Can my landlord act like my mother?
July 20, 2011 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Can a landlord in California specify "no overnight guests" in a rental posting or in a rental agreement?

I'm trying to find an apartment, and I'm seeing lots of ads that specify "no overnight guests," even in ads for private studio apartments. I think these are mostly cottages or guest houses or little studios on private property. Is there any legality to this? Should I just ignore these statements if I find a place I like, knowing full well that I will have overnight guests? Should I even bring it up with a potential landlord?
posted by Dilemma to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's her property, she can do pretty much anything she wants as long as she doesn't discriminate on the basis of race, sex, national origin, etc.
posted by COD at 4:06 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I live in Nevada right on the California border and the lease for my little cottage in Tahoe specifically says no overnight guests for more than 4 nights, or something like that. The rental agent said it was because some people get a lease for 2 people, but because rents are so high, they cram in other people to bring the costs down. I've pretty much ignored it because 95% of the time I live alone.

You might ask the landlord for their reasons behind the clause and ask for it not to be included in your case. Doesn't hurt to ask.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:08 PM on July 20, 2011

The reasons are pretty obvious if the landlord is paying for any of the utilities. Every place I've lived has had some sort of restriction, and the landlord has paid for water service in all those places. An extra person is an extra shower, drinking water, dishwashing, etc.
posted by LionIndex at 4:10 PM on July 20, 2011

Not only utilities, but there could be code issues. The apartment you're looking at might be up to code for only one person, but not meet the requirements of two. Such as, amount of living space, number of exits, number of fire alarms, etc. If the landlord has insurance on the property, it might be conditioned on the number of occupants.

I've seen this in leases around central IL, so it's not uncommon. Usually it will allow an overnight guest now and then, but not on any permanent basis. Most have very specific wording, like no more than 3 overnight visits in a 7 day period (for example). No landlord should have a problem showing you a sample lease.
posted by sbutler at 4:14 PM on July 20, 2011

There's nothing in the State document on Tenants rights protecting a tenants right's to guests:
so it's up to discretion of the property owner, perfectly legal.

You should bring it up, and should definitely not ignore it. If it's in the lease, and you violate it, you may be evicted over it. If it's not in the lease, you may only be hassled and made uncomfortable by the nosy weirdo's dictating this. Either way it will make you cause stress.

I've often rented in places with stated rules I don't agree with. I bring it up at initial interview, stating that I see the purpose for the rule, but don't expect strict enforcement; just an agreement of common respect for best interests. Usually this works out, because I usually rented under informal agreements with no property management via corporation. If the landlord responded that there is strict enforcement I'd never consider renting there.
posted by oblio_one at 4:16 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

it might be legal but if we're talking about your boy/girlfriend spending the night a couple times a week, disregard. that's what i'd do anyways.
posted by rainperimeter at 4:18 PM on July 20, 2011

It's her property, she can do pretty much anything she wants as long as she doesn't discriminate on the basis of race, sex, national origin, etc.

While you're probably correct in this instance, this statement is far from true in general. The landlord has a ton of legal obligations beyond discrimination. Slumlords would absolutely love it if they could just put something in a contract that absolves them of responsibility for the heat never being above 50 degrees in the winter, the windows being painted shut, the mold accumulating, the plumbing or electrical not working correctly, etc. It may be their property but that doesn't mean they have carte blanche under contractual law to do anything they see fit.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:40 PM on July 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

Parking might also be a constraint - maybe there's only one parking space available, and everybody wants to park their cars at night. Just something to be aware of if you end up negotiating this.
posted by amtho at 4:47 PM on July 20, 2011

My California lease has a stipulation that guests cannot stay for more than 7 nights a month. When the landlord went over the lease details with me at the signings, she mentioned if someone stays over too much, they need to apply and be put on the lease. I'm under no duty to report when I have guests over and when I have it has never been an issue. My building is large enough that I really don't come in contact with the landlord.

When looking for places I didn't encounter any forbidding any overnight guests. That seems sort of old-timey like a provision the Ropers would have put on Jack, Chrissy and Janet's apartment on Three's Company. If the ad states no overnight guests, I'm guessing the landlord may be pretty uptight about other things like when you come and go from the apartment and what qualifies as "overnight" for your guest.

