Landlords and tenants often need help navigating Philadelphia’s complex landlord-tenant laws. This is part one of a two-part series on the legal requirements for residential rental properties in the City of Philadelphia. I’ve tried to make this confusing area of the law easy to understand without oversimplifying or leaving out important details. If it still seems tough to follow, that’s because it’s hard to navigate the system without an experienced attorney on your side.
Residential landlords in Philadelphia must obtain the following licenses or certificates in the order outlined below.
1. Commercial Activity License (formerly known as Business Privilege License). This license is required for anyone operating a business in Philadelphia, whether they’re a corporation or individual. This license is free and easy to obtain by clicking here.
2. Rental License (also known as Housing Inspection License). According to the Philadelphia City Code, a landlord cannot collect rent during any period when he or he does not have a valid Rental License. Similarly, a landlord cannot obtain a judgment for possession without a valid Rental License. In fact, Philadelphia Municipal Court won’t accept an eviction complaint unless a copy of a valid Rental License is attached.
You’ll need your Commercial Activity License number when applying for the Rental License. As of 2018, a Rental License costs $55 per unit. You can obtain one here.
3. Certificate of Rental Suitability. A Certificate of Rental Suitability requires the landlord to certify three things: that there are no open code violations on the rental unit; that the rental unit has the required fire protection and smoke detection equipment; and that the landlord has provided the tenant with the City’s Partners for Good Housing handbook.
A landlord cannot collect rent or obtain a judgment of possession for any period of time before a Certificate of Rental Suitability is issued. The Certificate of Rental Suitability is free and can be obtained here, and the Partners for Good Housing Handbook is available here.
As you can see, Philadelphia landlord-tenant laws are much more complicated than landlord-tenant laws in Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, and Chester Counties. Check back for part two of my Philadelphia Landlord-Tenant Compliance Guide, where I’ll discuss the complexities of Philadelphia’s landlord-tenant lead disclosure law and the recent changes enacted in 2017.