If You Think that Attorney’s Fees are Recoverable in a Suit for a Tenant’s Breach of a Residential Lease, Check Again

June 17, 2016
Posted in Real Estate Law
If You Think that Attorney’s Fees are Recoverable in a Suit for a Tenant’s Breach of a Residential Lease, Check Again

The Pennsylvania Association of Realtors form (PAR form) Residential Lease surprisingly makes limited provision for the recovery of attorney’s fees by a landlord in the event of a tenant’s breach. Generally, in Pennsylvania, litigants are responsible for their own attorney’s fees unless a contract says that they are recoverable, or a statute says they are recoverable. Pennsylvania’s Landlord Tenant Act does not provide for the recovery of attorney’s fees in the event of a tenant’s typical breach of a residential lease. Consequently, a landlord must look to the terms of the lease. The standard PAR form, under paragraph 25 entitled LANDLORDS REMEDIES IF TENANT BREACHES LEASE, provides that “legal fees and reasonable costs” are recoverable in a suit to recover “possession.” However, the same paragraph makes no provision for the recovery of attorney’s fees if the suit is merely “a lawsuit against tenant for rent.” So, theoretically, a tenant can abandon the premises and also abandon any obligation to reimburse the landlord for attorney’s fees.

While pulling the PAR form “off the shelf” may save time, owners, landlords and apartment managers must read the fine print and, if necessary, revise the form lease to ensure that attorney’s fees are recoverable, not only in the event of a suit to recover possession, but also in a suit to recover back rent.

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