When you decide on a place to live and are provided with a lease for signature, you usually do so with a sense of optimism and fresh beginnings. Unfortunately, those good feelings can fade away quickly in the face of a landlord-tenant dispute. Though most of the time these disputes revolve around security deposits that landlords have decided to keep for cleaning, repairs, or even back rent, there can be other areas of disagreement that lead to the need for civil litigation. When that happens, the answer is generally to file a small claims lawsuit. This and the following only apply to residential leases, though. Commercial leases or manufactured home leases are very different.
The first step to filing a landlord-tenant dispute lawsuit in Pennsylvania starts before you even consider going to court, and that is to know your rights. The state requires landlords to provide their tenants with specific information about such things as the bank where the security deposit is kept. The law also limits how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit (two months’ rent for the first year and one month for each year thereafter), when it must be returned (within 30 days after the tenant vacates the property), and other restrictions. The law also regulates how much time a tenant has in which to pay overdue rent or move before they are subject to eviction. When the landlord fails in their duty and communication fails, that may be the time for civil litigation. If the tenant believes that they have a legal case, the appropriate remedy is to go to your municipality’s small claims court which generally can handle disputes up to a dollar amount of $12,000.
There are many advantages to being able to file a claim in small claims court. The fees for court administration are generally much lower than is true in other civil litigation trials, and litigants are not required to have legal representation. That being said, filing a claim against a landlord can be an intimidating process, and there is a very good chance that your landlord will have an attorney with them. If you believe that you have been treated unfairly and want to give yourself the best possible chance of winning your civil litigation against your landlord, contact our office today to set up a time to meet and discuss your case with one of our experienced attorneys. Having knowledgeable, competent representation is the best way to ensure that you get the best possible outcome and that your voice is heard.