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Can My Philadelphia Tenants Legally Withhold Rent?

Can Tenants Withhold Rent According to a Philadelphia Property Manager?

All renters have certain tenant rights. That said, it is up to the property manager or landlord to know what these rights are and not to violate them. If you do violate them, the tenant may have the right to hold rent in escrow. This can cause a litany of problems for you, both legal and financial. Hiring a Philadelphia property manager to avoid rent escrow situations may be an excellent place to start. Read on as we discuss various reasons your tenant can withhold rent.

Reasons Tenants Can Withhold Rent Payment

  • Implied Warranty of Habitability: A rental property must be deemed safe and habitable. This refers to the lack of serious or hazardous repairs not being made that directly affect the tenant’s health or safety. So, if landlords fail to make the necessary repairs, a tenant can withhold rent in escrow. It is important to note that this only applies to severe maintenance such as a badly leaking roof, mold, broken furnace, non-working plumbing, structural issues, dangerous wiring, or lack of water.
  • Repair and Deduct Remedy: After notice and a reasonable amount of time has passed without landlord action, tenants have further recourse through repair and deduct. In other words, a tenant can repair and deduct the cost from their rent payment with detailed documentation.

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Steps Tenants Must Take to Withhold Rent Legally

  1. Notify: Tenants must notify the landlord or property manager of the problem in writing. Both the tenant and landlord should retain a copy for their records.
  2. Allow Time: A tenant needs to provide a reasonable amount of time for the repair completion. It may take time to contact skilled vendors or work with home warranty policies. However, communication is critical; let your tenant know where you are in the process.

What If Repairs Go Unfinished?

  • Collect Evidence: After a reasonable amount of time with no result, tenants can proceed forward with documenting that repairs are not complete. If repairs are costly or severe, the tenant may seek legal counsel or advice. In Pennsylvania, tenants also have the right to have a city inspector come out to the home to investigate any potential violations.
  • Repair and Deduct: If, after a reasonable amount of time, no repairs have been made, a tenant can begin the next step. Tenants can arrange to have repairs completed to bring the home up to habitable standard and then, in turn, deduct the cost from the rent. In this case, the tenant would need to provide documentation of all expenses.

What is Considered a Habitable Home?

Individuals may define “habitability” as meaning several different things. Since 1979, the Pennsylvania courts have deemed that landlords are responsible for making a rental home safe and livable. Even if a unit rented “as is,” the landlord still has responsibilities. Below are some items considered standard essentials in making a rental property safe:

  • Heat
  • Functioning plumbing
  • Locking windows and doors
  • Working Hot Water
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Structurally sound
  • No large leaks

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How Can a Philadelphia Property Manager Avoid Rent Escrow?

The best way to avoid your tenants putting rent in escrow is through communication and maintenance. Regular maintenance and addressing issues promptly not only keep your tenants happy but will save you in the long run. When problems or emergencies do arise, keep an open line of communication with your tenants. This ensures they are aware of your progress. More so, that you care about their well-being as well as the preservation of your investment property.

Need help dealing with a tenant that’s threatening action if you do not make repairs? Hiring a Philadelphia property manager to avoid rent escrow situations is a great place to start. A property management company in Philadelphia can work to diffuse escalating situations and take steps to prevent them quickly. Enjoy the peace of mind in knowing our trusted network of vendors are ready and able to handle any problems that come up.