Leases as Forms
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (forthcoming 2022)
49 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2021 Last revised: 6 Jan 2022
Date Written: December 20, 2021
We offer the first large scale descriptive study of residential leases, based on a novel dataset of 170,000 residential leases filed in support of over 200,000 Philadelphia eviction proceedings from 2005 through 2019. These leases are highly likely to contain unenforceable terms, and their pro-landlord tilt has increased sharply over time. Matching leases with individual tenant characteristics, and to 16,261 unique owner-landlords, we show that unenforceable terms are likely to be associated with more expensive leaseholds in richer, whiter parts of the city. This result is linked to particular landlords’ growing adoption of shared forms, originally created by non-profit landlord associations, and more recently available online for a nominal fee. Generally, such shared form leases contain worse rules for tenants than the proprietary leases they replace. Over time, it has become easier and cheaper for landlords to adopt such common forms, meaning that access to justice for landlords strips tenants of rights.
Keywords: leases, contracts, consumer contracts, forms, innovation, geography, drafting costs, evictions, landlords, philadelphia
JEL Classification: k12, k11, r3, r31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation