Category Archives: Landlord Tenant

Can a landlord split the water bill?

Q: Can my landlord of our duplex have the tenants split the water bill when there is one meter in the building? My water is included in my rent. (Penn Hills, PA)

A: As stated, if water is included in your rent, and you agreed to that term when you signed the lease, I do not see the landlord as having a problem. It might be different if you agreed to “split” or “share” the actual water bill and the other tenant is a water hog, using much more than you. Even if obligated by the lease, you may have a fairness argument, for what it would be worth.

Is there anything called squatters rights?

 

Q: About 3 months ago my daughter had her heroin dealer and his girlfriend move into my parents (her grandparents) home. Before my parents knew they were drug dealers they all agreed they would pay my parents $200 a week to stay here. My parents have only received $100 up to date. These people are dealing drugs out of my parent’s home, eating all the food, not to mention taking things from them, destroying the house and back yard. My parents told them they must move out, and had an agreement with them to leave on August 2,2017. They are still here and now are completely avoiding my folks. They have built some sort of lab or shop in the back half of the basement and my parents cannot go in there. Now they are stating they have squatter’s rights and don’t have to move out (because the guy was in jail and receives his “bail mail” here). They also say they have the right to live here until they get a written 30-day eviction notice. Please help. (Monessen, PA)

A: As far as I know, “squatters” have no rights in PA. There are several areas of law applicable. I don’t know how old your parents are but they sound like they are being exploited so you can call Adult Protective Services and see if they will do a home assessment. If these people are dealing drugs, call the police. I am not sure how policing is in your community, but it can be quite good. Police can observe, conduct surveillance and they can investigate. Just stopping in may freak these people out. Also, see a lawyer about eviction and securing their financial assets. These people may unfortunately have tenant rights and an eviction may be necessary

Can I take my landlord to court for not refunding my security deposit?

Q: I only received $535 of my $2635 security deposit. I was charged for fantasy damage with no receipts to back up the work. I was charged for work not specified in the lease (such as cleaning) and just outright crazy charges ($75 for lightbulbs!). Can I take them to small claims court? (Oakmont, PA)

A: Yes, you can file at the District Justice level for return of your security deposit. Make your you have notified your landlord in writing that you demand the full return of your security deposit and provide him with your new address. I would send the letter both certified mail, return receipt, and regular mail. When you file your complaint, ask for filing fees and lawyer fees to be awarded if you hire a lawyer.

Small claims court for landlord dispute?

Q: We moved out of our apartment 2 weeks ago and I contacted my landlord to ask about getting the deposit back. She informs me we have a flea infestation and will be withholding at least some of our very expensive deposit. We were shocked because at first, this may sound plausible because we do have a cat and a dog. However, all our pets have been on flea meds forever. I have inspected them and our vets have inspected them and they do not have fleas. They never have. Nor have I ever seen a single flea or gotten a bite. As far as I am concerned this is a total lie. Do I have a case for small claims court or is this a losing battle? I am a poor graduate student and I feel like I am just getting taken advantage of. We have been model tenets and were anal about cleaning the apartment when we left. Thank you. (Plum Borough, PA)

A: Generally, a landlord has thirty (30) days to return a security deposit to a tenant after vacancy. Proof is always an issue in these cases. My suggestion is to send the landlord a written demand via regular mail and certified mail, return receipt, (green card), in which you request your security deposit to be returned and provide your new forwarding arrest. You can state in the letter the date upon which you vacated the premise. The burden would then be on the landlord to either pay you or provide written reasons why she is not. If you feel her reasons are not genuine, you can file a complaint for return of the security deposit plus costs at the local District Justice. If you win the landlord is subject to paying you damages above and beyond your deposit and costs. I would have your veterinarian documents prepared for court. If the landlord is represented by counsel, you may want to have one as well.

Can I do anything about my landlord?

Q: I bought a house and am trying to get out of my lease that doesn’t end until July. I am moving in April. The landlord said he would try and rent out the apartment so I wouldn’t be stuck with the bill. They posted an add but it had been a month and I started to realize they aren’t calling anyone back. They won’t even call people I sent them from my own ad. Also, I woke up last April with my ceiling leaking. They did not fix the roof until November and my ceiling until this past February. I was unable to sleep in my room because it was unsafe. Is there any way I can sue for not being able to use my bedroom for almost a year? (Swissvale, PA)

A: There is a common-law principal of constructive eviction that allows you to not pay rent in proportion to the percentage of your property that you are by no fault of your own, “constructively evicted” from. In your case, if your bedroom is one-quarter of your apartment space, you could deduct one-quarter from your rental payment. Now, this does not always go over well with the landlord. You should be prepared to defend this in court. Photographs, copies of letters to the landlord memorializing your complaints would help your case if push comes to shove before a District Justice.

What rights and options do we have?

Q: Landlord died, no will, I have lived there for eight years, cousin got involved with an attorney so he says, and won’t give me a receipt for this month’s rent. What rights and options do we have as renters from this point on?

