Can a Landlord Restrict Guests?

Tenants are entitled to having guests over at their rental unit, but there are some limitations. Landlords have the right to restrict guests from the property if they violate the terms of the lease agreement.

Basic Guest-Related Lease Terms

Landlords cannot unreasonably prohibit guests from entering the rental property or charge a fee for having guests over. However, you can put specific terms in your lease that relate to tenants’ guests and their rights. Having an unwanted or long-term guest is not uncommon in rentals, so you should consider details like:

  • How long is the guest allowed to stay?
  • When does the guest become a tenant? Sometimes, landlords specify that after a certain number of consecutive overnight stays, the guest becomes a tenant and must be added to the lease.
  • How many guests are allowed? Think about the size of your rental property and proximity to neighbors — you may deal with some noise complaints.

Remember, you can’t outright prohibit your tenant from having guests, but a lease clause will definitely help if a guest ever causes any issues. Here is an example of one:

GUESTS. Tenant is responsible for the conduct and actions of Tenant’s guests and invitees while such guests and invitees are present at or in the unit.

Any guest staying in the property for more than 2 consecutive weeks in any 6 month period will be considered a tenant, rather than a guest, and must be added to the lease agreement. Landlord may also increase the rent at any such time that a new tenant is added to the lease or premise.

Social gatherings/guests shall be confined inside the leased premises. Social gatherings may not occur in any common areas.

Unauthorized occupancy by any person(s) not named on the Lease shall be considered an unauthorized guest and Tenant will be subject to eviction for breach of lease.

Potential Issues

Many times, landlords do not really care about the guests that tenants have over. In fact, it’s not really something they might notice…unless an issue like one of the following occurs:

  • The tenant has too many guests over too often or their guests are loud and rowdy. This can cause problems with other tenants and neighbors and you may receive noise complaints. Sometimes, neighbors go as far as calling the police. You want to make sure that everyone is compliant with the implied covenant of quiet enjoyment.
  • There is suspicious drug activity occurring in your rental unit. If you notice that your tenant has frequent guests that stay for a while and leave, it could indicate that your tenant is selling drugs or doing drugs in your rental unit. Obviously, you do not want illegal activities taking place on your property. If your tenant is smoking marijuana, make sure to check the appropriate state laws.
  • Your tenant is the victim of domestic violence and their guest is the abuser. It is not unlikely that your tenant’s regular guest is actually their abuser. If you have reason to believe so, make sure to refer to the proper resources to help the victim.
  • Your tenant’s guest has a pet that causes damage to the rental property or they do not pick up after them. Read more about pets in rentals here. You can also learn how to deal with unauthrized pets here.
  • The tenant’s guest has exceeded the maximum stays outlined in the lease. In this case, you will probably want to try to add the guest to the lease.

If your tenant and/or their guest violates your lease’s terms or breaks the law, then you most likely have grounds for eviction or legal action.

Other Factors to Consider

Besides the potential issues listed above, you also need to consider these guest-related factors:

  • Federal occupancy laws. These standards require landlords to allow two people per bedroom. However, sometimes it is not as simple as that. Landlords must also consider:
    • The size of the bedroom(s) and unit.
    • Presence and ages of children.
    • Format and configuration of the unit.
    • The capacity of the septic tank, sewer, or other building systems
    • The Fair Housing Act which prohibits any discrimination.
  • State and local laws. Sometimes, these laws allow even more people in the rental than the federal law does. There may also be specifics for the number of square feet required for children and adults, respectively.
  • Zoning laws. Depending on the neighborhood your rental property is located in, the zoning board may have certain codes that limit the number of people (or relationships between people) that may reside in rental dwellings.
  • The lease. Of course, as a landlord, you have the right to reasonably limit guests on your property. Make sure that you, your tenants, and your guests are always compliant.

How to Handle Unauthorized Guests

If you find out that your tenant’s guests are violating the lease in some way, there is a number of actions you can take:

