Can my landlord enforce a fee for overnight guests?
July 16, 2012 3:49 PM   Subscribe

Can my landlord charge $5/day for overnight guests? This is an apartment, not a room in a boarding house.

You are not my landlord, or my lawyer, but at any rate:

I found a nice, cheap apartment with a roommate in Los Angeles. They're okay with my dog, it's a pretty nice place, and it's really cheap. My roommate and I gave ample proof of income, passed a credit check, and we are waiting for the landlord to draw up a lease to sign in the next day or two.

And then . . .

I spoke with the landlord today, and he mentioned that he has a strict no overnight guests policy, and that he will charge a fee of $5/day for each guest. Wait, what? He seemed somewhat flexible on the fee if we were discreet, but I'm really annoyed that it took him nearly two weeks to mention it (after we'd paid the security deposit, nach) and that this crazy-ass provision is in the lease to begin with.

My father, who is a landlord in another state, says that this is unenforceable, and that we should just sign the lease and worry about it later.

I'm worried that if we walk away from this apartment, we won't find another affordable place that will let me have a dog in the next week.

In short: Is this an enforceable clause in CA?
posted by ablazingsaddle to Law & Government (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a lot of trouble imagining that this is enforceable. The bigger concern is that these people are manipulative douchebags; do you want them as your landlords?
posted by Dasein at 3:51 PM on July 16, 2012 [10 favorites]

If it's not on your lease, no he can't do that. Tell him you're happy to pay it as long as he lists that requirement in writing (or in email) and then use that documentation to prove he's trying to violate your lease terms.
posted by anildash at 3:52 PM on July 16, 2012

Guys, it's on the lease.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 3:56 PM on July 16, 2012

We haven't signed it yet. We're debating scrapping the entire apartment, but I'm freaking out about finding another place by the end of the month.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 3:58 PM on July 16, 2012

Deciding whether it's enforceable or not isn't really that useful. The real problem is that you're about to sign a lease with someone who thinks this kind of thing is okay.

I would refuse to sign a lease with that provision, and I'd consider walking away from the apartment entirely.

Suppose you follow your dad's advice and sign the lease and decide to worry about the provision later. That sounds to me like a recipe for an unwanted and inconvenient fight with your landlord that will likely cost you money and time down the road.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:59 PM on July 16, 2012 [22 favorites]

I'm pretty sure this isn't enforceable because with a lease, you're granted the right to quiet enjoyment. He has sold away how the property can be used.

Take a look at number 2 here:

I'd probably pass on this one though. I had a landlord who fought me on things that we ended up writing out of a lease, and when we moved out, there was a big hit to our security deposit for things that we REMOVED from the lease. It's not worth the hassle.
posted by neveroddoreven at 4:02 PM on July 16, 2012

This is all completely legal, provided it is not discriminatory (e.g. a provision that says you can't have overnight guests of the opposite sex). It's designed to protect landlords from sub-letting, the tenant turning the property over to someone that has not been vetted or the tenant having more than X persons than bedrooms, which may lower property values and increase wear and tear on the property.

It is enforceable inasmuch as any landlord-tenant provision is enforceable (e.g. there must be notice given, etc.).
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:03 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Not all landlords are crazy. If you sign a lease with this guy it sounds like he's going to try to micromanage your life while you are renting from him. He's giving you a fair (and probably unintentional) warning. I'd heed it and look elsewhere.
posted by mosk at 4:05 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is unusual, but not necessarily batshit insane -- it can protect against people bringing in more tenants than they actually have on the lease, and, if you're renting a place that's utilities included, compensate for the added utility load of an extra person. It sounds like he doesn't intend to enforce the clause unless there's an actual problem, so, up to you how worried you are about it, really.
posted by jacquilynne at 4:10 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry to threadsit, but the utlities that are included are trash and water. Tennant pays for electric, gas, and hot water. This is pretty standard for LA.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:19 PM on July 16, 2012

We have a slightly different version of that. Because our apartment is rent controlled the landlord puts that in as a CYA sorta thing. There is some sort of law that says something like once a person resides in a place for more than X number of days they are counted as a tenant. So in our lease we had to agree that we won't let guests stay for more than 5 days. And definitely no subletters. No one from management actually pays attention to whether or not we have overnight guests.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:24 PM on July 16, 2012

(this is in LA)
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:24 PM on July 16, 2012

So the question is, does your landlord live on the same property? Will they even notice overnight guests?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:25 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

The $5/day is because of the increased water, usually.

