Landlord and Tenant Act Requirement Regarding Tenant’s New Mailing Address Strictly Construed

By Douglas K. Marsico, Esq.

The Landlord and Tenant Act provides penalties that my be imposed against a Landlord who retains a security deposit for damages to the leasehold if the landlord fails to provide a written list of the damages within 30 days after the Tenant vacates. The penalties are waived where the Tenant fails to provide the Landlord in writing with his or her new mailing address. In a recent Allegheny County case, affirmed by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the requirement in supplying the forwarding address in writing was addressed.

In the case, four college students rented an apartment from the Landlord. Pursuant to the terms of the written lease, the college students' fathers all guaranteed their financial obligations under the lease. At the end of the lease term, the Tenants moved out and the keys were delivered to the Landlord's business office. None of the Tenants provided a new address to the Landlord. Upon inspection of the premises, the Landlord discovered substantial damage to the apartment beyond the amount covered by the security deposit and landlord sent a written demand of $2858.00 to each of the addresses of the parents. The mailing date on the envelope was 31 days after the keys were dropped off and 30 days after the lease expired. The Tenants (or more accurately, the parents) refused to pay and demanded payment of double the amount of the original security deposit arguing that they had not received the written list of damages within 30 days of the vacating of the apartment. The Landlord filed an action seeking the $2858.00.

The Trial Court found that at no time did the Tenants provide their new address in writing to the Landlord. The Tenants' failure to affirmatively provide their new address in writing to the Landlord resulted in a waiver of any of the potential penalties against the Landlord even if the Court were to find that the written list was delivered beyond the 30 day period. The Tenants argued that the term "new address" under the Landlord and Tenant Act should apply to any pre-lease addresses where they could still be reached. The Court held that the term "new address" has only one logical and reasoning meaning: the address where a Tenant will reside after leaving the premises leased from the Landlord.

As a side note, the Court awarded over $15,000.00 to the Landlord for attorney fees accumulated as a result of the trial and appeal process. It turned out that one of the parents/guarantors was also an attorney who led the litigation against the Landlord. As noted by the Court, "dad" had chosen an overzealous "nuclear option" in defending the Landlord's claim by countersuing the Landlord under the Consumer Protection Law, Federal RICO charges, and instituting a class action. Dad's hard work resulted in a judgment of over $21,406.00 against all the guarantors when the Landlord's original claim was only $2,848.00! Sometimes father does not always know best.

Mr. Marsico is an attorney with Caldwell & Kearns which serves as general counsel to PAR. A portion of his practice is dedicated to providing advice and counsel to real estate licensees and representing and defending real estate salespersons and brokers in civil lawsuits and licensing claims across the Commonwealth. He routinely counsels employers on employee relations issues as one of the voices of the PAR Legal Hotline.