Legal Question in Landlord & Tenant Law in Pennsylvania

I live in PA and for 5 years, rent the downstairs unit from the property owner/landlord/upstairs neighbor. Its a great place and the rent has been reasonable, but she fights me on repairs ALL THE TIME, pointing to the lease and saying "The tenant is responsible for ALL repairs! Landlord is only responsible for the roof and foundation ONLY!" When we moved in the lease had an "as-is" clause that she likes to throw in my face by alleging that anything unseen (like faulty electrical, plumbing, or mold) was now my problem and financial responsibility.

I just want to know if that is unenforceable, what constitutes "wear and tear" and what constitutes damage by the tenant. I mean she's got me paying EVERY SINGLE REPAIR, regardless of what it was.

Background: It is an older building, put up in the 1930s and the owners' ex (unlicensed contractor) did a bunch of flimsy electrical and plumbing work--so naturally, we had issues such as: sewer backing up (due to tree roots), 30 year old hot water tank quitting on us, 40 year old furnace shutting off on us, and occasional electrical shortages that affect both of our apartments (there was some cross-wiring and we actually pay for about half of her electric consumption up in her unit). Every time I bring major repairs to her attention, she insists this is "the tenants fault/responsibility" and not the result of her deferring critical property maintenance or natural wear and tear. When the sewer backed up, she had us schedule the plumber and pay for it, but the plumber refused to take our check and said they HAD to deal with the landlord (also mentioned to us that the sewer pipes were breaking and should be replaced ASAP). Landlord insisted we must be throwing cat litter, grease and tampons down there and charged us for having the sewage cleaned up. When the hot water tank stopped working and the repair man (again we had to schedule it) told her the unit was ancient and needed replaced, she just lied and said the repair guy told her "there was nothing wrong with it" when we followed up to pay him--he reiterated that we needed a new tank and the LL was in denial, so we decided to just have him install a new one (with her permission) and pay for it. She must have felt bad because she later offered to reimburse us for half that cost. Another time we had a plumber in to repair a leak on an ancient kitchen faucet that was pouring water into the cabinet below. This time, she scheduled the repair man. When I got a $250 plumbing bill later (and literally NOTHING had been done to my faucet) I asked her what work they did--she informed me they had done some work in her upstairs unit!! I told her I refuse to pay the bill unless the plumber can itemize and tell me exactly what they did. They were not able to do so (because they didn't do any work on my unit) so I ended up installing a new faucet kit myself and deducting the $ from the rent without issue. When our electrical blew out on the entire west side of the apartment, we informed her per usual and had to schedule the electrician per usual--he informed us that there is illegal wiring and the whole house would need to be brought up to code, and he would not be able to address the repair without getting the system up to date (he said for now, just be careful not to overload the outlets and to flip the breakers if an outage occurred). Given that so much work would need done and it would entail rewiring the whole house, we opted to just not use those electrical outlets (and the landlord made sure to threaten that if an electrical issue ever DID arise again in our unit, that we would be on the hook for her rewiring). It's getting exhausting and biggest concern is that there will be a major structural hazard like electrical fire or sewer pipes collapsing, and it's going to be a big lawsuit against me. She doesn't have a mortgage any longer and I don't think she carries home-owners insurance.

On older homes with unlicensed work on them, how much of this is my fault or responsibility here? Is this lame clause in my lease enforceable? How do I gently make her see that she actually has a responsibility to maintain her property instead of neglect it until something breaks and blame it on the tenant? Any advice? Also, sorry to rant..

Asked on 12/05/18, 10:08 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

John Davidson Law Office of John A. Davidson

If you didn't like the clause why rent from this person. If there are electrical issues with the electrical not being to code then you can be out of this lease. You don'r say where you are from some cities have stricter laws.


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Answered on 12/05/18, 11:51 am

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