Pennsylvania landlords must comply with specific state rules when it comes to renting out property. Here are some of the most important items you'll want to cover in your Pennsylvania lease or rental agreement.
Your lease or rental agreement should name as tenants (and have the signature of) every adult who lives in the rental unit, including both members of a married or unmarried couple. This makes each tenant legally responsible for all terms, including the full amount of the rent and proper use of the property. This means that you can legally seek the entire rent or the cost of damage repair from any one of the tenants should the others be unable to pay.
In addition, your agreement should clearly specify that the rental unit is the residence of only the tenants who have signed the lease and their minor children. This guarantees your right to determine who lives in your property -- ideally, people whom you have screened and approved -- and to limit the number of occupants.
Every Pennsylvania rental document should state whether it is a rental agreement or a fixed-term lease. Here's the difference:
Provide specific details on the rent, including:
To avoid confusion and legal hassles over deposits, your Pennsylvania lease or rental agreement should be clear on all the details, including:
The dollar amount of the security deposit. Under Pennsylvania law, you may require a deposit of up to two months' rent during the first year, but only one month's rent for the second and subsequent years of the tenancy.
Accounting of the deposit. If the deposit is over $100, state law requires that you put the deposit in a federally- or state- regulated financial institution, and give the tenant the name and address of the institution.
Interest on the deposit. Under Pennsylvania law, tenants who occupy the premises for more than two years are entitled to interest, beginning in the 25th month of occupancy.
When and how you will return the deposit. Under Pennsylvania law, you must account for and return the deposit within 30 days of the end of the tenancy.
Your best defense against tenant rent-withholding and other hassles (especially over security deposits) is to clearly set out responsibilities for repair and maintenance in your lease or rental agreement, including:
To avoid tenant claims of illegal entry or violation of privacy rights, your lease or rental agreement should clarify your legal right of access to the property -- for example, to make repairs -- and state how much advance notice you will provide the tenant before entering. Pennsylvania does not require landlords to give tenants a specified amount of notice before entry, but 24 hours is reasonable (and a common standard in many states).
To avoid trouble among your tenants, prevent property damage, and limit your exposure to lawsuits from residents and neighbors, you should include an explicit lease or rental agreement clause prohibiting disruptive behavior, such as excessive noise, and illegal activity, such as drug dealing.
If you do not allow pets, be sure your lease or rental agreement clearly says so. If you do allow pets, you should identify any special restrictions, such as a limit on the size or number of pets or any special pet rules.
Federal law require landlords to make certain lead-based paint disclosures before tenants move in.
Be sure your lease or rental agreement complies with all relevant state and local Pennsylvania laws including health and safety codes and antidiscrimination laws. Any other legal restrictions, such as limits on the type of business a tenant may run from home, should also be spelled out in your lease or rental agreement, as well as important rules and regulations covering things like parking and use of common areas.
For Pennsylvania rental documents, including leases and rental agreements, see the Real Estate and Rental Property Forms section of Nolo. These ready-to-use legal forms include detailed, clause-by-clause instructions that cover the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in Pennsylvania. Options include the following:
Pennsylvania Residential Lease