Clause in lease question

18 Replies

Could the bolded part of this clause in my lease agreement get me in trouble?

"USE OF PREMISES. The Premises shall be used and occupied solely by Tenant and Tenant's immediate family, consisting of spouse and children, exclusively, as a private single family dwelling, and no part of the Premises shall be used at any time during the term of this Lease Agreement by Tenant for the purpose of carrying on any business, profession, or trade of any kind, or for any purpose other than as a private single family dwelling. Tenant shall not allow any other person, other than Tenant's immediate family or transient relatives and friends who are guests of Tenant, to use or occupy the Premises without first obtaining Landlord's written consent to such use. Tenant shall comply with any and all laws, ordinances, rules and orders of any and all governmental or quasi-governmental authorities affecting the cleanliness, use, occupancy and preservation of the Premises."

If the people I rent to are married with children, and no one else is going to live with them, it should be fine, right? If not, then how should it be worded?

I realize that this wording won't work for an unmarried couple, but that hasn't come up so far.

Please note that this is from the lease, not the application. The application refers to "Applicant," "Co-Applicant" and "Dependents" and does not ask any questions about familial status.

Not an attorney, but I think you are, at best, on very shaky ground having ANY discussion about "family". You can state that only the people on the lease can occupy the house and nobody else is allowed to move in. But all that discussion about family can get you in trouble.

Fair Housing

In particular:

What Is Prohibited?
In the Sale and Rental of Housing: No one may take any of the following actions based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap:
  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Make housing unavailable
  • Deny a dwelling
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.

That's my highlight on familial status. This is just the federal level. States and cities may impose additional protected classes.

I strongly recommend you have your lease reviewed by an attorney in your area who specializes in landlord/tenant law. Not just because of this clause, its a good idea in general.

Jon Holdman, Flying Phoenix LLC

@Jon Holdman

I do intend to have my lawyer review it, but I wanted some input here first.

How would I change the wording to state that only the people listed on the application (Applicant, Co-Applicant and dependents) are allowed to live in the unit?

[Edited to add]

How could it be construed that I am refusing, denying, or any of the other things listed, when I'm signing a lease agreeing to rent to them?

I don't know the answer to your immediate question, but it seems to me like you're trying to say one thing and then undoing it later with this: "Tenant shall not allow any other person, other than Tenant's immediate family or transient relatives and friends who are guests of Tenant, to use or occupy the Premises without first obtaining Landlord's written consent to such use."

In other words, anyone can stay here, if they're a friend. Or are you just trying to say no sub-letting?

Medium team zen logo vJean Bolger, 33 Zen Lane | http://www.solidrealestateadvice.com

Originally posted by @Jean Bolger :
I don't know the answer to your immediate question, but it seems to me like you're trying to say one thing and then undoing it later with this: "Tenant shall not allow any other person, other than Tenant's immediate family or transient relatives and friends who are guests of Tenant, to use or occupy the Premises without first obtaining Landlord's written consent to such use."
In other words, anyone can stay here, if they're a friend. Or are you just trying to say no sub-letting?

The key word there is "transient". Of course I'm not going to tell them they can't have overnight guests.

[edited to add]

Subletting is covered elsewhere. This covers them inviting a cousin, brother, friend, etc to live with them without landlord's permission.

Originally posted by @Jean Bolger :
I think you want to say "only the persons listed on the rental agreement are allowed to stay here"

Only the adults are listed, so that would prohibit their children, which is not the intent.

Here's my clause, which has been reviewed by a CO attorney:

Occupants. Tenant agrees to use said dwelling as living quarters only for the persons stated above and their minor children, and agrees to pay $__________ each month for each additional person who shall occupy the premises in any capacity.

I have everyone 18 or older fill out an application and be listed as Tenants on the lease. I put in $50 for the additional amount. In the end, though, enforcing this isn't one of my priorities. It would be very hard to prove someone else is living there and I wouldn't attempt to use that as a reason to evict. As long they're conforming to the "three rules" (pay the rent on time, don't wreck my place, and don't cause problems with the neighbors/city/county/state/feds) I'm happy.

I only do month-to-month leases. If the tenant is making me unhappy I'll terminate the lease. Then I have a very firm reason to evict if they refuse to leave.

Jon Holdman, Flying Phoenix LLC

The lease should be signed by all over 18 who reside in the unit. It should specify the number of people who are minors (under 18) that are a part of the lease. You can collect this information on the application.

No guests for more than 2 weeks. Your lease should state that adding occupants (non-guests) requires landlord approval in writing. Additional occupants over 18 must be screened, approved and added to the lease prior to residing in the property. Failure to comply is a material breach of the lease.

