Tenants have the right to “quiet enjoyment” of rental property. This means the right to use property without unreasonable restriction or interruption, including for guests.
On a rental property with no guest policy, tenants can manage guests in any way that’s not illegal or against the terms of the rental agreement. This can be a problem for landlords, since many states grant tenant rights to (for example) anyone who stays on a property for a certain amount of time. Most rental agreements therefore include a guest policy.
Can a Landlord Ban a Tenant’s Guest?
In most cases, landlords can’t ban guests from entering a rental property or charge a fee for having guests over. The law considers inviting guests to be a core feature of rental property.
The tenant’s right to host guests isn’t unlimited. Landlords have the right to protect property from damage, and a responsibility to protect the quiet enjoyment of other tenants. Every state allows landlords to set guest policies along these lines. For example, landlords can usually ban a specific person from rental property if they have broken the law or rental agreement.
Reasonable Guest Policies
Landlords can set guest policies to protect their property and the interests of other tenants. These are common topics covered by guest policies:
- Liability – Tenants are liable for any issues caused by a guest. Rental agreements will usually state this explicitly and cover exceptions or special cases.
- Length of Stay – Most standard rental agreements don’t allow a guest to stay longer than two weeks without the landlord’s written consent.
- Qualification for Tenancy – Most guest policies require adding a guest as a tenant under the lease after a certain amount of time. State and local law determine how long someone has to stay at a property to get tenant’s rights, so these usually determine the specifics for guests in a rental agreement.
- Number of Guests – The landlord may limit the number of people a tenant can invite at any one time. While the landlord can consider things like noise in the building, this is often based on local occupancy rules. For example, a two-bedroom rental might allow four non-overnight guests.
- Common Areas – Tenants have primary control over their private units. Landlords generally are in charge of common areas. Common areas are frequently off limits to guests without the landlord’s written consent. Many guest policies also limit the use of on-site parking.
Issues to Consider
No guest policy covers every possibility. These are some common factors which come up in guest management:
- State Laws – No set of rules applies everywhere, so it’s critical to know which state and local laws apply to guest policies. For example, Nebraska gives landlords broad but vague general authority to set rules for guests. On the other hand, Virginia specifically protects a landlord’s right to ban problem guests and gives a special enforcement process.
- Noise – Noise is the most common issue even with the most responsible guests. Landlords have broad authority to act when noise disturbs neighbors.
- Drug Use – Drug use anywhere on rental property is usually a criminal violation that lets the landlord evict. Even when drugs like marijuana are legal statewide, landlords can still prohibit their non-medical use on the property in most cases.
- Pets & Other Animals – Unsupervised pets can easily damage property, and pets can easily bring pests or diseases onto a property. This means landlords can be strict in a guest pet policy. Tenants often assume guest animals are allowed in any buildings that allow pets, so animal control policies are an important item to cover in detail.
- Domestic Abuse – Certain accusations of domestic abuse may require a landlord to ban a person from the property, even if they might otherwise be a lawful guest. This is an area where state laws have specific and diverse requirements.
- Repeat Offenders – Landlords can almost never prohibit a specific person from initially entering a rental property. However, a landlord can usually ban someone from returning if they commit a crime on the property or do something that breaks the lease. It’s important to document the reason why any specific person is banned from a property. A ban on a specific person is the easiest guest restriction to challenge in court, and the consequences for the landlord can be serious if the ban violates the Fair Housing Act or other law.
Example Guest Policy for Rental Agreements
This is an example of language a landlord might include in a lease or community rules to regulate guests on a rental property:
GUESTS. The Tenant may invite guests to the rental property, subject to limitations on occupancy and other locally applicable laws. Guests must obey the law and the rental agreement, and must not interfere with neighbors. The Tenant is responsible for all guest violations of the rental agreement. The Landlord reserves the right to prohibit the return of guests who do not respect these reasonable regulations.
A guest becomes a tenant by staying at the rental property more than 15 days out of any given 60 day period (or whenever the law begins considering the guest as a tenant entitled to due process), and must be added to the rental agreement with a reasonable increase in rent. Unauthorized occupancy is a lease violation, and grounds for eviction.
Guests and social gatherings must remain inside the private rented area. Common areas are prohibited to guests except with the Landlord’s previous written consent.