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Pennsylvania has been known as the Keystone State since 1802, based in part upon its central location among the original Thirteen Colonies forming the United States, and also in part because of the number of important American documents signed in the state such as the Declaration of Independence.
How to Screen a Tenant in Pennsylvania
DISCLAIMER: We do our best to keep this information accurate and up-to-date, but we cannot guarantee either. The most recent law changes may not be reflected here. We do not intend this information to be legal advice, nor are we qualified to advise you regarding legal matters. We highly recommend consulting a lawyer qualified to discuss landlord-tenant law to advise you. We do not specifically endorse any of the websites linked from these pages, nor are we in any way affiliated with the agencies or individuals who have published them. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of information posted on these sites. If you find a problem on this page, please contact us so that we can get it fixed.
Step 1: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF] (FCRA) during the tenant screening process. Additionally, Pennsylvania has laws that affect the tenant screening process. You can find the current Pennsylvania landlord-tenant Codes on the Pennsylvania State Legislature website. If you are finding the formalities of the state code daunting, you might want to check out these friendlier sites:
Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Law Act 129 Sets New Rules for Tenants Abandoned Property. What can a landlord legally do with a property that a tenant leaves behind? Previously there was not a good answer to this question. However, on September 5, 2012, that changed. That was the effective date of Act 129, which amends the Landlord-Tenant Act of 1951, setting forth new rules regarding the abandoned property of tenants. The Act attempts to provide bright-line rules when dealing with abandoned property and to strike a balance between the rights of both landlords and tenants. New Rules Article
Step 2: Required Forms & Disclosures
Tip: before you rent for the first time, consider hiring a lawyer to review all of the documents you will use during the application and rental process to ensure that you are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
Rental Application [PDF] (this must be completed in full by the applicant prior to screening)
Lease Agreement (written), containing or attaching the following information:
Owner/Agent Identity - this should include name and address, and if the owner/agent is out-of-state it must include contact information for a resident of the COUNTY in which the rental is located that can act as an agent for the purposes of serving notices and process.
Security Deposit - this must include the amount of the deposit and the conditions under which some or all of the deposit may be withheld. It must also include the name and banking institution holding the deposit.
Non-refundable Fees - explicitly describe any non-refundable fees, and state clearly that they are non-refundable.
Fire Protection & Safety Information: You must disclose the available fire protection and safety information specific to the unit you are renting, including smoking policy, evacuation plans, and who to notify in case of emergency.
Mold: The Pennsylvania Mold Task Force met quarterly in 2005 to answer questions by the Pennsylvania House Assembly. After the report was given to the Assembly nothing was acted upon. As of this writing, there are no laws or guidelines specific to Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Health website simply gives links to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for information related to mold and mold removal. Task Force Report
Security Deposit Details: Pennsylvania requires landlords to disclose details about the security deposit. Specifically, for deposits over $100, the landlord must deposit them in a federally or state-regulated institution, and give the tenant the name and address of the banking institution and the amount of the deposit. (68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. 250.511a to 250.512)
Criminal, OFAC/Patriot Act & Sex Offender Records - A nationwide search is always performed. These jurisdictions specifically are available in Pennsylvania: PA Admin Of Courts, AOC Common Pleas Criminal Disposition 1 and 2, AOC Common Pleas Criminal Filing 1 and 2, AOC District Court Criminal Disposition 1 and 2, AOC District Court Criminal Filing 1 and 2, AOC Non Traffic Disposition Citation 1 and 2, AOC Non Traffic Filing Citation 2, AOC Traffic Disposition Citation 1 and 2, AOC Traffic Filing Citation 2, PA Department Of Corrections, Philadelphia Municipal Court Criminal Filings, PA Sex Offender Registry, PN Medicheck List.
Eviction Records - records are available from the following counties: Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Bradford, Bucks, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntington, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Mc Kean, Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland, Wyoming, York.
Bankruptcies, Liens & Judgments - records are available from the following counties: Adams, Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Berks, Blair, Bradford, Bucks, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Chester, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lawrence, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Mifflin, Monroe, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Pike, Potter, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Westmoreland, Wyoming, York.
Social Security Number validation, Death Index, credit checks, previous addresses, alias names, and the Rent Check Advisor include all information available regardless of location.