Most residential leases and rental agreements in Pennsylvania require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month's rent, that's intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow when a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here's a summary of Pennsylvania landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.
Yes. Under Pennsylvania law, a landlord may charge a tenant the equivalent of two months' rent for the security deposit for the first year of renting and the equivalent of one month's rent during all subsequent years of renting. And, when a tenant has been in a rental for a period of five years or more, a landlord cannot request an increase in the security deposit, even if the rent increases. Tenants cannot waive these security deposit limits. (68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 250.511a (2021).)
Under Pennsylvania law, a landlord must provide a tenant with a written list of damages within 30 days of either the termination of the lease or when the landlord regains control of the rental, whichever happens first. The landlord must deliver the list with payment of the security deposit minus the deductions noted in the list. Landlords who fail to provide the list and return the remaining security deposit forfeit all rights to withhold any money from the security deposit and to bring a lawsuit against the tenant for damages to the rental.
Landlords are not required to return the security deposit or provide the tenant with a list of damages when the tenant does not provide a forwarding address at move-out. (68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 250.512 (2021).)
Yes. For security deposits over $100, landlords in Pennsylvania must deposit the funds 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. § 250.511b (2021).) Instead of placing deposits in a separate account, the landlord can purchase a bond guaranteeing repayment issued by a bonding company authorized to do business in the state. (68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 250.511c (2021).)
Pennsylvania landlords must pay interest on some security deposits: Pennsylvania tenants who occupy a rental unit for two or more years are entitled to interest paid on the security deposit beginning on the 25th month of occupancy. The landlord can keep up to one percent of the deposit to cover administrative and custodial expenses. The tenant is entitled to the remainder of the interest (if any) after the landlord deducts the administrative and custodial expenses. (68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 250.511b (2021).)
If you want to go right to the source and look up Pennsylvania law on security deposits—or if you're writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law—the relevant statutes can be found at Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated Title 68, sections 250.511a to 250.512. To read your state's statutes, check out the Library of Congress's legal research site.