The whole married word is so last century. Rarely do I find people living together and renting these days that are married. If it's important to you leave it out of anything written and do your best to make the determination apart from asking about it from others. To do otherwise creates legal peril for yourself.

Medium rre 1to1 small sizeBill S., Reliant Real Estate, Inc. | 720 207‑8190

Yes, "transient" means "temporary" (But it might be clearer to just say "temporary"). It might be a good idea to define just how long "temporary" is.
I think you can certainly list all the persons who will be occupying the unit on the rental agreement. It's not the same as asking them to sign as responsible parties.

Medium team zen logo vJean Bolger, 33 Zen Lane | http://www.solidrealestateadvice.com

@Jon Holdman Thank you, that's very helpful.

@Bill S. I would not discriminate against an unmarried couple, it simply hasn't been an issue for us yet. We only have two houses rented (2 others being rehabbed) and the only applicants we've had so far have been married.

Originally posted by @Jean Bolger :
Yes, "transient" means "temporary" (But it might be clearer to just say "temporary"). It might be a good idea to define just how long "temporary" is.

Thanks, but the words are not interchangeable. A transient relative or friend is not the same as a temporary relative or friend. :-)

Sylvia, here, (or there) you need to consider the term, Quiet Enjoyment, not only does it mean don't harass the tenant, but they have the right to enjoy the property. That absolutely means letting the grandkids spend the night, having a friend from Houston stay the weekend, if they are an accountant and take work home they have the right to do so.

Do you really expect a tenant to obtain written consent to allow the couple from across town to come in for dinner or let the guys watch a ball game? They need written consent for the prayer group to meet on Tuesday nights? No, friends, family or even the mass murder from Boston can come in anytime they are invited in, they don't need consent. That is part of ones right in the use of their home.

I'd suggest you get rid of all that actually. I'd think what you mean is not allow anyone not on the lease or named to reside on premises. I'd think you mean not to conduct commercial activities that are in violation of any zoning restriction or allow public commerce to be conducted on premises.

The tenant agrees to maintain the leased premises in compliance with all regulatory requirements, ordinances and laws as applicable. Tenant agrees to maintain the outside of the leased premises in like manner of adjacent properties by regular mowing and keeping same free of waste, trash or personal property of any kind not specifically designed as lawn furniture or for outdoor cooking.

Well, we had a little fun here, LOL, yes, see your attorney. And I agree, never attempt to define or even use the word "family", family is pretty much what the tenant says it is and the law will be on their side. Good luck :)

Medium logoscopiccroppedblue2Bill Gulley, General Real Estate Academy | https://generalrealestateacademy.com

@Bill Gulley I think you misunderstood. The clause does not attempt to prevent the tenant from having guests. "Tenant shall not allow any other person, other than Tenant's immediate family or transient relatives and friends who are guests of Tenant, to use or occupy the Premises without first obtaining Landlord's written consent to such use."

Under this clause they can have 500 people over for a party if they want to, but they can't allow the neighbor to park his boat in the front yard, and they can't let Uncle Joe move in with them, unless they have permission.

Looks way to overcomplicated.

Strip it down to essentials and make things really clear and concise. You do not want to be in front of a judge and have them look at you the landlord and say " How on earth is the tenant supposed to understand all of this ?"

People think complex can be better but it can be worse in a lot of cases.

Medium allworldrealtyJoel Owens, All World Realty | [email protected] | 678‑779‑2798 | http://www.AWcommercial.com | Podcast Guest on Show #47

Here is the way a wise old landlord in my area suggested I think about landlording:

"It is your property, and you can do what you want with it. And one of the things you might want to do is rent it to other people, in exchange for money. When you do THAT, you still own it, but you don't control it anymore. That's what they're getting for their money."

Just say, "No one not listed on the lease may live in the unit." Drop the language about(and try to drop the mental habit of thinking about) "Permission."

Haha! This is why we have lawyers, I guess. We have a few simple sentences. We read them, and interpret them. Then we go around saying- "THIS is what that means" "No, THAT is what that means"

Medium team zen logo vJean Bolger, 33 Zen Lane | http://www.solidrealestateadvice.com

And to think I started the day with a discussion about the difference a comma can make....

I do think you can specify that full time residence is limited to (insert names) and their 3 minor children but. I don't think you can name the children on the lease. In my leases with Pets I do specify the pets. That being said it is pretty hard to prove occupancy and remove unwanted extra tenants. My student tenants on occasion have friends who never leave. Limiting vehicles can be a help there.