Talk With Landlord About
Overnight Guest Clause

Dear CO-STAR:

I live off campus in a one-bedroom apartment. It's the converted attic of an old home. My landlord lives on the bottom floor. So he pretty much knows what goes on in the place. Here's my problem: I have a long-term girlfriend and she sleeps here a lot—maybe two or three times a week. My landlord's noticed this and he's not happy. He says that my lease limits the amount of times I can have an overnight guest to fifteen a year (I checked, it does say that). Can he do this? Don't I have a right to have whoever I want visit me? What should I do?

Shaun, Senior, Public College or University, California

Shaun:

Well, you're really asking me two questions here. Can you have whoever you want visit your apartment? Absolutely. So long as they don't disturb the other tenants, anyone you choose can come over whenever you feel like having them. But can they spend the night? Well, if it says fifteen's the limit in your lease, then no; you're bound by that.

I know. It seems really strange that your landlord can dictate such personal things. But it's not the personal part that's at issue here. It's the impact on the apartment. Frequent overnight guests (or really, unauthorized roommates) increase the wear and tear on the unit and have an increased impact on the other tenants _ two people use more water, make more noise, throw out more garbage, etc.

So that's why it's perfectly legal for your landlord to put occupancy limits in place. Imagine if that weren't the case. The poor guy couldn't do a thing if you, say, moved fifteen of your cousins in full-time.

In college towns these types of clauses are pretty common. They're almost always included when the landlord himself lives in the building.

But, I bet none of that will make it any easier for you to tell your Boo to hit the road. So here's what I'd do if I were you.

Go talk to your landlord and try to work something out. Tell him that you understand that having your girlfriend around isn't without consequences. Offer to pay a little more rent—maybe fifty bucks a month—or suggest that you put down a larger security deposit.

I'd also think hard about you and your girlfriend's habits. Your landlord may not object to her presence, per se. It may be something else that annoys him. Is there anything potentially irritating that you and she do when she's over? Like, I don't know, cranking Barry White music late at night. If so, tell him it'll stop.

Do whatever you can to cut a deal, because if he really wants to be a jerk about it, he can be.

And one more thing Mr. Long-Term Girlfriend: the next time you sign a lease, read the damned thing. This whole thing probably could have been avoided either by negotiating up-front, or finding a different, more hospitable place.

Good luck.

The material in this column addresses general legal issues only; is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such; and may or may not be appropriate to a specific situation. Laws and procedures change frequently and are subject to differing interpretations. This column is not intended to create, and does not create, a lawyer-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.

© 2006 COSTAR, All Rights Reserved
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