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Penn Law School found geography and race affect the terms given to tenants in residential leases.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

A Penn Law School study found an increase in illegal terms in residential leases for Philadelphia tenants.

The study was published in February and examined 170,000 leases filed in support of Philadelphia eviction proceedings from 2005 to 2019, Penn Today reported. The study found an increase in illegal and unenforceable terms in residential leases during the time period, and that geography and race affect the terms given to tenants.

The study was conducted by Penn Law School professor David Hoffman and New York University Center for Data Science fellow Anton Strezhnev.

A significant factor in this increase is the use of standard forms for leases that are drafted by nonprofit landlord associations and available over the internet, Penn Today reported. Compared to proprietary leases, these standard forms contain worse rules for tenants and are less expensive for landlords to adopt. 

Black tenants in particular are more likely to receive lease terms that make them vulnerable to eviction if anyone commits a crime or uses drugs on the premises, Penn Law News reported.

“As the request is not made in minority-majority tracts, it has the effect of enabling race-based private policing of tenants,” Hoffman and Strezhnev wrote in the study.

One in four Philadelphia residents face evictions each year, and Philadelphia ranks fourth nationally in the number of eviction filings. Women of color make up 70% of evictions, and Black renters are more likely to be evicted than other populations.

The study adds to a growing body of literature that examines how landlords profit at the expense of working class tenants and tenants of color who often have few options of where to live.  A 2020 study by Princeton’s Eviction Lab found that roughly one in four Black renters live in a county where the eviction rate for Black residents is double that of white renters.