Landlord changed the contract after signed

46 Replies

Hey everyone, I was talking to a friend of mine who’s renting a basement apartment from the landlord who lives upstairs. There’s a separate entrance to the apartment. What I found odd is that the landlord wrote into the contact that she could only have guests 3 times a month (she signed it without thinking it’d be a problem). The landlord then decided her boyfriend was over too much (he isn’t living there but the landlord must be watching and didn’t define the “three times” as specific time limits, so daytime guests count the same as overnight) THEN the landlord said that my friend would have to pay more per month ($50) to have guests up to 10 times because of “wear and tear” and utilities. She’s in Prince George’s County, MD and is wondering whether this is legal or not. She felt backed into a corner because she wants to be able to have friends over, but being a long time listener, something doesn’t feel rIght to me! I would love your thoughts. I’m going to search PG County tenant laws tomorrow. Thanks!

Some landlords can write anything into lease. That does not mean they are all enforceable in a court of law. Some could be fully enforceable, a certain part enforceable, or none at all.

Landlord tenant laws vary by state and even sometimes by county. Some states are more tenant friendly and others the laws more favor the landlords.

There are various websites for a smaller fee where you ask lawyers questions etc. Some states also have advocates that will review certain situations with landlords and tenants for legal help.

A big question is what rent your friend is paying per month? Is it way under market, market, above market? How hard would it be to replace the location and rent they are currently paying with another comparable unit?

No legal advice given. 

@Allison Panila welcome to BP.

There is a concept in contract law that anything that is unclear in a contract is construed against the person that wrote it. So my guess is that the restriction on daytime guests is not valid. It sounds like a slimy landlord to me. 

There could also be a fair housing aspect. Lets say the tenant is white but the boyfriend is black. That would be big trouble for the landlord. Is the boy friend or the tenant in a protected class?

Hi,Allison.

When there are two people living in an apartment when once there was one, twice as much laundry is going through the washer and dryer, and they break down more frequently. When the refrigerator is opened twice as much, it lasts half as long. When the garbage disposal crunches through twice as much stuff, it dies faster.

The floor coverings wears down twice as fast. The cabinet hinges wear down. Things falls on the kitchen floor and beat it up twice as fast. Twice as much body dander is being produced and going through the furnace filter. The walls get twice as dirty. So does the ceiling. Why are these things not crystal-clear to you?

The landlord is upset because he obviously meant three times a month to mean three nights a month, and your friend seems to have decided that what the clause in the contract she signed really means is something more like three weeks a month.

What your landlord signed up for was a single lady living alone. What your landlord got was a lady living with a man who hasn't been vetted by the landlord. And of course, they both so openly believe the contract the tenant signed isn't worth the paper it was printed on that they have a friend like you asking for help to flout it on a website like this one.

I'm really glad I'm not your landlord, Allison, or your friend's, or your friend's boyfriend. You seem unable to even begin to put yourself in the shoes of the landlord here, to understand what it's like to have someone play games with you like this. I'd nail an eviction notice to your friend's front door so fast her head would spin, and do everything in my power to make absolutely sure that an eviction ended up recorded permanently in Prince George's County books, so that any search in the future would expose it.

And then your friend would never be able to sign a lease in the USA to live in any apartment where national record checks are run on possible tenants. She could just lay down her misguided head in a ghetto hovel or a country shack or a cardboard box in a back alley doubling as a public toilet for every wino stumbling by. Unless, of course, she managed to scrape up enough money for a down payment on her own property.

Those are the consequences of tenants with an entitlement mentality treating their landlord's rules like filth to be scraped off their shoes.

Basement apartments are illegal in Prince Georges county. So if she takes action...she will likely have to leave the apartment altogether.

