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Residential landlord and tenant matters

For Pennsylvania residents the Landlord and Tenant Act (LTA) spells out many of the duties and responsibilities for landlords and tenants. Below are some of the common questions tenants ask that the LTA can answer. (68 P.S. §§ 250.101-250.602.)

Landlord/Tenant Questions

  1. How much money can my landlord hold as a security deposit for my residential apartment?
    • For the first year of your lease the landlord can hold no more than two months' rent as a security deposit. After the first year of the lease the landlord is permitted to hold no more than one month's security deposit (68 P.S. § 250.511a).
  2. Does the landlord have to hold my security deposit in escrow, in an interest bearing account?
    • The landlord is always required to hold the security deposit in an escrow account. For the first two years of the lease the landlord is not required to hold the security deposit in an interest bearing account. Beginning with the third year of the lease and from then on during your entire lease, the landlord is required to hold the security deposit in an interest bearing account. The landlord is permitted to retain 1-1/2% of that interest as an administrative fee. The balance of the interest is to be paid to you annually (68 P.S. § 250.511b).
  3. How can I best protect myself concerning damage and wear and tear in my apartment?
    • At the time you sign the lease you should inspect the property with your landlord and make a written report of any problems or defects in the property. Both you and the landlord should sign this inspection report and you should retain a copy. At the end of your lease both you and your landlord should conduct a follow-up inspection. While you are not liable for wear and tear on the apartment you will be liable for any damage caused to the apartment.
    • Once you leave the apartment you should provide to the landlord your forwarding address. The landlord then has thirty days in which to refund your security deposit less the amount due for any damages to the apartment (68 P.S. § 250.512). If the landlord deducts the cost of any damages from your deposit the landlord is required to itemize those damages to you. If the landlord fails to refund your security deposit within thirty days after your lease ends, or if the landlord fails to properly itemize any damages which are deducted from your security deposit, then the landlord may be liable to you for double the amount of the security deposit held.
  4. Is my landlord permitted to hold a "pet deposit" in addition to my regular security deposit?
    • The Landlord and Tenant Act in Pennsylvania does not allow for a separate pet deposit. A pet deposit is viewed in the same manner as any security deposit and the landlord is subject to the same limitations which are described above, that is, no more than two months' security deposit may be held for the first year of the lease and, after the first year of the lease no more than one month's security deposit may be held. This includes a pet deposit.

These are common questions that any tenant may have about their rental obligations. For unusual or specific situations, it would be best to seek the advice of an attorney.

Personal Injury

Pennsylvania residents often have basic questions about rights and responsibilities in automobile accident situations, especially if there may be injuries. A few of these questions are below:

  1. What should I do if I am involved in a car accident?
    • If you are involved in a car accident, you should immediately contact the police from the accident scene, if possible. If you do not have access to a telephone at the accident scene, obtain the name, address, license plate number and insurance information of the other driver and go to the nearest police station. By law, you must identify yourself to the other driver. It is very important that a police report is made documenting the accident, the names of any witnesses and the circumstances surrounding the accident.
  2. If I am injured in a car accident, who pays for my medical bills?
    • By law, if you are injured in a car accident, as a driver, passenger or a pedestrian, all medical bills must be submitted by your health care providers directly to your personal automobile insurer for initial payment. All health care providers are obligated to accept payment from your auto insurer and cannot seek from you any differences between the amount charged by the provider and the payment allowed by the insurance company. All automobile insurance policies have limitations on the amount of coverage that is available for payment of medical bills. By law, you must be provided a minimum of $5,000 in coverage for payment of medical bills under your automobile insurance policy (75 P.S. § 1712).
  3. What happens if I miss time from work due to my injuries?
    • All automobile insurers are required to make available a minimum of $2,500 in wage loss benefits (75 P.S. § 1715). You are not required to select wage loss benefits under your auto policy. If you do want wage loss coverage, you must opt for these benefits at the time you purchase or renew a policy. When selected, wage loss benefits are usually paid monthly and have a predetermined maximum monthly amount. (For example, $5,000 coverage payable at a maximum of $1,000 per month until $5,000 is exhausted).
  4. What is the difference between "full tort" and "limited tort" coverage?
    • If you have elected "full tort" coverage under your automobile insurance policy, you are entitled to make a claim for your unreimbursed medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering resulting from your injuries.
    • If you have elected "limited tort" coverage, you may not be able to recover for pain and suffering, unless you have sustained a "serious injury" as defined by state statute. There is no such requirement under a "full tort" policy. A qualified personal injury attorney can explain in greater detail the differences between "full tort" and "limited tort" coverage applicable to your injuries.
  5. What if I am contacted by an insurance company?
    • If you are involved in an accident, you should notify your automobile insurer as soon as possible. You should not speak with any other insurance company personnel, except your own insurance carrier, before you consult with an attorney. Very often, the other driver's insurance company will call soon after an accident and ask for information or a statement from you. Your personal injury claim may be seriously jeopardized if you do not consult with an attorney prior to speaking with representatives of the other driver's insurance company.
  6. What if I cannot afford to pay for an attorney to represent me?
    • At many law firms legal fees are deducted from any settlement or award obtained on your behalf. This is referred to as a contingency fee. Often, if there is no recover of money, then there is no fee. Always ask about the fee arrangement before engaging an attorney.
  7. How much is my case worth?
    • There are many factors to consider when determining how much your case is worth. Some of these factors include: the nature and duration of your injuries; the amount of your medical bills and wage loss. Usually, the value of a personal injury claim cannot be determined until you are finished treatment for your injuries.
    • Calculation of the value of your claim requires the skill and knowledge of an experienced personal injury attorney. Be wary of an attorney who promises a large settlement at your first meeting. Some attorneys promise the moon in the hope that you will allow them to represent your claim.

If you are involved in an automobile accident and have suffered serious injury, seek the advice of an attorney as soon as possible. Valuable information can be lost, the longer you wait.

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