  • Talk to the tenant. The first thing you should do is check in with your tenant about their guest(s). You should give them a call and ask them about the situation. See how the tenant responds to your question. If they have a valid excuse or there seems to be a misunderstanding, then you don’t have anything to worry about. However, if they confess or seem to hesitate with their answer, then you should probably investigate further. You may have grounds for eviction or legal action, depending on the circumstances.
  • Work with your tenant. Oftentimes, the tenant doesn’t want the guest there either, so you may be able to work together to get them out. In this situation, the tenant can assume the role of the landlord for the guest. They can serve them an eviction notice or non-renewal notice to legally remove the guest from the property. If negotiating doesn’t work, then you may need to serve a notice to your tenant. Law enforcement may need to get involved, as well, if the issue persists indefinitely.
  • Evict the tenant. When all else fails, you will probably need to evict your tenant. You can serve your tenant an eviction notice for breach of the lease because of the long-term or problematic guest. It can be difficult to prove in court that the extra guest lives there or engages in illegal activities, so make sure to gather evidence if possible. You can also evict the tenant for another reason if there is one. Evicting a tenant for late rent, for instance, would be much easier to prove in court.
  • Send the tenant a non-renewal notice. As mentioned beforehand, you can alternatively serve your tenant a notice of non-renewal. This basically tells your tenant that you do not plan to renew the lease at the end of the term because of the issues with guests. In the case of a month-to-month tenancy, you would be able to have the tenant out before next month.
  • Add the tenant to the lease. If the issue is that the tenant’s guest has been staying over for excessive consecutive nights, then you can add the guest to the lease. Making the guest a tenant has a variety of benefits, and it may be the best way to resolve the issue.
Reasons to Add the Guest to the Lease

You can turn long-term guests into tenants and reap some rewards in the process.

  • Lease enforcement. By adding the guest to the lease, you will be able to better enforce the terms of your lease agreement and prevent more issues in the future.
  • Safety. Adding the guest to the lease will also allow you to go through the screening process, meaning you will know if they pose any threats to you or your tenant’s safety.
  • More rent. You may be able to raise the rent since there are more tenants in the unit now. Just make sure you keep state laws and joint tenancy in mind. If joint tenants are severally liable, then the original tenants may have the same responsibilities as before.

For a guide on how to add a new tenant to the lease, refer to this page.

How to Prove the Unauthorized Guest is Present

If you are planning on evicting your tenant because of a long-term or problematic guest, you will need to have proof to present in court. Here are some ideas to prove that the unauthorized guest is staying in your rental:

  • The tenant or guest says so. You may get a confession if you call the tenant and ask them what’s up. The same thing can happen if a maintenance person shows up, the guest answers the door, and they claim that they live there. One way or another, the truth comes out…
  • A neighbor says so. If a neighbor lets you know that they’ve noticed a guest coming and going at certain times, they may be able to help. However, just because a neighbor saw someone through their window doesn’t mean they are an unauthorized guest. Your tenant and their guest may not be violating any lease terms, so make sure you investigate the situation thoroughly.
  • A police report. It’s not uncommon for landlords to find out about extra unauthorized guests because of an issue involving law enforcement. The issue may be as small as a noise complaint, but if it warrants a visit from the police, obtaining a report of the incident will definitely be helpful. It will be even more helpful if the guest’s address listed on the report is that of your rental property.
  • Increase in utility usage. Another indication of an unauthorized guest is an increase in the property’s utility bills. If the water usage goes up dramatically over the course of a couple months, for instance, it may be that there are extra people living in the unit. It could also mean there is a broken pipe…so check with your tenant to be sure.
  • Proof of residence. You may also be able to ask the tenant’s guest for written proof of their permanent residence, like a lease agreement or utility bill. If the guest cannot provide you with this information, then they are probably residing in your rental unit.
  • A change in the unit’s appearance. If you give a proper notice of entry, you can scope out the unit and see if there are any changes in its appearance. For instance, you may notice an extra bed or another car in the driveway, which could indicate there is someone else living there.

Make sure that you are reasonable in your investigation and don’t violate your tenant’s rights or privacy. It may be tempting to inspect the unit unannounced or go through your tenant’s mailbox, but doing so will probably hurt your case rather than help it. Illegal actions will not get you the results you are looking for.

Conclusion

Even though landlords can’t keep their tenants from inviting guests over, they do have the right to enforce certain regulations. If you include a thorough clause in your lease outlining terms for tenants’ guests, then you will surely prevent issues in the future. You will also have a proper protocol for dealing with tenants and guests who violate those terms.

If you have reason to believe that your tenant is hosting an unauthorized guest, make sure to conduct a thorough and reasonable investigation. When you have acquired the necessary evidence, then you may take action to evict the tenant or add their guest to the lease.

Most of the time, landlords don’t really care about tenants’ guests, unless they are posing a serious threat to the property or community. If your tenant’s guest is putting them or someone else in harm’s way, then you must act immediately. Knowing about a dangerous guest and failing to resolve the situation may make you liable for any unfortunate events that should occur. At the end of the day, your property’s and tenant’s safety should be your main priorities.