By Alana E. Fortna
In a recent opinion, the Pennsylvania Superior Court addressed whether Pennsylvania’s Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951 (the “Act”), and the applicable statute of frauds contained therein, applies to oil and gas leases. In Nolt v. TS Calkins & Associates, LP [enhanced opinion available to lexis.com subscribers], a landowner executed an oil and gas lease to lease the oil and gas rights in a 98-acre parcel of land. The landowner thereafter agreed to sell a portion of his property to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs subsequently filed a quiet title action arguing that the oil and gas lease is invalid and created a cloud on the title on their property. More specifically, the plaintiffs argued that the oil and gas lease was subject to the Act, and that the statute of frauds contained in the Act requires a lease to be signed by both the lessor and the lessee to be valid. Because the lessee did not sign the lease, the plaintiffs argued that only a year-to-year lease was created and that it had expired. In response, the defendants argued that an oil and gas lease is not a lease governed by the Act, but instead is a transfer of realty subject to the more general statute of frauds, which requires only the signature of the grantor. The Pennsylvania Superior Court agreed with the defendants and held that the transaction did not create a lease, but rather a transfer of a property right in the oil and gas. Accordingly, the conveyance was subject to the general statute of frauds, not the statute of frauds contained in the Act, and the plaintiffs’ argument fails.
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