@Ned Carey dont see how this has anything to do with protected classes. Whether that stipulation in the lease is enforceable isn’t related to whom it’s enforced against unless it had some implied or demonstrative unequal application. Being a member of a protected class doesn’t provide extra privileges it is used to insure equal treatment
@Ned Carey thanks for your response. I get where you’re going with this, but I think at the end of the day, in the past, the landlord had multiple people LIVING in another unit when she believed there was only going to be one. I absolutely understand her perspective on this one from the landlord’s side, but I was hoping to figure out (if I’m ever a landlord in the future, which I hope to be) if something like this is even legal, because it didn’t seem like it could be. We took the perspective of “you signed the lease so it’s on you to follow the expectations” but they still feel weirdly unreasonable. And I can’t remember if you’re the person who asked, but no, I wouldn’t say $975 a month is completely under market value...we live in the DC area, I’m sure lots of people on here don’t pay that much for mortgages a month (in many areas of the US). But thank you!
@Jim K. Hi Jim, thanks for your response. I think you missed the part where I said “guest” and not “living with”. Clearly, you have proven that I must be right in that this landlord got burned at some point and is now reacting with a new tenant for an old one’s mistake. I’m pretty hopeful that you might be able to take your response into consideration with regard to how you handle future responses. 1. My friend is a single woman who DOESN’T want to live with her boyfriend, but she does want to see him regularly. He has his own place in Capitol Hill, DC, he doesn’t need her measly basement apartment in a suburb to live in. 2. I completely understand where you’re saying wear and tear exists, but I think it’s probably unlikely that ANY landlord could expect the place to be in perfect shape when the tenant arrives and leaves, natural wear and tear is going to happen. It probably happens in your own home, I presume. Not because of how many people are there (though it is obvious to me that more people LIVING somewhere means more wear and tear). 3. My friend happens to be a well educated, quiet, responsIble, respectful person working on a post-baccalaureate degree. 4. You made some assumptions that I think we’re unreasonable and quite frankly, I didn’t expect a response like this on Bigger Pockets. I tended to assume that most people wouldn’t reply so negatively and would be respectful in their answers as well (feel free to see the rest of the professional, helpful replies on this thread, for reference). 5. I guess I’m glad you’re not the landlord, because you have proven why this landlord may feel the way she does! Your response is laughable. You so quickly went off the handle and made assumptions, it’s hard to take your actual points into consideration. I’m a nobody on here right now, but for the sake of others who may actually not come back to this website and community after a response like yours, please attempt to tone it down in the future. I don’t think the owners/operators were looking for your kind of response, especially with the positivity they seem to show on a regular basis. Thanks for trying to scare me, but I’m from Jersey, so that doesn’t happen easily. Have a great day!
@Russell Brazil thanks Russell, funny you say that because I actually said the reason this landlord gets away with some things is because no one is willing (or wanting) to risk leaving. She could, but her actual response was “I only have one year left of grad school, I’ll make it work” which means “I’ll spend more time away as to not cause an issue with the landlord” so I suppose the landlord wins! :)
@Joel Owens thanks for your response! Understood that no legal advice is given :) I understand where you’re coming from and appreciate it. Sadly, I think $975 a month is a steal in our area, so it is what it is. My friend is a reasonable person, so she’ll just visit her boyfriend and family more rather than them coming to her, but I said to let me read her leases in the future! I never imagined something like that would be written in, maybe because I think most people are good and wouldn’t take advantage (clearly I’m wrong).

Bottom line is, if your friend wasn't happy with the terms she should not have signed the lease.  "Being a good fit" goes both ways.  "Wear and tear" is a real thing, and it increases one's business expense.  And yes, frequent visitors (even in the daytime) does escalate that.  Since you are not currently a landlord you might not have personally experienced or even considered this phenomenon, but you will.   Although @Jim K. 's response might have come off a bit too direct, the information he provided has merit - whether or not every assumption made was accurate for your friend's particular case.

If I were your friend, I would look for another place or attempt to renegotiate the lease with the landlord.  If she can't find another suitable place, that makes me believe she is paying way under market, and unfortunately when you rent those kinds of places, they come with certain challenges, such as a "hands on" landlord.

Another factor that was not pointed out yet on this thread, is that the LL is an owner-occupant.  Therefore his preferences regarding tenancy are much more personal and don't necessarily come from just the business perspective.  (He has to listen to more people coming and going, voices through the floor, or whatever else comes with the O/O experience.)  And finally, the L/T laws in many jurisdictions are different for O/O properties with tenants.  Just some more things to consider.

