Q: I have asked my sister to leave for months. She refuses. She pays me $200 month. Do I need to not accept any money? She only draws $500 from SSD. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: She is a month-to-month tenant under the PA Landlord-Tenant Act and therefore you must follow the landlord tenant laws and evict her.
Q: I had a one-year lease for which the contract states I must give 60-days’ notice if I intend not to renew. I thought I needed to give 30 days-notice. I purchased a home and informed my landlord I was not renewing. I gave him over 30-days-notice and he won’t release me, says I must pay the full years rent. Do I have any options? (Swissvale, PA)
A: If it was written in the lease, you agreed to it and therefore are bound to give 60 days-notice. However, with your notice, although only 30 days or so, the land lord has a duty to mitigate by finding another tenant and preparing the apartment to rent. He has a strict legal duty to find another tenant as soon as reasonably possible. He just can’t sit back and expect to collect the balance of the lease contract. I would continue to move. Demand a return of your deposit in writing by certified mail stating your new address. He will settle with you or sue you. If you go to court, he will not likely get a judgment of the balance of the rent.
Q: Responding to a Craigslist ad, I verbally agreed to rent a room and split utilities with an existing lease holder for the remainder of their lease (6 months). Additionally, I paid a security deposit to the lease holder who in turn passed it to the landlord. No lease, or contract was signed. After 45 days the lease holder gave 30 days-notice that they were moving out. I asked the landlord for terms and/or a lease which I could consider. 10 days passed without any terms or lease provided. At this point I informed the landlord my intentions to move out. They are demanding 30 days-notice, which I reluctantly agreed to via an email while asking for the possibility of pro-rating the upcoming month’s rent. (5 days) The landlord became irate and demanded I adhere to at-will tenancy laws, which were not cited, and I have not been able to find/review myself. What are my options? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Generally, with no written will in place, a verbal lease agreement requires thirty (30) days-notice from bother parties.
Q: I was renting a commercial building for automotive repair. I have 4 bays and 2 separate sides. For the first year I used only 2 bays on one side. The other side was leased by different people. That side lease was up, and they moved out. I knew a mechanic that wanted to start a business. I recommend them for the other side. I asked the landlord for 2 leases, but he insisted and put it all under me. The guys next door paid $1,400 and so did I. Almost a year goes by and now it’s almost the first of the year. I’m on holiday break with my family and I stop past the shop and they are no longer there. They emptied the shop without paying December rent. I do not have $1,400 for their side, but I have paid for mine. The landlord is upset of course, so am I. Because I was completely blindsided about them leaving. They told the landlord they would pay then they didn’t. What can I do? They were still working there in December. The landlord wants the money from me. If I am evicted do I still have to pay the remaining rent?
A: It may be worth having your lease read by an attorney. If the lease has specific language to constitute a sublease which obligates you as payor, you may be liable. However, it appears you have been a good tenant and landlords do not like to lose tenants. There are reasons to keep you as a tenant which your landlord is aware of and if you are liable he should be willing to enter into a payment agreement with you.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.