Landlords and tenants often disagree about what is fair and appropriate at the end of a lease. Security deposits are one of the leading causes of landlord-tenant disputes in Pennsylvania.
Almost every landlord charges a security deposit to protect their investment in the property against damages caused by a tenant. Many tenants do their best to properly maintain a rental unit and expect to receive their security deposit back when they vacate the unit.
Understanding the two most important rules that govern a security deposit can help you handle a dispute about one appropriately.
There are limits to how much a landlord can charge
Pennsylvania state law limits a landlord to charging two months’ worth of rent as the security deposit for a lease on a residential unit. However, the two months’ rent deposit is only an option for the first year when someone occupies the unit.
After a second year in the property, the landlord can only retain a single month’s rent as the security deposit. After five years, the landlord can no longer request additional security deposits from the tenant to reflect any increases in the amount of rent charged. Keeping security deposits low enough to be reasonable makes rentals more accessible to working-class individuals around Pennsylvania.
Landlords can only keep a security deposit for three specific reasons
Some people claim that a landlord will find any excuse to keep a security deposit, but that practice is illegal. Landlords should return the security deposit to the tenant in a timely manner unless one of the three situations below applies.
If the tenant left with unpaid rent, the landlord can keep the deposit as repayment for that rent. If the tenant caused damage beyond normal wear and tear to the unit, the landlord can retain only as much as is necessary to make repairs.
Finally, if there were documented breaches of the lease, the landlord could use the security deposit to enforce any fees associated with those behaviors. Examples include a permit charge for having another adult spend the night or a monthly fee for keeping an undisclosed pet.
Knowing the security deposit rules in Pennsylvania can help you better navigate a landlord-tenant dispute at the end of a lease.