Reading – August 2, 2023 – Sen. Judy Schwank (D-Berks) has introduced a package of renter’s protection bills in the Pennsylvania Senate.
SB 859 would establish criteria for the voluntary acceptance of reusable tenant screening reports. Landlords use tenant screenings to gain vital information like credit ratings, criminal records and eviction history. As the renter’s market has become increasingly competitive, applicants often must apply for multiple apartments and shell out payments for each application. This places undue financial hardship on prospective renters. A reusable tenant screening is valid for 30 days.
SB 860 would establish a $25 rental application fee cap. Rental application fees can range from $25 to $75, often higher than the administrative costs associated with processing the application. The legislation would impose a cap limiting a landlord’s ability to overcharge prospective tenants and profit from application fees.
This legislation was introduced with Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and is the companion to HB 366, introduced by Rep. MaryLouise Isaacson (D-Philadelphia).
The final bill in the package, SB 861, would create a yearly land rent increase cap for manufactured homes. Manufactured home communities provide a source of affordable housing for seniors, veterans and individuals with disabilities on fixed incomes.
Since residents own the home but not the land it resides on, large companies can and have purchased these plots of land and substantially increased the lot rent. Such increases can leave residents on fixed incomes in a tenuous financial position. The bill would place a cap on land rent and protect manufactured homeowners from sharp land rent increases. The idea for this legislation was brought to Schwank by residents of Douglas Village in Berks County.
All three bills have the support of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
“In Pennsylvania, housing inequalities exist in every borough, township, city, and county,” said Adrian Garcia, PHRC Director of Fair Housing and Commercial Property. “As rent and monthly fees continue to rise, many who are on fixed incomes, which typically include seniors and individuals with disabilities, are forced to decide between paying their rent or paying for necessities. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission applauds Sen. Schwank for introducing these bills to protect renters in Pennsylvania. These bills are a step in the right direction to ensure everyone has access to safe and affordable housing.”
Schwank said the package of bills seeks to provide commonsense protections for renters throughout the commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania’s renters deserve to have someone looking out for them,” Schwank said. “We are facing a long list of issues when it comes to affordable housing, and renters especially have watched prices rise and eat into more and more of their earnings. For many, securing a safe, affordable place to call home becomes more difficult with each passing day. These bills will not fix all the issues renters face. However, they will provide a layer of badly needed protection.”