Steps to Becoming a Landlord in Philadelphia - Article Banner

Renting out a Philadelphia property can be an outstanding opportunity for anyone who wants to earn consistent and recurring rental income while their asset grows in value

Being a landlord isn’t for everyone, though, and if you’re not sure where to start, we can help. 

As professional property managers in Philadelphia, we help owners navigate the process of setting themselves up to lawfully rent out property. We’re putting together this detailed step-by-step guide so you have everything you need to get started. You’ll find some links to various state agencies as well, which might come in handy.

Obtain a BIRT Account Number 

When you rent out a property, you effectively run a business. And, in order to run a business and earn income from that business in Philadelphia, you’ll need a Business Income and Receipts Tax (BIRT) account number. These are issued by the Philadelphia Department of Revenue. You can find their website and instructions on how to obtain your BIRT right here

There’s no cost to register online, and the instructions are pretty clear. If you run into any trouble or confusion, get in touch with us and we’ll walk you through it.

Set Up Your eCLIPSE Account for Licensure and Renewal 

The next step in establishing yourself as a Philadelphia landlord is to create an account through the Electronic Commercial Licensing, Inspections, and Permit Services Enterprise (ECLIPSE). 

You’ll need this account when you want to apply for a license or renew an existing license through the License and Inspections Department. Get your eCLIPSE account here

Once you have your account set up, you’ll need to obtain a commercial activity license. Anyone conducting business within Philadelphia needs this license. Even if you’re located outside of the city limits, you’ll need the license to do any business inside the city itself. There are very narrow exemptions to this licensure requirement, and the chances are – you’ll need to apply for it. Talk to us if you’re renting out units in a building that you own and also occupy. If you’re the landlord of two to four units, you might be exempt. 

Evaluate Your Lead Paint Protocols

Anyone renting out property in Philadelphia will need to provide a lead paint disclosure and certification. This follows a federal law that requires you to certify your property is Lead-Safe or Lead-Free if your property was constructed before 1978. Occupants under six years of age are especially vulnerable to lead paint, and you never know when you’ll have children moving into your rental home. Get this disclosure from the Philadelphia Department of Health right here. 

Obtain Your Rental Housing License 

If you’re renting out any type of housing, you need a license. This was once called a Housing Inspection License, and now it’s called a Housing Rental License. This is issued through the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections. It will cost you $55 per unit, and you can register for licensure through your eCLIPSE account. For single-family homes, it’s pretty straightforward. If you’re renting out a multi-family building with two or more units, you will need zoning approval.

In addition to a license, you’ll need to apply for a Certificate of Rental Suitability. This is also issued by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and inspections. You need to provide it every time you decide to rent out a home. It affirms that your property is habitable and up to date with all provisions in the Philadelphia Property Code. It’s free, but you need to get it within 60 days of the date you expect your lease to begin. 

Sign Up for the PGW Landlord Cooperation Program

No one likes surprises. Your tenants won’t like surprises. If there’s a gas shutoff or work needs to be performed near your property, you might want to know about it so your tenants can be informed. If there are collection-related activities at your rental property, you might want to know that, too. A program through Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) might be just the tool you need. It’s easy to sign up as long as you’re renting out a residential property. This won’t work for you if you’re the customer of record or if you occupy the rental property you own. 

Otherwise, sign up for the Landlord Cooperation Program here. 

Finding and Placing Tenants in Philadelphia 

Once you have the administrative work out of the way, it’s time to get your property onto the rental market and find some residents. How can you get started? We have some ideas. 

  • Make sure the home is rent-ready. If you’ve passed your inspections and obtained your license, you’re probably in good shape. But, you want your property to be more than maintained. You also want it to look attractive and welcoming. Help it stand out on the rental market with some smart upgrades and updates. 
  • Price your rental property appropriately. Take a look at what similar homes in your area are renting for and attach a rental value that’s competitive and accurate. 
  • Market the property. Create a listing with fantastic photos and concise descriptions. Be sure to follow all fair housing laws, and don’t use language that could be perceived as discriminatory or exclusionary. 
  • Show the home. Be available to prospective tenants who may want to see the home. 

Once applications begin to come in, you’ll need to screen them. This can be tricky if you’ve never been a landlord before. Consider working with a Philadelphia property manager who can help you choose a qualified tenant. You’ll need those resources and that expertise. 

Doing some PaperworkWe know that it’s not easy to become a landlord, and we’re here to support you in whatever way you need us. Whether it’s getting through the paperwork or finding the right tenant, we can be your best and most reliable resources. Contact us at Innovate Realty. We work with investors of all experience levels in the greater Philadelphia metro area as well as surrounding suburban areas in Bucks, Camden, Montgomery, Chester, Burlington, and Delaware County, to the Delaware River.