I have refused to sign leases for any apartment that has a "strict no overnight guests" policy, but I am okay with leases that give the landlord the "right" to charge for guest who stay more than X number of days.

So far none has charged me, and I'm grateful to live in buildings that are at (unofficially) twice their capacity.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:26 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

grateful NOT to live in buildings that are at twice their capacity
posted by small_ruminant at 4:27 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's weird to me that a security deposit was required prior to the lease being signed. It's usually first/last/security or whatever noted in the lease and hand over the deposit at the time of lease signing. Make sure you can get the entire deposit back if you bail.

Assuming this is LA proper and not WeHo or SM or Burbank with different laws, I think it's enforceable but a little invasive. If the landlord is that uptight about your guests he'll probably be a pain in the ass. I'd back out of this place and keep looking. You might even get a house in the Valley or less gentrified parts of the Eastside so your dog can have a yard and a dog door.
posted by last night a dj saved my life at 4:52 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

IANAL, IANYL. Also I don't live in CA.

But I am a live-in landlord. Anyone who has lived with me has signed a lease that says that I can assess a $5/night overnight fee per overnight guest, and that there's a limit of 2 weeks on any overnight guest.

I have never ever had to, wanted to, or needed to enforce it. But it gives me remedies if say, a housemate's partner essentially moves in, using the house as if he/she lived there. Or if a housemate's out of town friend comes to visit and decides not to leave and instead to live here and look for work, etc.

If you're not comfortable with that part of the lease, don't sign the lease.
posted by MonsieurBon at 4:53 PM on July 16, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hey MonsieurBon - When you say live-in landlord, you mean that you live in the same unit as roommate, right? We're looking at an apartment in a building with six units. The landlord lives in one of the units. I would not consider him a housemate.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 5:01 PM on July 16, 2012

Any language that has ever been on any lease I've signed in CA regarding overnight guests was only to state that you could not have overnight guests for x number of nights in a row. I don't think it matters whether or not it's enforceable. You do not want this person as your landlord. When pressed for time, you would be amazed at how fast you can find a place that does not have this type of landlord.
posted by waitangi at 5:03 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

On preview: I think the clarification from landlord MonsieurBon makes sense. If you are sharing the physical space with your landlord, then I find it perfectly reasonable to have that kind of thing written into the lease. You do not share a bathroom? They have no business knowing about your overnight guests.

posted by waitangi at 5:06 PM on July 16, 2012

I've never heard of such a thing. I would not sign the lease.
Imagine if you started dating someone? "Mr. Smith says I'm not allowed to have anyone over"
No thanks.
posted by KogeLiz at 5:08 PM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can see the relevant passage from the NOLO CA Tenant's Rights book here

Nutshell, its legal, but still overbearing. Most provisions only kick in after the guest stays a particular number of days.
posted by bitdamaged at 5:09 PM on July 16, 2012

I had a landlord propose a strict no-overnight-guest clause, and I balked and asked him what he was worried about. It was, obviously, sub-lessees becoming tenants.

I explained that all of my family lived out of state, and asked him to relax it a bit so that I could let my mom stay with me when she came to visit. He agreed, and put in some language about guests not staying more than X number of days in a row or for a total of more than Y days in a year.

That worked for both of us.

