What Are Housing Code Violations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania?

Landlords in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania must comply with the commonwealth’s Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951, codified in Title 68 of the Pennsylvania Statutes and with the Code of General Ordinances of the City of Philadelphia. The city’s ordinance regulations are codified in Title 4, Building Construction and Occupancy Code within the Code of General Ordinances of the City of Philadelphia. Tenants can report code violations to the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections, Services and Operations Unit.

Fire Safety Requirements

The Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections is responsible for regulating the fire and property code provisions of the ordinances. Both landlords and tenants have a legal duty to ensure their common areas, including fire escapes, fire exits, stairways and doorways are clear of storage and does not hinder entering or exiting. Philadelphia’s building ordinances prohibit using space underneath stairways for storage, unless the space comprises of fire-retardant materials.

In addition to these ordinances, landlords are further required to keep at least one fire extinguisher in public hallways and stairways. Extinguishers must have designations of “2-A:10-B:C” ratings or more, according to the U.S. Fire Administration standards. However, they do not have to keep extinguishers in common areas if they install sprinkler systems throughout the building.

Building Storage Requirements

Tenants cannot store their garbage in common areas unless specifically designated to hold garbage. Landlords must ensure that if they designate specific rooms within their apartment buildings for storage, they install fire sprinklers and retaining walls constructed of one-hour fire retardant or resistant materials, specifically rated by the U.S. Fire Association.

The city limits the amount of paint and flammable liquids that you can store in special storage areas by the type of liquid stored. Generally, you must keep all flammable liquids, including gardening products or insecticides made of potentially flammable ingredients, in separate rooms specifically designated as storage for flammable materials with walls constructed of one-hour fire resistant materials designated by the U.S. Fire Administration.

Building Habitability Codes

Landlords are responsible for providing adequate heat and must heat their apartments at a constant 68 degrees F from October 1 through April 30, and between May and September when the city’s outside temperature falls to below 60 degrees F. Landlords must supply running water heated to at least 110 degrees and below 126 degrees with minimum flow rates.

Landlords must also supply electricity, some natural sunlight and ventilation for each of their units. The city also imposes strict extermination requirements on landlords and, generally, landlords must exterminate pests and rodents in common areas and in all units when more than one tenant experiences an infestation; if only one tenant experiences an infestation, the tenant is liable for exterminating his own unit.

Building Safety Requirements

Landlords must maintain adequate lighting throughout their buildings in common areas, exit doorways and stairways. They must maintain power for the lighting by using separate sources of electricity to ensure lighting if one circuit fails to produce power. Landlords who rent buildings with two or more exit stairways must keep back-up power generators for emergency power during outages.

Landlords must also use lighted exit signs in buildings with more than one exit area or have fire escapes. Their exit signs must also have a back-up power generator. Landlords must install smoke alarms and manual fire alarms boxes shielded by glass in each of their units.

Consider Seeking Legal Advice

Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.