@Allison Panila

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

1. If your friend wants to "see" her boyfriend "regularly" instead of three times a month as her landlord stipulated, she can do it somewhere other than in her apartment. Why doesn't she head on over to his swanky-swanky-hubba-hubba Capital Hill address to get her boyfriend fix? Is it the size of a shoebox or is his other live-in squeeze in the way?

2. There's a very big difference between one and two people living in an apartment in terms of wear-and-tear by the end of the year. I know, I know, you're going to insist that they are NOT living together...they're just two people spending time together...quality time together...in the apartment. 

3. What does getting a "post-baccalaureate degree" (cue the marching band playing "Pomp and Circumstance") have to do with anything here? I used to be a grad student, too. Sadly, I was no angel as a tenant. I regret to say that I "saw" one or two more women a few more times than my landlords would have liked, I'm pretty sure. I saw them quite thoroughly and loudly, as my biased memory fondly recalls in these bleak later years...

On a related matter, this one time, I had the cops toss a doctor out of one of my properties. I told her I was going to do it if she didn't leave, and she refused. Well, in the end she went, insisting all the while how very, very educated she was.

4. It's pretty obvious there are at least 1.5 tenants living in the apartment based on this and your previous posting. I am being plenty helpful. Help your friend avoid being evicted. That's some awesome free forum advice right there.

5. As a resident of New York for many years I will, with enormous difficulty and restraint, refrain from making any comments about the Highway State here.

Now to some more of the helpful part:

I am reasonably certain the landlord's post-contract stipulation is, as you are certain, illegal. But where you see a shady character trying to squeeze your friend for more money, I see someone desperate and more than a bit foolish trying to make up for lapses in the contract's language to deal with a situation that has clearly gotten out of hand.

If I were your landlord, I would still start the process of evicting your friend and let the magistrate decide how unclear the language of the contract was, and make sure that the case was in the record even if it cost me money and I lost. I tend to see too much of this in the places I rent out. I am, as you have correctly surmised, a horrible old man eating of his bitter heart in the desert and liking it. There are many others like me in the landlording business. If your friend goes on as she has with, yes, an entitlement mentality, she will meet someone like me eventually.

50 bucks more seems fair to me, more so if it's shared utilities.... Side note, if you're in the basement apartment and your landlord lives above you don't think they are watching, KNOW they are watching you. The landlord probably does not want people over period in this unit because they are right above it. 

However, I'm sure your friend can work something where you have a set number of people per visit, vs set number of visits... which would allow her that freedom she wants. Make sure intentions are clear on both sides and you'll avoid this situation where both parties assume something different entirely.

1025 seems like it's almost roommate level rent for DC and your friend is getting a decent deal but more important is comfortable w/ the spot for another year.... if you try to get too aggressive against the landlord they'll look to evict. If you take them to court, you're 100% going to lose the spot because it wasn't a legal rental to start out with... which would probably cost you more then the extra 50/mo...

