Confession of Judgment: What You Need to Know
Written by: Alan Nochumson
As a landlord negotiating a commercial lease agreement in Pennsylvania, it is imperative to understand the tools at your disposal to protect yourself. One such tool is a Confession of Judgment. This provision in a commercial lease can be an efficient means for a commercial landlord to obtain a judgment for damages when a commercial tenant defaults on lease obligations. While retaining an experienced attorney to draft this provision is your best bet at ensuring its effectiveness, it is still a good idea to understand its usefulness as a landlord.
What is a Confession of Judgement
A confession of judgment is a pleading filed in the Court of Common Pleas that gives the Plaintiff an immediate judgment against the Defendant without prior notice and an opportunity to be heard in court by the Defendant. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that permit a commercial landlord to obtain an almost immediate judgment against a defaulting tenant without requiring the landlord to go through the process of providing the tenant with notice, an opportunity to be heard, or a trial. This legal remedy is both a time and expense-saver. However, because Pennsylvania courts scrupulously interpret the confession of judgment clause against the party seeking to benefit from it, the lease language must comply with strict drafting rules. For example, the provision must be written in large and bold type, the clause must be signed by the tenant, and it must be conspicuously worded so that it is clear that the tenant knows that it is waiving its rights.
How It Works
Confession of judgment clauses are only permitted in connection with commercial transactions and are prohibited in residential lease and other consumer transactions. A commercial lease may provide for confession of judgment for money damages, for possession of the leased premises, or both. Courts generally disfavor confessions of judgment because they deprive defendants of their constitutional due process rights. As a result, a court strictly scrutinizes this clause to make sure all of the required steps are followed by the parties to the contract. Examples of confession of judgment clauses that may not be sufficiently conspicuous are those that contain small typeface and those that are buried in an extremely large contract. Some courts have even held that confession of judgments clauses must be set forth in bold and/or capitalized lettering to be sufficiently conspicuous. This is why it is so important to utilize a knowledgeable attorney, as a confession of judgment clause requires very specific legal information and procedural requirements.
At Nochumson P.C., we are more than legal counsel. We are people serving our neighbors and community in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Knowing that real communication between real people can help lead to real positive results, our team of attorneys are available 24/7 to help answer your legal questions and to fight for you with skill and fortitude, whatever the case may be. When you hire us, you can expect a sensible and cost-effective approach to legal counsel. We think fast, think ahead, and get things done. Contact us today or call us at (215) 399-1346 to see how we can represent you.