Philadelphia Landlords Cannot Sue Without Rental License

Written by: Alan Nochumson

The scenario is all too common in the City of Philadelphia. An individual leases his residential property without first obtaining a “rental license” from the City government. If that individual is lucky, years go by before he knows why he needs one. The day of reckoning occurs when his tenant fails to pay his monthly rental payments.

A landlord in Philadelphia has two venues to sue his tenant – Philadelphia Municipal Court or the Court of Common Pleas. The choice between the two is a no brainer. The legal process is more straightforward, less expensive and quicker in the Philadelphia Municipal Court.

Rather than waiting for more than a “year” in the Court of Common Pleas, a hearing in the Philadelphia Municipal Court is scheduled within a “month” from the day the complaint is filed. Even better, if the tenant loses at the Philadelphia Municipal Court-level and elects to appeal that decision and stay in the property while the appeal is pending, he will be obligated to place his rental payments during the appeal into an escrow account administered by the judicial system. As such, when the landlord wins on appeal, he will have all of his money waiting for him.

The only problem with the Philadelphia Municipal Court is that the landlord must possess a license from the City government to rent the property. Without that license, the Philadelphia Municipal Court will not hear the landlord-tenant dispute and the landlord will thus be forced to sue the tenant at the Court of Common Pleas-level.

Nowadays, you can renew your rental license online or retrieve a rental license application at or the Concourse Level of the Municipal Services Building, 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102.