Residential Tenants and Their Leases: An Empirical Study

Of particular interest is the application of this theory to residential leases, a classic example of the standard long-form contract. An abundance of traditional legal research and commentary has been devoted to the problem of disparity of bargaining power between the parties to a standard-form residential lease. The commentators have consistently called for reform measures to combat this problem. In order to adopt sensible and effective reform measures, however, it is first necessary to obtain factual data with which to test and clarify the reformers’ underlying assumptions. Such data is virtually nonexistent, since, prior to the study described in this Article, no empirical research into the actual problems of the residential tenant had been reported.

In order partially to correct this deficiency, and in order to test the reformers’ assumptions about residential tenants and their leases, this writer recently conducted a survey of tenants in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The survey was designed to provide basic data on tenant attitudes and behavioral characteristics with respect to leases, including their comprehension of lease clauses and the negotiations they engaged in with their landlords.