@Jim K. Such a different tone in round 2. Like I mentioned before, I agree with many of your points, but I don’t appreciate many of your assumptions...that‘s where you lost me. What came across from you (from my perspective) was “all people are bad, entitled and trying to take advantage of the system therefore rules are in place for a reason” and my personal perspective is “not all people are bad, some people are misinformed and need to learn the hard way and want to make sure they don’t get them self in the same situation again, but is it legal?” So thanks for your insight and your poem, and Ill keep enjoying my armpit of America that helps me to be able to handle people‘s opinions like you in the world. My last note was that of community. I am fine with bluntness and many other people may be as well, but I don’t (personally) think that’s what we’re here for in the way that you came across the first time around. May your renters never have to deal with your wrath. And maybe I’m just fortunate to know good people.
@Matt K. I appreciate your feedback. I don’t know what I wrote wrong in the original post that makes everyone get fired up about going against the landlord. She’s not doing anything, at all. I just wanted to know if it was legal for someone to make those stipulations and then add money after the lease was signed. $50 does sound reasonable to me, it just also sounds like she was squeezing her for more money. Also, I think it just took my friend by surprise before at the beginning of the lease she didn’t feel like the landlord was going to be in her business. She’s literally the most tame, responsible, quiet human being ever, so it’s funny to think that this post is getting responses from the perspective of someone who wants to take advantage or is wanting to break the rules. I think helping my friend be informed because I do know about this community is about the best thing I can do! Honestly, we already shrugged our shoulders and said “cool, just make it to the end of the lease” and that’s what she’s going to do. But it never hurts to ask people in a forum if it feels correct, right?
@Allison Panila Based on pure speculation, it sounds like the LL imposed the extra $50/month in the hopes that it would cause the tenant to want to leave. I don't recall you stating the length of the lease, nor how far into it she is. This is also a possibility. Anyway, seems like you have arrived at the best approach, pay the extra money to avoid having to find a more expensive place. The LL will most likely still not be happy, but shouldn't be able to say anything else about the situation. Be on the lookout for other "violations" that may pop up, as this would indicate the LL is indeed trying to utilize passive-aggressive methods to get rid of her.
@Allison Panila What I haven't seen brought up is the kind of relationship your friend has with the landlord. When I lived in an apartment complex, I made sure to have good relations with all members of their staff. I also think this got me prioritized when bringing up repair issues. When I left, they didn't even do a walk thru and I got my full deposit back, though that was due to me and another Soldier putting out a houseplant that caught fire on a 3rd story. I might have been the only person to have a fire extinguisher, there were 0 in the common areas. Sales training has taught me that if someone likes you, they are less prone to make trouble for you. Landlording could be different, if they get the vibe that they can run over you from friendliness. I cannot make many accurate assumptions about either group. The landlord should be explicilty clear in the contract to define 3 visits (education point for me, thank you). The tenant could be having them over 3 nights or 21 nights, that point hasn't been made clear to me. Raising the rent by $50 for more visits seems reasonable, (legally, no idea). There's a poorly written clause, I'd abide by it just to get the threat of eviction away. Human beings are emotional creatures capable of logic, not logical creatures capable of emotion. It's bad practice to live in close proximity to someone with ill will towards you.
@Allison Panila I’m not sure if it’s legal for the landlord to raise the rent in your area ,but it’s safe to say your friend is breaking the lease and is trying to rationalize bad behaviors .Id try to get her and her boytoy out too.

I will pay $50 more a month to keep friendship going, as long as the friend does not live there 24-7 permanently. If I pay my own utilities I will say I am looking for a more reasonable landlord.


@Dennis M. I’m very confused by everyone thinking the boyfriend is taking advantage. When you sign a lease, do you truly sign a lease to never ever have anyone come to your location? Think “we just grabbed dinner and are going to watch a movie afterward”. To me that seems pretty normal. just have never been in a situation myself or heard that the expectation is that a landlord would never expect anyone other than the tenant to ever step foot in the apartment. I think that’s what baffles me most! Maybe I seem defensive, but I think I’m just baffled and surprised! Again, it probably goes back to me thinking people are good until proven bad.
Originally posted by @Allison Panila :
@Dennis M. I’m very confused by everyone thinking the boyfriend is taking advantage. When you sign a lease, do you truly sign a lease to never ever have anyone come to your location? Think “we just grabbed dinner and are going to watch a movie afterward”. To me that seems pretty normal. just have never been in a situation myself or heard that the expectation is that a landlord would never expect anyone other than the tenant to ever step foot in the apartment. I think that’s what baffles me most! Maybe I seem defensive, but I think I’m just baffled and surprised! Again, it probably goes back to me thinking people are good until proven bad.

 But they didn’t just grab a pizza and watch a movie .. he’s staying there and not on the lease ! That wasn’t part of the deal . We are Landlords . We’ve seen this go down before and have insight on how it ends. You are trying to make a moral argument about a legal issue . No one is making the moral argument that your friend is fornicating with a man and committing detestable abominations corrupting the property . We are saying legally he isn’t a tenant and has been snuck in without approval or screening . How can her landlord be sure this fella  doesn’t have a history of selling drugs abusing woman or raping children ? Maybe he’s a good guy but there’s many who aren’t! That’s the point . 

