Restricting Unwanted Guests at a Rental Unit

This article explores guests staying overnight in rental units and provides guidance on how to draft an enforceable guest limitation clause. In short, while no published California court opinion has considered the matter, it may be possible for tenants to successfully argue that a burdensome restriction on overnight guests violates their right to privacy, and/or constitutes landlord harassment. However, any reasonable limitation on guests set forth in the rental contract will likely be enforced by California courts.

Basic Guest-Related Lease Terms

When drafting a guest limitation clause, you should consider the following:

 The maximum number of residents living in the space

 How many guests you will allow in the space at one time

 How many nights a guest can stay within a specified period

 How many consecutive nights a person can spend

 How you want to handle guests who stay longer than the allotted time.

The most common limitation relates to the guest’s length of stay at the rental unit. Standard rental and lease agreements often state that guests may stay a maximum of 14 days in a six-month period – or 7 nights consecutively on the property. They also typically provide that any guest residing on the property for more than 14 days in a six-month period or spending more than 7 nights consecutively will be considered a tenant.

Making the guest a tenant has a variety of benefits. By adding the guest to the lease, you will create a direct right of enforcement of the lease terms against that person. Adding the guest to the lease will also allow you to screen the tenant, so you will know if he or she poses any threats to you or your tenant’s safety. Unless a rent control law provides otherwise, you also are able to raise the rent since there are more tenants in the unit.

Alternatively, the lease could provide that any guest staying in the property for more than a specified period of time will be considered a breach of the agreement, and that unauthorized occupancy by any person(s) not named on the Lease shall be considered an unauthorized guest, subjecting the tenant to eviction for breach of lease.

It is also prudent to make the tenant responsible for the conduct and actions of Tenant’s guests and invitees while such guests and invitees are present at or in the unit. If your tenant and/or their guest violates your lease’s terms or breaks the law, then you will have grounds for eviction or legal action.

The lease can also specify that social gatherings/guests shall be confined inside the leased premise, and may not occur in any common areas. You can also specify a reasonable limit on the number of guests at parties and other social events. Doing so will minimize problems with other tenants in the neighborhood caused by noisy or unruly guests.

How to Handle Unauthorized Guest Issues

If you suspect that your tenant’s guests are violating the lease in some way, the first thing you should do is discuss the issue with your tenant. You can ask the tenant when the guests arrived and their expected departure. Direct their attention to any clause in the lease agreement limiting guests at the premises. Depending on their response, you may have grounds for eviction.

If eviction becomes necessary, you can serve your tenant an eviction notice for breach of the lease because of the long-term or problematic guest. Make sure to gather as much evidence as possible, as these types of cases are typically difficult to prove. Your evidence should include statements from neighbors who have witnessed guests coming and going at certain times, police reports, increased utility usage and a change in the unit’s appearance. Make sure that you are reasonable in your investigation and don’t violate your tenant’s rights or privacy.

Please contact Lynx Legal Service with any questions regarding the above. We can be reached at 888-441-2355 or info@lynxlegal.com. Our experienced professionals are standing by to answer any inquiries you may have or if you are ready to start a case.

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