The frequently asked questions below may be helpful for both landlords, tenants, and anyone else seeking information about housing, the Model Lease, and rights and responsibilities of landlord and tenants.
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Who is the Model Lease for?
The Model Lease is intended for small independent landlords renting single-unit residences. However, the lease may also serve as a valuable starting point for all landlords and tenants.
What is in the Model Lease?
The Model Lease focuses on addressing required terms in ways that are legal and fair. It is short by design, and we encourage you to add to it to fit your units and your tenants’ needs.
Is the Model Lease available in languages other than English?
Yes! Click here to view the Model Lease in other languages commonly spoken in Philadelphia
What about subsidized housing?
In its current form, the Model Lease is designed for unsubsidized, private landlord-tenant relationships.
Do fire protection standards have to appear in the lease?
Fire protection standards are not required to appear in leases.
However, if a landlord has a rental license for their property in Philadelphia, they must give the tenant a Certificate of Rental Suitability (see below), which includes fire safety and smoke detector assurances. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-3903).
Does a lease have to be written down?
No. Leases can be oral or written if they are for three years or less. However, writing a lease down is best for both parties.
Leases for three years or longer must be written down and signed by both parties (Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act, Section 202).
If you never signed a written lease, terms like the rent, the basic expectations of the landlord and tenant, and all federal, Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia laws will still apply.
What protections does housing law provide against discrimination?
Philadelphia has broad laws against denying or interfering with any person’s “housing accommodation, commercial property or other real property opportunities” because of their “race, ethnicity, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, age, source of income, familial status, or domestic or sexual violence victim status.”
Acts of discrimination are unlawful housing and real property practices. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-1108(1)).
What is Philadelphia’s Eviction Diversion Program?
The Eviction Diversion Program requires landlords to attempt to resolve issues with their tenants before the landlords have a lawful basis to evict them.
Under the program, landlords must:
1) enroll in the program and participate in it in good faith for at least 45 days, and
2) give their tenant a notice of their rights under the program. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-811).
Notice of rights can be given via this form.
If a landlord does not follow these steps, their tenants can raise non-compliance as a defense in court against the landlord.
The tenant’s right to raise that defense cannot be waived in a lease or agreement. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-811(7)).
Does the Landlord have to provide cable television or internet connection?
Pennsylvania law gives the tenant to right to request and receive a cable television connection from their landlord. (Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act, Article V-B)
Required Forms and Disclosures
Landlords have to disclose the following to tenants:
(1) Certificate of Rental Suitability: Every licensed landlord must give every tenant a Certificate of Rental Suitability. The certificate says all fire protection and smoke detection equipment for the premises are present and in proper operating condition. It also acknowledges that the landlord must provide a “fit and habitable” property. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-3903).
(2) Lead Paint Disclosure: Federal law requires every landlord to tell their tenants anything they know about lead-based paint and hazards. (United States Code, 42 U.S.C, Section 4852(d)). However, this disclosure does not have to be in the lease agreement.
(3) Lead Warning Statement: Philadelphia code requires lead warning statements in lease agreements for residential housing. (See Philadelphia Code, Health Code Section 6-805(2) for the exact language required for these statements).
(4) Smoking Policy for multi-family buildings: If the dwelling has more than one unit, the landlord must tell potential tenants in writing whether they can smoke in the unit or in the building. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-805)
(5) Partners in Fair Housing Booklet: Landlords have to give this booklet to their tenants; the Department of Licenses and Inspections maintains the document. Download it here.
(6) Bed Bug Control: Landlords have to give their tenants: 1) an information sheet about bedbug safety. Find that here. 2) a description of any bed bugs reported in the past 120 days.
If someone files a complaint about bed bugs, the landlord must hire a pest control professional and continue treatment until there are no more bed bugs. After that, the landlord must monitor the building for bed bugs for one year and check adjacent units if the building has 4 or more units.
Does the landlord have to tell tenants about changes to their lease? If so, when?
If the lease has a set end-date or lasts for 1 year, the landlord must provide 30 days notice, and notice must be in writing. (Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act, Article V, Section 501(b)).
If the lease is month-to-month, the landlord must provide a minimum of 15 days’ notice in writing. Notice can be given at any time. (Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act, Article V, 501(b)).
What about insurance requirements?
Insurance is not required by law for either the landlord or tenant.
However, most banks and lenders require landlords to get homeowners’ insurance.
The Landlord may also require the tenant to purchase renter’s insurance, and the landlord’s homeowner’s insurance provider might require that certain clauses appear in the lease. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-3903).
What about pets?
Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant laws do not have any specific pet laws.
Landlords can create their own pet policies and requirements, including rules for breeds, size, types, and more.
This information can be included as an addendum to the Model Lease