Just in case you haven't given the Landlord Tenant Act of 1951 a thorough read lately, here's a guide to protecting your security deposit and getting it back. In Philadelphia, landlords have to follow very specific rules about handling security deposits, and if you want to avoid being scammed, it helps to know what they are.
1.) Don't give your landlord more than two month's rent: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania caps security deposits at two month's rent for the first year of a lease. After the first year, landlords can only hold one month's rent, and must return the rest to their tenants.
2.) Make sure your landlord puts your deposit in escrow: Many people don't know that landlords are required to hold security deposits in escrow (a bank account which is separate from their own personal account). If a tenant has leased a property for more than two years, the landlord must put the security deposit in an interest earning account, and must include the interest that the security deposit earned when returning it to the tenant (minus 1% interest to cover the landlord's costs). Alternatively, landlords can also issue bonds that stipulate repayment of security (and interest) minus damages..
3.) When you move out, be sure to give your landlord your new address: The first and most important step toward getting a security deposit back after you move out is to provide a new mailing address. The mailing address doesn't even need to be the tenant's new official address: if a tenant isn't sure about a permanent address, they can provide the address of a friend or family member. Landlords have a 30 day window to assess damages and provide ex-tenants with a list of those damages, accompanied by a check for whatever's left of the security deposit. However, if the tenant does not provide a mailing address, the landlord is not required to return the security deposit.
· The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951 [PA Attorney General]
· The Renter's Guide to Landlord/Tenant Law [Philadelphia Examiner]
· Security Deposits [PA Law Help]