Landlord changed the contract after signed

46 Replies

@Dan R. thanks for taking the educational point from this.  I think this whole thing got lost on people assuming that "having her boyfriend over" means he was living there or wanting to live there.  I'm saddened by most of this thread, honestly.  But yes, she and the landlord had what she thought was a "good" relationship, and I don't even think she'd consider it "bad" now.  I think she wanted to understand why she can't have friends over :)  (so she asked me since she knows I listen to the podcast and such).  

I just responded to someone else explaining this, but this isn't just about her boyfriend...it's about anyone visiting (for 5 minutes or 5 hours).  THAT'S the part that feels weird to me as a person.  And no, she's not leaving.  She made the decision to pay the $50 and work with it.  Again, just trying to hash this out.  I didn't even ever consider a landlord could put that expectation on you...I wanted to kick her for even signing a lease that did (too bad she didn't talk to me BEFORE signing).  Fortunately, what many people seem to think on this thread is that I'm trying to help her take advantage of the situation, when in fact, she's said yes to the $50 and he's not even going to be there that much anyway!  It just covers her if he does want to stay over after a night out or visit after playing golf.  I have been making my list of things to be explicitly clear about as a landlord one day, and now I'll have to really process whether or not this is a battle I want to fight with tenants!  It's too bad so many landlords seem to get taken advantage of.

@Matt K. I'm down with that.  Those postings say no visitors, and that makes sense.  I've been texting her since this whole thread started and she literally just said to me "I know my boyfriend can't live there, that would be breaking the lease!"  She truly just wants to have friends over to visit :)  I told her I need her lease now cause I'm just so interested in the situation...

Originally posted by @Allison Panila :

@Matt K. I'm down with that.  Those postings say no visitors, and that makes sense.  I've been texting her since this whole thread started and she literally just said to me "I know my boyfriend can't live there, that would be breaking the lease!"  She truly just wants to have friends over to visit :)  I told her I need her lease now cause I'm just so interested in the situation...

 why do you need the lease? Please don't tell you think you're going to force the issue through legal action.

Your friend is in a illegally rented unit and you want to force compliance with a lease LOL. Stop, come to your senses, and let it be lol.  If you want to enforce legality make sure you're in a legally rentable unit....

@Allison Panila ,

What you see here is the difference between "Good LLs" and "Bad LLs". 

As @Russell Brazil stated, the basement unit is illegal to begin with. So therefore anything that comes out of a contract concerning the basement unit isn't enforceable in the court of law. Think for instance you go to your local drug dealer and sign a contract for 3 kilos of Cocaine at $50k a kilo and when it comes time to pick up your product he is selling for $55k. If you then take the dealer to court the judge is going dismiss because you contracted for an illegal service. (This is an extreme case I know but the logic applies).

So your original question of "can a LL change the contract", in this case yes he can. Simple because in a court of law the contract holds no weight due to it being an illegal service to begin with.

So the scorched earth response Jim K said he would do it not only impossible in this situation, but also illegal if he actually succeeded in get an 'eviction' on her record. And with all due respect to Jim K there is really no reason to imply insult the Highway State, assume she is entitled or to basically be a dick behind the keyboard. Allison has come here asking a legit, legal question and you seem to be taking out some personal issues on them.

Now if we can get into theory craft of your question as to if the LL can change the contract, usually that is a no. But then the question come down to the undefined wording of "three times". Generally accepted contract (look at the lease people sign daily with apartments) "three times" means overnight stays. One would also argue the term is too vague to be properly interpreted in a legal sense. Does the pizza delivery guy dropping off dinner count as a visitor? What about the UPS guy who is delivering school books from amazon? If her car pool driver needs to use the bathroom before heading to school does that count? How about someone coming over to pick up a book needed to study? What about 3 students that come over to do a study session, does each person count as a 1 time visitor or the the group as a whole counted as 1 time? What if the BF comes over Friday morning and doesn't leave until Monday Morning, is that just 1 time? You can see where this is going I assume.

Reasonably I would assume (see the word assume and know that it makes an *** out of u and me) that any judge or arbitration would side on the fact that "three times" would refer to three individual times spending the night.

Reality is the contract is poorly written, or perhaps you have not given enough detail since you didn't want to get into the weeds here, and is illegal given the way it is written. 

That said she should just pay the $50 and tell the guy to shove it, not worth the hassle.

Originally posted by @Allison Panila :
@Jim K. Such a different tone in round 2. ...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?”

