Tenants who fail to pay their rent or who are breaching other covenants in the lease are the bane of a commercial landlord’s existence. The answer? A confession of judgment for possession.
Pennsylvania continues to be one of the only states that permit judgments to be entered by confession in connection with commercial leases. Although seemingly archaic, confession of judgment clauses provide commercial landlords with prompt mechanisms for eviction and act as effective tools for avoiding adversary litigation that commonly arise from everyday litigation.
A confession of judgment clause in a commercial lease permits a landlord to file a “complaint in confession of judgment” upon the tenants default under the lease. When the complaint in confession of judgment is for possession of the property, the landlord will automatically obtain a judgment for eviction against the defaulting tenant as soon as it is filed with the Prothonotary.
After the judgment for possession is entered, the landlord can immediately file for a writ of possession without having to wait for the tenant’s response. Promptly after obtaining and serving the writ on the tenant, the landlord can direct the sheriff to proceed to evict the tenant from the property. Thus, the net result of the inclusion of a confession of judgment clause is the tenant’s prompt lockout, all without the need for a hearing.
This aspect of commercial leases in Pennsylvania is one of the most useful and powerful clauses in a contract. In harsh economic times, confession of judgment clauses provide a prompt mechanism for commercial landlords to ensure protection of their interest upon a tenants default in a way that saves time, money, and of course, aggravation.
In summary, if you are a commercial landlord in Pennsylvania, at the time of entry into a new lease, you will want to make sure that your lease includes a clause for confession of judgment.