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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    2

    Default Rights of Tenant if Landlord Moves Into a Basement Unit

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: PENNSYLVANIA

    I am renting a home, and the immediate landlord & her boyfriend have been living/staying in the basement - which has now been converted into a separate apartment - full size stove/oven and refrigerator, shower & toilet.

    The lease is in my name, signed by her sister (actual homeowner). The original arrangement (est. 12/10 verbally), was she (immediate landlord) would occasionally stay in the basement a few nights a week, in order to have a closer commute to work. Turns out that she did not have anywhere else to live.

    Aside from the incessant cigarette smoking, roaches, and mice my family & I have been dealing with since moving in, her boyfriend has made this situation much more uncomfortable. He arrived in March 2010, bringing with him his own set of rules about how & what I am allowed to do in the house I am renting. We are at a terrible crossroads now, having almost weekly conflicts with the living conditions of this lease.

    My list of complaints have been completely ignored. We were allowed to move in without having to pay a security deposit, and she uses that as her excuse for the poor conditions of the home. We did not have a heating system last winter, surviving on portable heaters. Up until two months ago, I would easily catch three mice a week, using sticky glue traps. These glue traps (some left out 24/7) have to be replaced weekly, as mice are not the only unwanted guests walking around. They are set up throughout the house like a perimeter - sealing off each room.

    There are other things that I consider to be a breach of the lease too, like the fact that we are only allowed to wash clothes Monday thru Thursday, providing that her boyfriend is not home during these days. I have also been unable to take out the trash when it is convenient too. Every night, if it is after 7pm, trash removal will have to wait until the next day - IF the back door isn't locked. If it is locked, then I cannot take the trash out at all.

    I have been unemployed since before signing the lease, which was understood & agreed upon when the lease was signed. Each month, I have not paid the rent in full, citing the complaints of the home. After our last heated exchange, she is now demanding me to sign a payment agreement. The amount she says I owe is not the same as her records. She says she doesn't want to sue me, she would just rather me sign the agreement and move out when the lease is up. I do not feel that I should have to pay her any of the back rent (about $1,800 on a $800 a month lease), and reduced rent for the remaining portion of the lease. I was unemployed, family of four, and responsible for all the utilities. She owns a business and lives in my basement for less than $200 a month. The mortgage is $900 a month, and she reluctantly gives $100 towards the utilities.

    Is any of this fair? How do I know even if this house is eligible as a rental? Are there any landlord/tenant violations? Having recently accepted a lucrative job offer, and now that I can afford to move, I would like to take my family somewhere safe and comfortable.

    Thank you in advance for your attention and assistance to all who view and advise.

    Regards,

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    98,846

    Default Re: Rights of Tenant if Landlord Moves Into a Basement Unit

    You posted this as a question about rent and utilities. Your landlord's occupation of another unit is irrelevant to your rent, just as it would be if any other tenant moved into the other unit. If the basement apartment is not separately metered, you are paying the utilities and your lease doesn't define a split or contribution from the occupant of the other unit, that's certainly something you can discuss with your landlord. You haven't explained why you can only do laundry on certain days.

    If you want to know if the basement apartment is an approved housing unit, check with local housing officials.

    If your landlord's records show you owe a certain amount of rent, and you agree that the records are correct, then that is the amount you owe. If your landlord claims you owe a different amount, obviously you would challenge her claim based upon her own records.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Rights of Tenant if Landlord Moves Into a Basement Unit

    Thanks for the prompt reply!

    There is no separate unit. The property is a single-family row home. The basement does not have a separate meter. For the first couple of months, my biggest complaints were the roaches, mice, and how her cigarette smoking filters throughout the whole house. The roaches and mice she said was my problem, because we live in the city limits, and she doesn't see any in the basement.

    I am unable to do laundry simply because it inconvenience's her boyfriend. Again, he arrived from Italy in March. By June, we were well in to this conflict. The laundry mess became an issue after her boyfriend complained to her that he was too hot in the basement - because I had been using the dryer for the last couple of hours. Her resolution? She told me to stop using the dryer all together, and only come down to wash Monday-Thursday before she gets home from work. This was disagreeable, but feasible to workout. However, since this agreement, there has been several days where I have dragged down to the basement a heavy load of laundry, only to have him laying there half-naked - either asleep or watching television. Nowadays, we just go to the laundromat to avoid further problems.

    A couple of questions I do have are:

    How do I know if this home is eligible as a rental? After all, I had to download a random generic lease off the internet for this property.

    Can I have this boyfriend arrested for trespassing, should he continue to be a threatening presence? The lease does not say anything about the landlord or her boyfriend living in the basement at all.

    Can I sue for the unforgiving living conditions? I have two small children, one being a two month old, and we have tolerated the pests/rodents, but the daily second hand smoke & no heating system?!?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    98,846

    Default Re: Rights of Tenant if Landlord Moves Into a Basement Unit

    If you want to know if the home is an approved rental housing unit, check with local housing officials.

    If you have a house sharing arrangement with your landlord and she lets her boyfriend move in, he's there with her permission.

    If you have a house sharing arrangement with a smoker, and you have nothing in your agreement that forbids smoking, then you renegotiate when the lease term is over, live with the smoke or move.

    It is not clear from your post if you have a mouse infestation or if you live in an area that happens to have a lot of mice running around. If it's the former you can try formally requesting extermination and, should your landlord refuse to assist, you can consider other possible remedies. In terms of cockroaches, there's no such thing as "a few cockroaches". If you see a few, there are thousands (they live where you can't see them). If this is a row house, not a detached dwelling, mice or insects may be coming from neighboring units - beyond your landlord's reach. In most places where cockroaches are a problem, the landlord will periodically exterminate the roaches. Note that if your landlord takes the position that you're responsible for the infestation she may attempt to charge you for the cost of extermination.

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