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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 30382
Experience:  Attorney
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We own a condo in Philadelphia, PA that we rent out. We do

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We own a condo in Philadelphia, PA that we rent out. We do not have a license to do so.
We have had a tenant living there for 11 months. She asked if we could add her boyfriend to the lease. We did and extended the lease until the end of October 2013. They abandoned the unit without notice on August 1st, 2013. Other neighbors saw them pack up and leave, confirming abandonment. The unit was left unsecured and keys have not been returned. Locks have since been changed. I also confirmed abandonment by speaking to the boyfriend who claimed he had left a month prior and they were no longer together, this proved not to be true as there is evidence to the contrary in the unit.
They have left no forwarding address, nor did they provide anything to us in writing they were vacating the unit. We do have her mother’s address, his work address and his former home address as it was on papers left at the unit.
Some minor possessions were left behind that I understand may need to be kept under the new Act 129 although the original lease was signed prior to the act being passed. Anything they left that could attract bugs was thrown out (dog towels that had been urinated on, dirty dishes left in the sink, a toaster oven) as mice droppings were found on the counter tops.
The condo was trashed and must be cleaned, painted and re-carpeted and we are unable to rent it out until we can get this done. We tried working it out with them as I finally located the boyfriend but they no showed.
I have retrieved mail that shows that two unauthorized relatives lived in the unit during their stay and an unauthorized german shepard was housed there as well. They left a large dog cage, food and a leash and the neighbors confirmed the dog lived there. No animals were allowed. The tenant claimed it was a service dog in training for her son but there is no proof, nor did they ask if a dog could be allowed under those circumstances.
I have a security deposit equal to 1 month which pays for Augusts rent.
The plan is to sue the tenants and relatives that lived there for damages, as stated above, and rent until the end of the lease unless we can find a new tenant but cannot until we have time to have the unit fixed up.
The questions are
Can I legally do this? Since they abandoned the property must I keep what they left under PA Act 129. Can I sue everyone I can prove lived there even though they were not on the lease or can I only sue the tenants on the lease? Can I sue without a rental license? What are the repercussions of this?

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

First, you cannot sue anyone that is not on the lease, because you do not have a contract or agreement with those people and have no way of proving that they caused the damages. The tenants are responsible for their guests, so a landlord can sue them without proving which tenant caused any specific item of damage. That's not the case with people who are not on the lease.

A landlord cannot sue for the fact that a tenant had an unauthorized animal in the premises, but can charge for damage caused by the animal (even if a service animal causes damage, the tenant is liable for it).

Not having a rental license means that you are unfortunately not permitted to rent the place out. That means that you're not entitled to rent - which means that you cannot charge them for the time that the place is empty, but it also means that you're unfortunately not allowed to apply the security deposit to unpaid rent. And that means that you would only be able to seek a judgment to the extent that the actual damage caused to the rental premises exceeds the security deposit. See Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code, Section 102.7.1.

If you have any questions or concerns about what I've written, please reply so that I may address them. It's important to me that you are 100% satisfied with the service I provide. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so that I get credit for answering your question. Thank you.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your answer. It is very helpful. Can you please respond to the part about the abandoned property. Do we need to hold it under housing Act 129? Or can we toss it? It includes some clothes, a dog cage and many photographs.

I'm sorry about that oversight.

Act 129 states that a tenant has a responsibility to remove their items from rental premises. They have 10 days to notify the landlord if they wish to retain any items left behind. After that, the landlord has no obligation to keep it. The Act will apply to any tenants that vacate after it goes into effect. However, since the Act didn't exist when the lease was entered, you are required to notify the tenants of the 10 day window to retrieve their belongings. Going forward, after you get a license, if the notice is in the lease, that's enough to put them on notice.
Lucy, Esq. and other Landlord-Tenant Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you. You have been amazing!