What are Pennsylvania’s Tenant Security Deposit Laws?

By Daniel Stoner on December 19, 2023

When renting a house, apartment, or mobile home, it is customary to provide your landlord with a security deposit for the rental unit. This deposit serves as a financial protection, intended to cover potential damages to the property or any outstanding rent at the conclusion of your tenancy. An experienced Pennsylvania real estate attorney can advise you on the written agreement with the landlord and take the necessary steps to ensure that your rights as a tenant are protected.

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Maximum Limits on Security Deposit Under Pennsylvania Law

The amount Pennsylvania landlords can charge as a security deposit depends on the duration of your tenancy. According to 68 P.S. §§ 250.511a-250.512, your landlord cannot charge more than two months rent as a security deposit. However, there are certain rules and exceptions to this. After the first year, the landlord cannot charge more than one month’s rent as the tenant’s security deposit. If your initial deposit exceeds this amount, your landlord is obligated to return the excess or you can sue them in a justice court.

If you have resided in a property for five years or more, your Pennsylvania landlord is not permitted to raise the exact amount of the security deposit, even if there is an increase in rent during the lease renewal. This maximum deposit provision is designed to strike a balance between the interests of landlords and the protection of tenants who have established a lengthy and stable rental history.

Interest on the Security Deposit Amount

If you have lived in a rental property in Pennsylvania for more than two years and your security deposit exceeds $100, the landlord is required to deposit it into an interest-bearing account. After the third year, and each subsequent year, you are entitled to receive the interest generated by the deposit, minus 1% to cover the landlord’s expenses.

In certain cases, the landlord must hold the security deposit and the accrued interest in an escrow account with a banking institution. These provisions under landlord-tenant laws ensure that tenants receive a fair share of the interest earned on their security deposits, contributing to a more transparent and equitable landlord-tenant relationship.

Refund of Security Deposit After the Tenant Leaves a Property

In Pennsylvania, landlords are required to return a tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of the end of the lease. This is a breakdown of the key steps and considerations for tenants seeking the return of their Pennsylvania security deposit after leaving a property:

  • Written Notice of Forwarding Address: You should provide your landlord with written notice of your new address just before or at the time of your move.
  • Document the Property’s Condition: Before moving out, document the condition of the property through photographs or videos. This can serve as evidence in case there are disputes about damages.
  • Normal Wear and Tear: Your landlord cannot deduct money for normal wear and tear. However, you should leave the property in a clean, orderly, and good repair. Address any damages you are responsible for to ensure a smoother return of the security deposit.
  • Review Lease Agreement: Refer to your lease agreement to understand specific terms related to the last month’s rent and return of the security deposit.
  • Withholding for Unpaid Rent or Damages: Landlords can withhold all or part of the security deposit to cover unpaid rent or damages beyond normal wear and tear.

Legal Recourse If Landlord Fails to Refund the Security Deposit

If the landlord fails to return the tenant’s deposit within the specified timeframe or does not provide a written list of damages to the property, you may have legal recourse. If the landlord does not return the difference between the deposit and actual damage within 30 days after a tenant vacates the housing unit, Pennsylvania security deposit laws allow the tenant to sue for double the amount.

Your attorney will review your lease agreement to understand the terms and conditions related to the refund. Generally, if a landlord has not returned the security deposit within 30 days after the end of lease, a written notice requesting the return of the deposit needs to be submitted. You need to make sure to include your new address and send the notice via certified mail with a return receipt requested.

It is important that you keep records of all communication with your landlord, including the written notice, any responses received, and proof of mailing. If possible, retain evidence such as receipts, photographs, or videos documenting the property’s condition when you moved out.

Legitimate Deductions from the Security Refund Under Pennsylvania Law

Landlords may have legitimate reasons for deductions under Pennsylvania security deposit law, such as:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Cleaning fees and costs
  • Damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repairs
  • Outstanding utility bills
  • Lease violations

A Pennsylvania tenant has the right to dispute security deposit deductions they believe are unjustified under rental agreement law. If your landlord fails to provide a proper itemization of deductions or withholds the security deposit without legitimate cause, you should consult with a qualified attorney.

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How Can Experienced Attorneys Protect Your Rights?

Attorneys specializing in landlord-tenant law have a deep understanding of Pennsylvania’s security deposit laws. They can provide guidance on your rights and advise you on the best course of action based on the specifics of your case.

Review Lease Agreement

Your attorney can carefully review your lease agreement to identify any clauses related to the tenant’s deposit and ensure that your landlord is adhering to the terms outlined in the agreement.

Demand Letters

The lawyer can draft and send a formal demand letter to your landlord, clearly outlining your rights, the landlord’s obligations, and the consequences of failing to comply. This formal communication often prompts landlords to take the matter more seriously.

Negotiations and Mediation

Attorneys are skilled negotiators and can engage in discussions with your landlord to reach a resolution without resorting to legal action. They may also assist in mediation to find a mutually agreeable solution. Most landlords prefer returning the security deposit after making allowable deductions when a qualified tenant rights lawyer in Pennsylvania is in the picture.

Legal Proceedings

In more complex cases or when informal methods fail, your lawyer can take things to court and file a lawsuit against your landlord. If the amount in dispute is less, your attorney can represent you in small claims court. They will ensure that all legal procedures are followed to present a strong case on your behalf.

Legal Help is Here from Top-Rated Real Estate Attorneys in Pennsylvania

Whether you are a tenant facing unjust deductions or a landlord dealing with complex tenant issues, the real estate attorneys at Stoner Law can help. Our experienced and dedicated lawyers employ a variety of dispute resolution strategies to achieve a fair and favorable resolution that aligns with your interests. To schedule your free consultation, call us at (267) 214-1609 or fill out this online contact form.

Category: Contract Law