By: Robert B. George, Esquire
There are various circumstances which may result in the need to evict a tenant under a commercial lease. This typically occurs as a result of the fact that the commercial tenant breached the underlying lease agreement through nonpayment, or through another action that violated lease terms. Importantly, a commercial tenant cannot resort to what is commonly known as “self-help” under the laws in Pennsylvania, which would equate to locking the tenant out of the leased property, or removing the tenant from the leased property without proper legal proceedings. The use of self-help methods to remove a tenant from the leased property will actually subject the Landlord to a counterclaim, for which a tenant could be awarded substantial damages.
When it comes to commercial leases, as a landlord you want to be sure to include confession of judgment provisions in your lease. There are usually two such provisions. One type allows a landlord to get a speedy judgment for possession of the leased commercial property. The other type, known as a “confession of judgment for money”, allows a landlord to recover monetary damages from the commercial tenant.
A confession of judgment clause provides the landlord with a powerful legal tool to quickly evict a commercial tenant. If the tenant fails to pay rent and there is a confession of judgment clause, the landlord can file a complaint against the tenant thru the appropriate court. When the complaint is filed, a confession of judgment or “warrant of attorney” is simultaneously filed, asserting that the attorney for the tenant is the same as for the landlord. The warrant of attorney also stipulates that the attorney, on behalf of the tenant, is confessing the truth of everything in the complaint that has been filed by the landlord.
Along with the “confession” of the truth of the landlord’s claims is a request that the court immediately enter a judgment against the tenant. The court can order a judgment of eviction, allowing the landlord to reclaim the premises, and, when there was also a confession of judgment for money clause, the court can order the tenant to pay money that is due to the landlord.
Importantly, all of the above will take place without the tenant actually having the opportunity to come into court in an attempt to try and stop the eviction or to present his/her case. In fact, in many situations, the tenant is not even notified of the court proceedings, as the Confession of Judgment clause essentially means that the tenant is considered to have confessed to the alleged wrongdoing. As a result, a tenant can end up being forced to leave a commercial property, or to try to fight an uphill battle to reopen the case and reverse the judgment of eviction.
Consequently, the confession of judgment clause is a very powerful tool to which a landlord can avail himself or herself when there is a need to evict a commercial tenant, and should always be included by the landlord in any commercial lease. Nevertheless, there are other legal means by which to evict a commercial tenant from the property when the underlying lease does not include a confession of judgment clause or provisions.
If you find yourself involved in a matter requiring the eviction of a tenant under a commercial lease, it is important that you consult with a qualified attorney.
The Law Firm of DiOrio & Sereni, LLP is a full-service law firm in Media, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. We strive to help people, businesses and institutions throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania solve legal problems – and even prevent legal problems before they occur. To learn more about the full range of our specific practice areas, please visit www.dioriosereni.com or contact Robert B. George, Esquire at 610-565-5700 or at [email protected].