Housing and Utilities

Landlord/Tenant Issues

Tenants have the right to the quiet enjoyment of their residences, and the obligation to pay rent to the landlord. Similarly, the landlord has the obligation to provide a safe and secure premises and the right to collect rent. Tenants unable to afford to pay rent should contact a case manager to inquire about eligibility for a rent subsidy. A tenant who fails to pay rent can be evicted, but the landlord must take certain legal steps. To begin the eviction process, the landlord must provide written notice to the tenant to move by a specific date. If the tenant does not move, the landlord can file an eviction complaint in court.  If the landlord wins in court, the tenant has 10 days to appeal the court’s decision, and remain in the residence. A tenant who does not appeal has a minimum of 21 days to move.

To file an appeal, a tenant may be required to put any money owed in an account with the court. The court has special payment plans for low-income tenants. The tenant must keep paying rent into the court’s account every month, while the appeal is pending. Failure to keep paying the rent will cause the appeal to be dismissed. A landlord cannot change the locks, shut off the utilities, or evict a tenant in any way without getting a court order. Tenants illegally locked out should call 911 to ask for the police assistance in getting back into the premises. Once the police determine that the lockout is illegal, they should order the landlord to allow the tenant to enter the premises immediately. A landlord who refuses can be arrested.

Tenants with health problems who are unable to pay their utility bills may request a “medical certification” form from the gas or electric company to keep the service on. The tenant’s health care provider must complete the form certifying a qualifying medical condition. The certification should provide the tenant with enough time to resolve any unpaid bills or get on an alternative payment plan.

Resources

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program - Application.

The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.
The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for certain qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975. The Department of Revenue automatically calculates supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners
The deadline for older adults and Pennsylvania residents with disabilities to apply for rebates on rent and property taxes paid in 2019 has been extended from June 30 to Dec. 31, 2020.

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Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP)

HEMAP was designed to protect Pennsylvanians who, through no fault of their own, are financially unable to make their mortgage payments and are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. HEMAP is a loan program to prevent foreclosure.

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Financially Interdependent Persons

Philadelphia allows property transfers between same-sex domestic partners to be tax-exempt. You are a Financially Interdependent Person, or FIP, if you are living together with someone as a single household and, for at least six months, have agreed to “share the common necessities of life and to be responsible for each other’s common welfare.”
NOTE: Pennsylvania does not recognize an exemption for property transfers between Financially Interdependent Persons, and so the transfer will be subject to the 1% Realty Transfer Tax imposed by the state.)

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