Fair rent for all: Pennsylvania legislators introduce measures to safeguard tenants

Rent Protection

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By Ashley Adams

May 1, 2024

A bill recently introduced in the state Senate would cap rent rate increases at 10% for current tenants and 15% for new tenants.

For the past 10 years, Melanie Baker has built a home in her Bucks County apartment. She’s made friends, works close by, sends her children to the local school, and is involved in the community.

Baker is happy with where she lives and wants to stay, but a new real estate company recently bought her complex and is raising the rent to a price Baker isn’t sure she can afford.

“My life is here,” Baker said. “My kids’ lives are here. But I can only make my income stretch so far. I just don’t think I can swing a couple hundred dollars increase in my rent. I don’t know what I am going to do.”

Unfortunately, tenants being “priced out” of their rental units isn’t an uncommon thing across Pennsylvania, said Sen. Amanda Cappelletti (D-Montgomery). Cappelletti has heard similar stories from her constituents.

“Everyone deserves a home where they can build a life and feel safe, healthy, and at peace,” Cappelletti said. “Whether a renter or a homeowner, a stable home is an invaluable asset to our lives.”

There are more than 1.5 million renter households in Pennsylvania. According to Redfin, the average apartment rent in April 2024 was $1,492. The average house rent was $1,688.

Doylestown is the most expensive area with a median rent of $2,480, followed by Collegeville ($2,416), and West Chester ($2,287). The cheapest area is York with a media rent of $1,081, followed by Harrisburg ($1,207), and Lancaster ($1,258).

Hearing from residents inspired Cappelletti and Sen. Jimmy Dillon (D-Philadelphia) to introduce Senate Bill 1095, a rental rate protection measures bill. This legislation would cap rent increases by 10% for tenants who have rented in the unit the previous year(s). For new tenants, landlords would be capped at a 15% rent increase from what the previous tenant had been charged for renting the same unit. The bill has been referred to the Urban Affairs and Housing Committee.

“This will create stability for that renter because they know what to expect each year,” Cappelletti said. “And it helps create steady income for the landlord as tenants stay, so units aren’t just open. It’s to create stability in the market prices and stability in these communities.”

The legislation exempts dormitories, new construction for 10 years, as well as small landlords who own less than 15 residential rental units.

Baker said she could handle a 10% increase in rent, especially if she knew that was all she had to expect year after year. She said she could budget for that, but not the almost 20% increase that she is facing.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Baker said. “I feel like I’m being run out of my home. And I can’t find anything affordable in the area that I live in. I don’t want to have to move my kids to a different school district.”

Cappelletti said her bill is aimed at exactly what Baker is facing — corporate greed.

“This is targeting the venture capitalist companies that are coming in and gobbling up some of our properties and renovating into these big, and yes, beautiful buildings, but creating pricing and scenarios that the people living in our communities can’t afford,” Cappelletti said. “They are completely gentrifying and changing those communities.”

Another potential positive from the bill, Cappelletti said, will be realized by the younger generation.

“Younger people aren’t necessarily looking to own their homes,” Cappelletti said. “It’s a different generation and a different way right now and they do like the idea of renting, especially fresh out of college.

“We aren’t just helping our neighbors, older residents, young families, single parent families, but we are also creating that pipeline of wanting to bring in newer residents to Pennsylvania. We are building back up that economy of people that want to live and work here.”

Baker has started looking for a new place to rent, but is still hoping she can negotiate with her new landlord to hopefully stay in the only home she and her children have known for the past 10 years.

“This isn’t fair,” Baker said. “My home is being taken away because someone wants to make a few extra bucks.”

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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