A: Your rights will be stated in your written lease. If you don’t have a lease, or no current lease, your tenancy is month to month and you could be required to move with as little as thirty days of notice to you. Pay with a check, not cash. The check is your receipt.

Can I move into my deceased mother’s home since I paid some bills?

Q: My mother passed away the 26th of January and I have been helping her pay her bills. She has a roommate that is being a pain and is telling me I’m not allowed to move in. I have paperwork saying that I have been helping her and so forth. Her roommate is not on the lease and wasn’t helping. Do I have a leg to stand on or do I have to go to civil court?

A: If you are not on the lease, I do not believe you have a legal right to move in. Helping to pay her bills unfortunately will not give you any rights to be a tenant. If the roommate is not on the lease, then he or she is likely to be on a month to month lease. Unless the roommate agreed to pay the bills that you paid, I do not thing there are grounds to sue the roommate.

Must my landlord return my security deposit?

Q: Is landlord allowed to retain security deposit after broken lease? Had an apartment with a very laid back landlord. Also had a roommate who had to leave the lease, I couldn’t cover the rest of the rent. Gave the landlord a three month heads up, which verbally was OK with. We left the lease June 1st even though it ran until Sept 1st. No legal written statement of landlord being OK with this but I do know he is currently renting the spot and has been since July 1st. After talking with him about security deposit at the end of July over the phone, he claims there were $300 in cleaning but has not provided any sort of list. He still hasn’t sent us the security deposit back. I’m wondering what legal action I can take and since a lot of dealing with this landlord was ‘off the cuff’ am I legal obligated to fulfill the rest of the lease? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: In PA, a landlord has 30 days after the lease has ended or the leasehold is surrendered to return a security deposit after the tenant has requested in writing the return of the deposit and provided the landlord with his or her new forwarding address. As a matter of procedure, you should do this via certified mail, return receipt. If the landlord fails to return the money and has not explained a reason as to why he retained the deposit (i.e. clean up), the tenant can sue him for the deposit amount as well as damages. The landlord should be able to document his damage expenses. It must be damage and cannot be normal wear and tear. If you fear that since you left a month early, he could claim the month of June in unpaid rent, you may want to reconsider going after the deposit. An attorney would need to look at the lease before advising you.

Must my landlord return my security deposit?

Q: Is landlord allowed to retain security deposit after broken lease? Had an apartment with a very laid back landlord. Also had a roommate who had to leave the lease, I couldn’t cover the rest of the rent. Gave the landlord a three month heads up, which verbally was OK with. We left the lease June 1st even though it ran until Sept 1st. No legal written statement of landlord being OK with this but I do know he is currently renting the spot and has been since July 1st. After talking with him about security deposit at the end of July over the phone, he claims there were $300 in cleaning but has not provided any sort of list. He still hasn’t sent us the security deposit back. I’m wondering what legal action I can take and since a lot of dealing with this landlord was ‘off the cuff’ am I legal obligated to fulfill the rest of the lease? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: In PA, a landlord has 30 days after the lease has ended or the leasehold is surrendered to return a security deposit after the tenant has requested in writing the return of the deposit and provided the landlord with his or her new forwarding address. As a matter of procedure, you should do this via certified mail, return receipt. If the landlord fails to return the money and has not explained a reason as to why he retained the deposit (i.e. clean up), the tenant can sue him for the deposit amount as well as damages. The landlord should be able to document his damage expenses. It must be damage and cannot be normal wear and tear. If you fear that since you left a month early, he could claim the month of June in unpaid rent, you may want to reconsider going after the deposit. An attorney would need to look at the lease before advising you.

Must my landlord return my security deposit?

Q: Is landlord allowed to retain security deposit after broken lease? Had an apartment with a very laid back landlord. Also had a roommate who had to leave the lease, I couldn’t cover the rest of the rent. Gave the landlord a three month heads up, which verbally was OK with. We left the lease June 1st even though it ran until Sept 1st. No legal written statement of landlord being OK with this but I do know he is currently renting the spot and has been since July 1st. After talking with him about security deposit at the end of July over the phone, he claims there were $300 in cleaning but has not provided any sort of list. He still hasn’t sent us the security deposit back. I’m wondering what legal action I can take and since a lot of dealing with this landlord was ‘off the cuff’ am I legal obligated to fulfill the rest of the lease? (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: In PA, a landlord has 30 days after the lease has ended or the leasehold is surrendered to return a security deposit after the tenant has requested in writing the return of the deposit and provided the landlord with his or her new forwarding address. As a matter of procedure, you should do this via certified mail, return receipt. If the landlord fails to return the money and has not explained a reason as to why he retained the deposit (i.e. clean up), the tenant can sue him for the deposit amount as well as damages. If you fear that since you left a month early, he could claim the month of June in unpaid rent, you may want to reconsider going after the deposit. An attorney would need to look at the lease before advising you.