FAQs – Tenants

The following frequently asked questions may be most helpful for tenants.

For a comprehensive guide to Philadelphia tenant rights, visit http://www.phillytenant.org/.

What should I do if the landlord is breaking one of their responsibilities?

Low-income tenants in certain ZIP codes are eligible for Right to Counsel. This law guarantees the right to an attorney for fair housing hearings, eviction cases, or housing subsidy termination actions. Read more here.

Tenants can also file a complaint about unfair rental practices with the Philadelphia Fair Housing Commission. Click here to learn how to file a complaint.

I am a survivor of sexual assault or domestic violence. What are my rights?

For general resources, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) and visit the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault may end their lease early and receive back their security deposit as long as they have evidence of the assault from a court, the police, and/or a healthcare professional. Philadelphia Code, Section 9-804(6)(a). 

If a survivor needs to leave their home to protect themself or their family, they should let their landlord know when they get a protection from abuse order. This prevents the landlord from claiming any property left behind for 30 days. This also allows the tenant to receive 30 days of storage from their landlord. (Pennsylvania Landlord and Tenant Act, Section 513.)

If the abuser is another tenant, the owner, the landlord, or the owner/landlord’s employee, a survivor can get their abuser taken off the lease and evicted. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-804(7)). Pennsylvania law also allows the eviction of a domestic abuser. (Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Code, P.L. 1240, No. 206, Section 6108(a)(2))

However, a survivor can be evicted for normal reasons that are not related to their status as a survivor, as long as their landlord applies the same standard they apply to all tenants. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-804(9))

Can a family member or friend come stay with a tenant if they are not on the lease?

Yes, they can stay for a “reasonable time” as long as everyone follows the law and all the rules laid out in the lease.

Your lease cannot bar you from having visitors and guests over, and your landlord cannot charge you for this right. (Pennsylvania Landlord andTenant Act, Section 504-A)

How can a tenant repay back rent in order to stop an eviction proceeding?

Contact the landlord and let them know the tenant can pay. The tenant should then contact the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department.

If my landlord takes me to court, how can I get a lawyer?

Under Philadelphia law, you have the right to be fully represented by a lawyer whenever your landlord attempts to evict you, take away your housing assistance, change your lease, or take other actions that affect your ability to live at your home. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-808).

What can a tenant do if they believe their rental application was rejected wrongly?

After receiving a written rejection that states the reasons for the decision, a prospective renter has 48 hours to notify the landlord that they intend to dispute or request reconsideration. From there, the tenant will have to present any available evidence showing that the landlord’s information was incorrect or that there are mitigating circumstances that would not come up on a background check. This evidence can include proving a history of on-time rent payments, showing new and steady income that will enable them to pay rent, changes in circumstances, and letters of recommendation from employers and former housing providers. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-810(4)).

If a tenant seeks to reconsider their rejection but the landlord rents out the potential unit to someone else, the landlord must offer to rent the next available unit to the rejected tenant, as long as 1) the tenant has shown that a reasonable person would think they are able to be a successful tenant, and 2) the landlord owns five or more units in Philadelphia. (Philadelphia Code, Section 9-810(5)).