Landlords in the City need to follow certain requirements.
Commercial Activity License (CAL) or Owner-Occupied Housing License
You need a Commercial Activity License to do business in the City of Philadelphia.
If your property has four or fewer rental units and you live in one of them, you don’t need a Commercial Activity License. You need a 2-4 Unit Owner-Occupied Housing License.
Business Income & Receipts Tax (BIRT)
BIRT numbers are assigned by the Department of Revenue to identify tax accounts. You use this number to apply for all licenses. You apply for your Commercial Activity License and BIRT at the same time.
You must be tax compliant to get licenses.
Your property must be properly zoned in order to operate as a dwelling. You need zoning approval even if the owner occupies one of the units.
You need a Rental License to rent out a property. One license can cover all units within a single address.
The owner must name a local managing agent when applying for the Rental License. The managing agent is responsible for handling maintenance requests, collecting rent, and resolving rental disputes.
You also need a license for high-rise residential buildings (buildings with a floor 75 ft. or more above the lowest level of fire department vehicle access).
Certificate of Rental Suitability
You must give new tenants a copy of a Certificate of Rental Suitability issued by L&I no more than 60 days before to the start of the lease.
Lead paint responsibilities
If a building was built before 1978 and will be occupied by a child 6 years or younger, property owners must provide tenants with certification that it is lead-free before the lease is signed. Beginning October 1, 2020, landlords will be required to test and certify rental properties as “lead-safe” or “lead-free,” regardless of a child’s age, in order to:
- Execute a new or renewed lease or
- Receive or renew a rental license.
Only a PA-licensed inspector, risk assessor, or EPA-certified lead dust sampling technician can certify a building.
Landlords must send a copy of the certificate signed by the tenant and the dust wipe test results to the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
Landlords of buildings with three or more units must provide tenants with a copy of the building smoking policy. The policy must include whether or not smoking is:
- Prohibited in all dwelling units.
- Allowed in all units.
- Allowed in some units.
Partners in Good Housing guidebook
You must give new tenants a copy of the Partners in Good Housing guidebook.
Landlords must follow all non-discrimination and housing laws.
If you are renting your property on a short-term basis, through Airbnb or another provider, you follow other special requirements for renting short-term.
Bed bug control responsibilities
Landlords must develop and follow a bed bug control plan to prevent and control of bed bug infestations.
You must give tenants:
- An informational notice from the City of Philadelphia about bed bugs and landlord/tenant responsibilities.
- A written description of bed bug infestation and remediation in the rental unit within the preceding 120 days and of any ongoing remediation.
Within ten business days of receiving a written complaint about bed bugs in a rental unit, you must hire professional pest control services to investigate the complaint and begin remediation if an infestation is found.
- Remediation services must continue until there is no longer evidence of bed bugs in the unit. The unit must be monitored for the next 12 months to check for reinfestation.
- In buildings with four or more units, the pest control professional must also investigate whether there are bed bugs in the units above, below, and next door.