Pennsylvania lawmakers introduce measures to protect renters

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

For the past 10 years, Melanie Baker has been building a home in her home in Bucks County. She has made friends, works locally, sends her children to the local school and is active in the community.

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

“My life is here,” Baker said. “My children’s lives are here. But I can only take my income so far. I just don't think I can raise my rent by a few hundred dollars. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon across Pennsylvania for tenants to be “cashed out” of their rental units, 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 you’re 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. Accordingly 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 an average 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).

The residents' hearings inspired Cappelletti and Sen. Jimmy Dillon (D-Philadelphia) to come up with an idea Senate Bill 1095, a rent protection measure bill. This legislation would limit rent increases to 10% for tenants who have rented in the unit in previous years. For new tenants, landlords are capped at a 15% rent increase over what the previous tenant was charged for renting the same unit. The bill was referred to the Urban Affairs and Housing Committee.

“This creates stability for the tenant because they know what to expect every year,” Cappelletti said. “And it helps provide the landlord with a stable income while the tenants stay, so the units aren’t just open. It’s about creating stability in market prices and stability in these communities.”

The legislation exempts dormitories, new buildings for 10 years and small landlords who own fewer than 15 units.

Baker said she could handle a 10% rent increase, especially knowing that was all she could expect year after year. She said she could plan for that, but not the nearly 20 percent increase she was facing.

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

Cappelletti said her bill targets exactly what Baker faces: corporate greed.

“This is us targeting the venture capitalists who are coming in and gobbling up some of our properties and converting them into these big, yes, beautiful buildings, but in the process creating prices and scenarios that people in our communities can't afford,” Cappelletti said . “They are completely gentrifying and changing these communities.”

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

“Younger people aren’t necessarily looking to own their own homes,” Cappelletti said. “It's a different generation and a different way at the moment and they like the idea of ​​renting, especially if they're fresh out of college.

“Not only are we helping our neighbors, older residents, young families and single parents, but we are also creating the pipeline to bring newer residents to Pennsylvania. We are rebuilding the economy for the people who 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 a decade.

“It’s not fair,” Baker said. “My house is being taken away because someone wants to make a few more dollars.”

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketer, 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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