Tenant tips

More than 50 people, mostly landlords, attended an informational meeting on state landlord-tenant laws held Wednesday evening by the Williamsport Lycoming Landlord Association at City Hall.

State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Williamsport, also a landlord, presented information, saying the 2008 recession resulted in a rise in rental properties.

He said a bullet from the July 4 shooting went into a doorframe of one of his rental properties.

“So I take very seriously what’s happening in our city, and that we contribute in a positive way to the discussion,” Mirabito said.

Screening tenants may be a first step in preventing problems, Mirabito said.

Landlord Shirley Abernathy said TransUnion offers an excellent screening tool at She charges applicants the fee the website requires to conduct a background check and a credit report.

For those who do their own screening, Mirabito suggested getting the applicants’ source and quantity of income, a credit report and a prior landlord’s reference. If the applicants are self-employed, get a copy of their tax returns, he said.

“This will weed out people involved in illegal activity,” Mirabito said.

He emphasized all landlords and tenants should have written contracts to clarify both parties’ expectations.

If a situation arises in which a landlord wants to evict a tenant, follow the legal process, Mirabito said – don’t resort to self-help, such as changing the locks.

If the lease is for a year or less, the landlord must give the tenant at least 15

days to vacate the apartment, he said. If the lease is longer than a year, the tenant gets 30 days to vacate. If the tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord only needs to give 10 days to vacate.

Regarding illegal drug use, a landlord has the authority to terminate a lease if a tenant receives a first or second conviction of illegally selling, manufacturing or distributing any drug in violation of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, or if law enforcement officials seize any illegal drugs on the leased premises.

Mirabito warned landlords to avoid accepting cash payments if possible. If cash must be accepted, get a receipt and declare the income; otherwise, a bank won’t count the income toward the value of the property, he said.

Mirabito said a tenant who is moving out must provide the landlord with an address in order to get the security deposit back.

One homeowner asked if there is a law limiting how much landlords can charge for rent as the gas industry has helped inflate rent in the area. Attorney Scott Williams said there is no restriction.

The next landlord association meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at City Hall, and the proposed rental ordinance will be examined, if it is ready for discussion.