Originally posted by @Allison Panila :
@Matt K. I appreciate your feedback. I don’t know what I wrote wrong in the original post that makes everyone get fired up about going against the landlord. She’s not doing anything, at all. I just wanted to know if it was legal for someone to make those stipulations and then add money after the lease was signed. $50 does sound reasonable to me, it just also sounds like she was squeezing her for more money. Also, I think it just took my friend by surprise before at the beginning of the lease she didn’t feel like the landlord was going to be in her business. She’s literally the most tame, responsible, quiet human being ever, so it’s funny to think that this post is getting responses from the perspective of someone who wants to take advantage or is wanting to break the rules. I think helping my friend be informed because I do know about this community is about the best thing I can do! Honestly, we already shrugged our shoulders and said “cool, just make it to the end of the lease” and that’s what she’s going to do. But it never hurts to ask people in a forum if it feels correct, right?

 you come off as being aggressive trying to prove the landlord is in the wrong, which technically maybe they are but look at the intent of the lease. The landlord probably wants a single person downstairs, if they wanted a couple or whatever they'd of picked a different person. Now you're asking (a pro landlord site) how to get around it and if it's allowed etc... 


Now the truth of it is this probably is newer bf or his stays have been increased from before... nothing wrong with that but it's changed the lease. Now rather than be petty and tape a cure notice to your door, the landlord tried to settle this issue in a way that works for both of them... and it seems fair. 

I get it, I rent here in CA so trust me I really understand the feeling of being squeezed... but your friend isn't in some lease w/ out of state landlord who's never around. Your friend is literally living below the landlord, one who's probably very particular about who comes and goes of THEIR property... And let's be honest, your friend is likely getting a good deal, otherwise they'd of walked.

@Dennis M. you are absolutely right IF the boyfriend was living/staying there.  I AGREE with that.  I think you totally missed the part where I said he's NOT LIVING THERE.  Sorry for the caps, it's just clear when I don't write in caps, key information is missed.   I'm hoping I can pull this thread down because it's clear people are responding to other people and not reading my original post.  I get it.  I get that people are bad.  I get it.  It's too bad I think otherwise, maybe I'll become jaded and write posts like this one day, but I sure hope not.  I'm so sad that everyone assumes everyone else is so willing to take advantage, it really says something about the world we live in.  

I also find it funny that everyone would want to evict my friend when she's totally fine paying the extra money and understands, but is just confused, about what rights a landlord has! 

@Matt K. I'm sorry if I am coming off as trying to "get around it," from my perspective I see it as trying to "understand it".  I think the relationship with the landlord was fine and dandy and then this came as a surprise addition (the "no friends/guests without extra pay" part...forget boyfriend...this holds true for her sister, mom, dad, ME! just stopping by to visit).  I don't think there was ever talk of wanting a single person specifically, the landlord mentioned charging more for multiple people living down there.  I can't wait to get my hands on the lease, but all in all, she knows she agreed to something and is fine with it, I was just trying to understand (and this seemed like a place that could give me good insight!)...

Originally posted by @Allison Panila :

@Matt K. I'm sorry if I am coming off as trying to "get around it," from my perspective I see it as trying to "understand it".  I think the relationship with the landlord was fine and dandy and then this came as a surprise addition (the "no friends/guests without extra pay" part...forget boyfriend...this holds true for her sister, mom, dad, ME! just stopping by to visit).  I don't think there was ever talk of wanting a single person specifically, the landlord mentioned charging more for multiple people living down there.  I can't wait to get my hands on the lease, but all in all, she knows she agreed to something and is fine with it, I was just trying to understand (and this seemed like a place that could give me good insight!)...

 The  answer you seek, isn't in the lease. It's w/ the landlord....  I don't know how to better explain this, the landlord doesn't want people over at the house and rented to someone they thought fit that profile.

Doesn't make anyone a bad person (you, your friend, or even the landlord). But know this is pretty common just look at craigslist "no visitors"

https://sfbay.craigslist.org/search/roo?query=no+v...