If you like the place, talk to your landlord. Either you will agree to an accommodation or you will decide you don't want him as a landlord.
posted by ambrosia at 5:10 PM on July 16, 2012 [7 favorites]

Clarification: The lease I have had roommate sign was just a stock Oregon lease, not specific to a shared living situation, even though that's what we had. And I think bitdamaged jogged my memory; the clause in my lease didn't kick in for a certain number of days that I can't quite remember.
posted by MonsieurBon at 5:13 PM on July 16, 2012

In TX, I've never heard of charging extra, but I've definitely seen an outright ban on overnight guests. That said, I've never heard of it being enforced. It's an easy out for eviction in case a tenant has some revolving cast of ne'er-do-wells going through the apartment.

And THAT said with few exceptions, "it's on the lease" means yes. He can..
posted by cmoj at 5:17 PM on July 16, 2012

I'd talk with the landlord, and let his response dictate whether you walk or not. Maybe he's worried about sublessors, like others have suggested, in that case perhaps he can reword it to not staying for more than x days. If he's a total hardass about it, he probably will be about everything else, too.
posted by zug at 5:42 PM on July 16, 2012

[Folks, stop the criminal boyfriend derail, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:43 PM on July 16, 2012

Maybe there's been a problem with this in the past, and this is an anti-sketchy tenant clause. A small percentage of tenants can be devious. Anyway I can see there are two viable options:

- sign the lease and be prepared to pay the $5/night for guests
- walk away from the lease

I think the third option - sign the lease, move in, and then get into a fight about people staying - is a losing option.
posted by carter at 5:59 PM on July 16, 2012

Can you reason with your the landlord, and request that the "overnight guest/fee" policy be changed to something like, people who stay longer than a week or long-term guests? (he may want to up the fee though, but perhaps you can negotiate it to something like $15 or $20 per week)
posted by raztaj at 6:04 PM on July 16, 2012

Run away, run away, run away. It may be legal, but this is exactly the sort of crazy warning bell I should have listened to before I ended up with a batshit insane controlling landlord.
posted by Violet Hour at 6:24 PM on July 16, 2012

This as a contract negotiation. Redline the offending bit of the lease and hand it back. If they're cool with that then move on. If they're not, then there's your answer.
posted by Ookseer at 6:42 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

You pay the rent. You're a responsible tenant who doesn't trash the place. What business is it of the landlord to control who stays overnight? What if you're dating? You're not a child. Walk away. That's the kind of landlord who is going to be a PITA. I'm in LA, btw., and I'd never ever sign a lease like that - we (wife + me) are very good tenants and our landlord loves us, because we take extra care of the apartment and building, beyond what you'd expect from a tenant (for free). But a bad landlord? No thanks. Let him find another sucker.
posted by VikingSword at 7:29 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is not necessarily a sign of a PITA landlord. It well could be a cya clause to cover the situations of stuffing numerous people into the apartment, or having 3 people live there instead of 2.

Talk to the landlord, ask him about the clause and voice your concerns. You well could come to an understanding that works for both of you. That really is the only way you are going to get a true feeling for the situation.
posted by edgeways at 8:27 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't sign the lease!! Could be he's a real nice guy that just got burnt. Could be he's an arsehole. But the bottom line is that you're stuck with a lease and be out a bunch of money if you have to get away from him.

There are other apartments and other options.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:17 PM on July 16, 2012

I just attempted to talk to the landlord. He yelled at me, refused to budge, and is a huge pain in the ass.

Oh well. Two weeks to find an apartment.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 9:42 PM on July 16, 2012 [17 favorites]

That sucks. Good luck on the apartment search and as other people have been saying, I think this is a sign you wouldn't want to live there anyways.
posted by Carillon at 8:24 AM on July 17, 2012

Oh man, it sucks that you'll have to find another apartment with such short notice—but that's still a better outcome than signing a lease with an unreasonable and verbally abusive a-hole. Good luck with your search!
posted by hot soup girl at 9:18 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

i get that this is resolved so I'm a little late, but I was under the impression that there could legally be 2 people per room rented living in a dwelling, and that the landlords couldn't say jack about it. Is this not correct?
posted by windykites at 6:09 PM on July 18, 2012

Yes, if you place their names on the lease. Landlord doesn't have to permit anyone who isn't on the lease to occupy the residence.
posted by calwatch at 1:17 AM on July 22, 2012

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