What Licenses do I Need to own a Rental Property in Philadelphia?

To rent a property in Philadelphia, there are several things that are legally required from a landlord. Below are the details on each requirement. However, keep in mind that as a client of Grow Property Management, we will handle your property’s compliance for you. We do bill you the costs directly.

We know how important this because as a property management company we see first hand how necessary it is to be compliant with Federal, State and Philadelphia requirements. It’s not uncommon for distressed property owners to contact us when they find themselves in considerable trouble. In fact it happens about once a week. That’s a lot of Philadelphia landlords in trouble!

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The Philadelphia eviction process alone requires a landlord to have had the rental property completely legally compliant during the entire time of tenancy before accepting paperwork to begin proceedings; and a property owner can’t recover unpaid rental income that preceded the time they got the property compliant.

In fact a judge can refund a tenant past rents from the point the property became compliant. They can even award the tenant the amounts of rents they paid, times three! If the rent was $1,000/month and the property wasn’t compliant for a year; that landlord might need to pay the tenant $36.000!

A possible eviction is just one example to illustrate why you should keep your Philadelphia rental property compliant; but again, as our client, we handle that for you.

Our articles are kept updating but the pricing numbers can change and are based upon the current costs at the time this article was posted.

How to Get a Philadelphia Rental License?

Before a property can be rented in Philadelphia it will need a Rental License. You will need a rental license for each property you will be using as a rental. If you own three rental properties, you will need three rental licenses. These are issued by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections.

A Philadelphia Rental License costs $50; so if you have a duplex, that would be $100.00. To get a Philadelphia Rental License you will need an active Business Privilege License Number and an active Business Privilege Tax Number.

How to Get a Philadelphia Business Privilege License?

But before you can get a rental license you will first need to get a Business Privilege License. This will be per owner name; so if you own one property in your own name and another in a corporation, like an LLC, you will need to get one for each of them.

If you own a property with a partner, you would each need one. A Business Privilege License is good for a lifetime and currently costs $300.00. The Business Privilege License will need to be active; so if you put it on hold you will need to have it re-activated.

How to Get a Philadelphia Certificate of Rental Suitability?

To own a rental property in Philadelphia, a landlord will need to get a certificate of rental suitability. This certificate is to be given to a tenant; before they move into a rental unit.  A certificate of rental suitability is only valid for 60 days so it must be given to a tenant no earlier than 60 days prior to the lease start date. The lease start date is not to be confused with the date the lease was signed.

The lease start date is the date the tenant legally takes possession of the property. The date the tenant can move in. Like the Philadelphia Rental License, this also is obtained through the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections. However, there isn’t a cost for the certificate of rental suitability.

To get a certificate of rental suitability the property owner will need to confirm:

  • That the rental property is fit for human habitation. The city wants to know that the property is safe.
  • Are the fire and smoke detection systems (smoke detectors) adequate for the premises and in proper operating condition?
  • The City will also require you to confirm that you will maintain the property fit for human habitation and that you will maintain the smoke detection systems. Both are “as required by law”.

City of Philadelphia Partners for Good Housing Handbook

Property Owners are also required to provide a new tenant with a copy of the City of Philadelphia Partners for Good Housing Handbook given to the tenants at the time they signed their lease. This is a booklet on tenant rights that has been compiled by the city.

It explains the city accepted minimums of safety, health, and building maintenance standards for rental houses and for apartments.  It outlines the responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant.

Philadelphia Landlord Lead Safety Requirements

A landlord in Philadelphia is required to take steps to ensure a tenant is properly informed about lead safety. This includes disclosing two things:

  • If the landlord has any knowledge of lead on the premises.
  • If the property was built before 1978.

If a property was built previous to 1978 a landlord is required to give the tenant an EPA pamphlet titled Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home. Even if the property was constructed after 1978 there is little reason not to provide the tenant with the pamphlet. Its free to do so and online document system can easily provide you with proof and signatures that the tenant received it.

A wise property owner has these items built into their lease to protect themselves legally and also to protect the tenant’s safety.

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