. Also creates a rebuttable presumption that a rental property was built before March 1978.
Stiffens penalties for landlords who do not comply with Health Department orders to enter a property or obtain a lead safe certification after identification of a child with elevated levels.
Creates a transition period for dwelling units with children aged six and under. The new bill provides for a temporary exemption for dwelling units in which children aged six and under do not and will not reside during the lease term. The City shall be divided into four (4) regions based on the highest percentage of screened children with elevated blood lead levels, as determined by the Department of Health. Those in region one will lose the exemption as of October 1, 2020. Those in region two will lose the exemption as of April 1, 2021. Those in region three will lose the exemption as of October 1, 2021. And those in region four will lose the exemption as of April 1, 2022.
Additional requirements for obligatory transparency of the lessor necessitate providing the following documents along with lease agreements:
- A signed Lead Hazard Addendum to Lease
- Partner for Good Housing
- Supplementary Page – Lead Service Line Disclosure
Philadelphia, the Sanitation Department will be bugging you to seal unwanted mattresses and box springs in plastic disposal bags before putting them out for pickup.
The reason is bedbugs. Many mattresses wind up on the curb because they harbor the apple seed-sized bloodsuckers.
Encasing mattresses in plastic is a way to protect you, your neighbors - and your garbage collectors - from unintentionally giving bedbugs a lift to their next home. And meal.
The new rule, which also applies to mattresses taken to the city's three trash drop-off centers, goes into effect December 1, 2014.
Mattress disposal bags - part of the industry spawned by the bedbug resurgence that followed the banning of powerful pesticides - cost about $7 apiece. Bags are available at major retail and home-improvement stores and online.
Bedbugs are prolific, good at hiding, hard to get rid of, and can survive a year without food - namely, human blood. About 30 percent of people have no reaction to bedbug bites; everybody else develops intensely itchy, swollen, red bumps.
After that, citations will be issued that come with a $50 fine.
It could be worse. In the Big Apple, the fine is $100.
firstname.lastname@example.org 215-854-2720 @repopter
New Bed Bug Legislation: Introduced in the Committee on Licenses and Inspections (February 2019)
Bill No. 19010600: Proposal to Amending Chapter 3 of Subcode PM ("The Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code") of Title 4 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled "General Requirements," to add provisions relating to bed bug infestation; adding Chapter 9-4500 of the Code, entitled "Responsibilities Concerning Bed Bug Infestations," to establish various requirements for landlords and tenants relating to bed bug infestation and to establish requirements related to bed bugs in connection with certain residential occupancies and the sale of residential property; all under certain terms and conditions.
Philadelphia Good Cause Ordinance: Effective April 22, 2019
In the winter, City Council passed, and Mayor Kenney enacted, legislation that requires residential property owners to claim “good cause” in order to ask a renter to vacate a property when a lease agreement expires. GPAR was strident in its opposition of this legislation and worked hard for over a year to successfully remove the most harmful aspects of the original proposal. The collective efforts of the Philadelphia Real Estate Coalition. GPAR Past Presidents Heather A. Petrone-Shook and Joseph Rey, and GPAR's professional staff led to the new ordinance implementation in April 2019.
This ordinance will take effect on April 22, 2019. GPAR has prepared a fact sheet about this ordinance and it can be found here.
- Please email any questions/clarification to the attention of Samar Jha, GPAR's Director of Government & Public Affairs.
To read Greg's best tips for Landlords, Click Here
This list of Questions and Answers is not intended to be comprehensive and may include errors and omissions. The content is provided without warranties of any kind, either express or implied and is not permitted for use, re-distribution or publication without express written permission. Greg Damis is not responsible for any outside use of this content. '
This has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, or should be construed, as legal advice.