I don't have a lot of overnight guests but I would think twice about signing a lease on a place that did not allow any overnight guests ever. If I fell in love with a place that had that stipulation, I'd get clarification, written if necessary, what sort of flexibility is there. I can see the landlord not wanting full-time residents living in the apartment not on the lease, but it is reasonable to have a friend/relative/etc stay the night.
posted by birdherder at 4:57 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

The landlord may be worried about effectively having a second tenant who is not on a lease. If you had a girlfriend/boyfriend move in or even spend 90% of the week there while paying rent with other roommates, that person might cause trouble in the same way a tenant could, like damaging property, without the landlord having any recourse but to come after you. If you entered into a rent sharing agreement with your partner and suddenly someone is short money, same problem. It is almost always in the landlord and tenants best interests to have all people who spend enough time at the property to be considered living there actually on a lease.
posted by slow graffiti at 5:02 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, I don't think the "no overnight guests" comes from the puritanical impulse you're imagining unless it's a situation where you share some space with others, like a guest house attached to a main house where everyone uses the same kitchen or common room. Then the landlord might decide they don't want people's random hookups showing up over breakfast, but otherwise I think its a legal issue.
posted by slow graffiti at 5:07 PM on July 20, 2011

I live in California and have a similar stipulation on my lease. I am allowed 1 overnight guest (I suppose to accomodate an SO) but have to seek permission from landlord for additional guests.

They also pay my water and all utilities and have had problems with tenants in the past who had two long-term occupants without notifying the landlord. I'm ok with this as long as they are not obnoxious about it.
posted by babby╩╝); Drop table users; -- at 5:19 PM on July 20, 2011

I am legally prohibited by the county in which I rent property to allow more than 2 people to live in the unit I lease. Some units in the building are only allowed to house 1 person, some can have 3 or more. Therefore any lease concerning a unit in the property must prohibit overnight stays by guests beyond so many nights in a row. This part of the lease is entirely to ensure that people do not put one person on the lease and bring in a "guess" who is really a resident and thereby violate the occupancy limits. If the tenant violates the occupancy ordinances, the tenant is not on the hook (beyond being evicted), but the landlord is beyond the eviction. It can impact the mortgage; it can include fines; if it's an owner-rented condo in a building, there can be all sorts of fines and penalties, up to an including a prohibition against future rentals. It's got nothing to do with puritanical impulses. Most likely no landlord gives a flying fuck about your social life, unless it's causing you to use their property in a way that can cause them legal or financial trouble.

Landlords don't know their tenants personally and need a lot more than their tenants' word to make sure that doesn't happen. Tenants know their just living they're lives without any intention of screwing the landlord or hurting the property, but they can't prove it, except by living their for years without screwing the landlord or destroying the property.

The clash of these two perspectives: a landlord's need to protect the property and the tenant's understandable offense at feeling intruded upon come up in so many renter threads-- like the thread about the bathtub. Leases are not designed to fuck tenants, but a single dishonest or destructive tenant can motivate a landlord to try to micromanage a tenancy through the lease.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:21 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

sigh. they're there their. too much gin; too much heat; too little preview
posted by crush-onastick at 5:44 PM on July 20, 2011

My Mom was a landlord who had some sort of a similar clause in the lease. It's not because they care about your sex life. It's because the rent she charged for 2 people living in the house was higher than 1 . More people means more damage to the property, more wear and tear, more utility usage (if that's included), more 3am calls that the drain is clogged (you shouldn't have put a *towel* down it. The things some renters can do to property is completely insane.) And everyone knows how easy it is for 'spending the night' to end up turning into weeks.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:56 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Landlord here, I could care less about my tenant's personal life EXCEPT when it creates problems with some sort of code violation or deceit dealing with the lease. The reason there is a guest time limit was previous experience of occasional guest becoming long term guest who then broke up and wanted part of the deposit. The lease limitation also provided a nice out for roommates putting the kibosh on other roommates' lovers paying no rent but staying over all the time ("its not me man, but the lease!")
posted by jadepearl at 7:44 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actually, there is a law in California landlord/tenant code that states if someone lives in a unit for X number of days (I believe it is two weeks) the person can claim legal tenancy and stay on in the unit, requiring a formal eviction to remove them.

I can't google to cite right now, but it was a frequent concern when I worked in property management in SoCal.
posted by jbenben at 10:13 PM on July 20, 2011

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