While the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP) were both designed to assist low-income families, there are a number of differences between the two. Below are descriptions of the two programs:


TANF – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

  • TANF provides families funds to pay bills, utilities, and other necessities

  • TANF is temporary. Recipients are limited to receiving benefits for only 60 months during their lifetimes.

  • The amounts in the chart on the left are the total received in a month.

  • It is received twice a month.

  • Grants are reduced if families receive other income.

  • Unless exempt, TANF recipients must take part in welfare-to-work programs.

  • For more information about TANF, visit: http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/cashassistance/index.htm

SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps)

  • Provides eligible families with funds to purchase food items.

  • Families and individuals are eligible for SNAP benefits even if they are working.

  • Eligibility can be limited by income and resources.

  • SNAP grants increase based on some household expenses (unlike TANF).

  • A SNAP household includes everyone who customarily purchases and prepares meals together, plus some “mandatory members.”

  • For more information about SNAP, visit: http://www.dhs.pa.gov/citizens/supplementalnutritionassistanceprogram/index.htm


Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This is especially true in the world of tenant advocacy.

Tenants need to be proactive by ASKING QUESTIONS before signing a lease, such as:

  • Who is the landlord or agent?

  • How much is the rent?

  • When is the rent due?

  • To whom and where should the rent be paid?

  • Is a security deposit required?

  • To whom should problems and repairs be referred?

  • Will the lease be oral or in writing?

  • How long is the lease?

  • Who is responsible for utilities (electric, water, gas, etc.?)

  • What are the rules and regulations?

This is a vital part of the leasing process. Knowing the answers to these questions can prevent issues from arising, and the tenant should make sure that the answers given are included in any lease agreement.

Tenants also need to be proactive and INSPECT any potential rental property prior to making a lease agreement and prior to moving in to the property. Landlords of rental units are required to provide a working stove and refrigerator. Tenants should inspect to see that:

  • Kitchen appliances are in working order

  • Water pressure is strong, and plumbing is without leaks

  • Electrical outlets and wiring are working and in good condition

  • Walls and ceilings are painted or papered without cracks

  • Floors and railings are in good condition

  • Bathrooms are in working condition

  • Fire escape is easy to use

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are present and working

  • Stairs are safe and well-lit

  • Rodents or insects are not present

  • Ventilation, air conditioning, and heating system is in working order

  • Windows and doors are operable and weather-tight, and screens are provided.

Tenants should not rely on promises from a landlord to correct issues prior to moving in to the property. Ensure that any issues are corrected prior to signing a lease agreement. During the inspection note any damage to the property and, if possible, take pictures of the damage. If the tenant decides to rent the property, note the damage on the lease so that the tenant is not charged for the damage at move out.

An extremely important part of the leasing process is to READ THE ENTIRE LEASE if you have a written lease. In the age of Google, it is easy to download leases off the internet, but that does not mean that they are good leases. Both the tenant and the landlord should understand the terms in the lease prior to signing because the lease should outline the rights and responsibilities of each of the parties. Tenants can always contact the Berks County Bar Association, (610) 375-4591, which offers residential lease/rent-to-own lease reviews by attorneys for persons of limited means for a small fee. Tenants can also visit City Hall’s Property Maintenance Division to make sure that any potential property is in compliance with city ordinances and has proper rental permits. If the property is not in compliance or does not have proper permits, do not rent.

By advocating for oneself as a tenant and following Ben Franklin’s advice about prevention, a knowledgeable tenant can work to improve property conditions in the City of Reading and prevent landlord/tenant issues from occurring.


The eviction process can be confusing for both landlords and tenants. Both sides should be aware of the legal bases for eviction and the requirements for landlords wanting to end a tenancy to ensure rights are being protected.

Landlords can seek to evict a tenant ONLY if:

  • A tenant does not pay rent

  • A tenant does not follow the terms in the written or oral lease agreement

  • The time period for which the tenant rented is over, and the landlord wants the tenant out.

There are a number of steps in the eviction process, which include:

  1. Written Notice (may be waived or shortened in the lease) – Written by the landlord, provides 10 days to vacate for non-payment of rent; 15 days to vacate for breach of lease or for the end of lease term

  2. Landlord/Tenant Complaint – After the 10- or 15-day notice period ends, the landlord can file a Landlord/Tenant Complaint. The Magisterial District Judge court schedules the hearing within 7-15 days of filing. The landlord may ask for possession of the property and monetary damages for unpaid rent and damage to the property. The tenant will receive notice of the time and place for the hearing.

  3. Court Hearing (Magisterial District Judge) – The MDJ will make a decision either at the hearing or within 3 days after the hearing. If the MDJ grants a judgement for possession to the landlord, the landlord can seek an Order for Possession after a 10-day appeal period.

  4. If No Appel Filed – The landlord can file for an Order of Possession 10 days after the MDJ judgement. The tenant is then given another 10-day notice to leave the premises. If the tenant does not leave after the 20-day period, the landlord can legal have the constable or sheriff physically remove the tenant.

  5. Appeal Filed (can be requested by either party) – If the MDJ grants a judgement for possession to the landlord, a tenant can file an appeal within 10 days to the Court of Common Pleas. A Notice of the Appeal must be served to the landlord and the MDJ. The tenant must also deposit money in order to request supersedeas (stay of legal proceeding). The amount is 1/3 of one month’s rent at the time of filing, and the remaining 2/3 within 20 days of filing the appeal. The tenant must also make rental payments to the Office of the Prothonotary during the appeal.