Before Listing Your Property

Renting out a property comes with responsibility. In addition to local, state, and federal fair housing laws, there are also the Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Law, zoning ordinances, building and property maintenance codes, and rental licensing requirements, all of which must be adhered to. You should understand and address all of these requirements before you begin screening potential tenants. Here is a brief overview of some important things you need to take care of before you rent
out a property.


Depending on where your property is located, there may be local zoning restrictions on rental properties. Some zoning ordinances set maximum limits for the number of rental units that can exist in a building or the size of each unit. You have to make sure that your property complies with all local zoning requirements.

Rental Licensing

Rental licensing is controlled by local municipalities in Pennsylvania. Before a property can be lawfully occupied, it must be properly licensed by the local municipality. Failing to obtain a proper rental license can lead to monetary penalties and a summary offense under local ordinances. Part of the rental licensing process is to obtain a rental inspection from the local building or code enforcement department. They will check to make sure that your property is up to code and complies with important safety requirements.

Code Enforcement

Most municipalities in Pennsylvania use the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). You can access the 2021 IPMC online at:

The IPMC establishes important property maintenance regulations that will ultimately protect you as the landlord, as well as your tenants. Proper code enforcement can identify and prevent high liability issues such as the lack of working smoke detectors or a lack of means of egress (exit) in a sleeping area. Renting out an unsafe property can have tragic consequences and can lead to lawsuits and even criminal charges being filed against you. Theoretically, complying with the IPMC protects you from renting out an unsafe property. If the rental inspection shows code violations that need to be remedied, you will be given a written list of repairs that need to be made before you can rent out the property.

At a bare minimum, you will need to ensure that the rental property does not have any structural, fire, or electrical hazards that could be a threat to life or safety. You will also have to show that the property is fitted with properly working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers. The properties’ mechanical, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, sewer, chimney, and ventilation systems will be required to be in operable and habitable conditions and will need to be maintained in a operable and habitable condition in compliance with all state and municipal regulations and standards.

You may also be required to submit to the local municipality the names of all occupants of your rental units and to provide updates when occupancy changes. If you sell the property or change property managers or emergency contacts, you will need to notify the code enforcement department of such change.

If your property is found to have a code violation, you will be ordered to correct the issue within a certain time frame or be issued a citation. The borough, township, or city issuing the citation can take you to court if you fail to bring the property up to code. Failing to bring a property up to code can result in significant fines and even a misdemeanor charge.

Document the Condition of the Rental Unit

It is advisable that you create a comprehensive checklist for the property. List walls, ceilings, floors, light fixtures, windows and screens, cabinets, locks, smoke detectors, mirrors, fans, and closets for every room in the dwelling. Make sure to include all kitchen appliances, plumbing fixtures and the heating and air conditioning system. Go through the checklist with your tenants when they move in, noting the condition of each item on the checklist. You will want to take photos of the condition of the dwelling before the tenant moves in as well. When the tenant moves out, this checklist can be used to go over the condition of the property with the tenant and help determine if there are any damages.

Make Repairs Before Moving in New Tenants

The best way to avoid disputes with tenants over repairs is to make the repairs before any tenant moves into the rental unit.

Have a Well Written Lease

Many legal disputes arise because of a failure to get an agreement in writing. Every detail of the lease agreement, no matter how small, is worth putting in writing. See The Lease.

Consider Joining a Landlord Group or Association

There are landlord groups and associations that provide regular educational meetings for landlords and property investors. They will often invite outside experts to come in to provide their members with useful information and strategies for running a successful property management business. You can get a lot of good information from these industry groups on tenant screening, investment opportunities, and understanding landlord tenant laws and regulations.

Display Fair Housing Posters

Federal regulations require HUD approved fair housing posters to be displayed wherever you conduct housing-related business. Posters should be displayed prominently. You can obtain these posters for free by filling out this form.

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