 Allison,

Not all people (tenants) are bad.  Look at it from the other side.  Not all landlord requests are unreasonable.  

Your friend has a nice place to live, paying less than market rate, and her place is so nice that her boyfriend who lives in a more upscale neighborhood would rather spend his time with her than ask her to visit him.  That's all good.

The o/o landlord isn't happy with the amount of visitors to his home.  He thought he was renting a part of his personal home to a grad student who would spend most of her time working part time, going to class, and studying -- a nice quiet young lady who wouldn't have time for all the shenanigans that younger students or working young people get into.  Instead, he got a tenant whose apartment seems like a revolving door of visitors, day and night.  How would you feel if you were in the landlord's place?

It's easy to put yourself in your friend's place.  She's your friend and you want to understand her plight.  The landlord is just a big ol' meany trying to hurt your innocent hardworking friend.  But, try to put yourself in the landlord's place.  How would you feel?

Instead of debating the finer points of what constitutes a "visit", it would be better to have a heart-to-heart with the landlord, who is almost a roommate with a separate entrance.  Understand the owner/occupant landlord's point of view, agree to modify the heavy visitation rotation, and everyone (tenant and landlord and boyfriend and frequently-visiting-family) gets to live out the lease happily ever after.

My opinion is both side misunderstood the other side, and communication was not optimal.  Have a pleasant face-to-face between tenant and landlord, and I think this can be a non-issue.

@Allison Panila you are clear that the BF does not live there as he has another residence but what is less clear to me is whether he spends the night.  however, the wording on the lease, as you stated it, indicates guests 3 times a month.  To me the intent of this is clear.  There should be no more than 3 days/month where there is a guest or guests over. 

I am not a lawyer but I believe those lease terms are legal because I see similar listings posted fairly regular.  Fair housing has enforcement.  These ads would not be prevalent if they were illegal.

My own leases limit overnight guests.  BF/GF often stay enough nights that they are breaking my lease.  There are many reasons for these types of items in the lease of which only one is wear n tear.  We run background checks on every adult tenant in our units.  Guests that visit do not have the same vetting.  They could be unsavory for numerous reasons (as an extreme they could be child molesters or drug dealers).   I have also had issues about a non-tenant locking out a tenant.  The non-tenant was staying often enough that they felt entitled.  I told our tenant to call the police but otherwise stayed out of it.

However, if limiting the number of times having guest were not legal there is not much to be done because I assume @Russell Brazil is correct about the apartment not being allowed.  So what could you do if the terms of the lease were illegal (which I suspect they are not)?

In the future, I think your friend needs to read and understand the lease before she accepts the apartment.  I think the LL was clear in the lease that they did not want guest(s) over more than 3 times a month.  Do you think that was not clear?  Your friend agreed to these terms when she signed the lease.

Options: 1) Pay the $50.  This seems like a very reasonable compromise.  The LL is likely looking it as compensation for having to have guests more than 3 times a month more than wear n tear but there is also additional wear n tear.  2) Find another apartment and if your friend is leaving earlier than lease terms then realizing there will be additional costs associated with breaking the lease 3) Abide by the current lease and have guests no more than 3 times/month 4) Break the lease by neither paying the additional fee and not limiting guest visits to no more than 3 times a month.  I suspect the LL will not actually evict because it is an illegal unit but I could be wrong and at the very least it would result in a bad future reference.  So I definitely recommend against this option.

It really comes down to read the lease before accepting the apartment.  I think the lease was fairly clear.  So I think this issue is your friend's fault for not reading and/or understanding the lease.

As a landlord in California I have encountered similar instances. My concern is that a 'subtenant' situation was being created. That means that I owe them all of the rights of a tenant, but they owe me nothing. My rental agreements all state that overnight guests for more than ten days in any 6 month period is prohibited. Ive been lenient with most, such as a mother who took in her daughter and grandkids...but required them to sign on the lease (the adults) . Perhaps that what this landlord was worried about.

Originally posted by @Shelley F. :

As a landlord in California I have encountered similar instances. My concern is that a 'subtenant' situation was being created. That means that I owe them all of the rights of a tenant, but they owe me nothing. My rental agreements all state that overnight guests for more than ten days in any 6 month period is prohibited. Ive been lenient with most, such as a mother who took in her daughter and grandkids...but required them to sign on the lease (the adults) . Perhaps that what this landlord was worried about.

 I doubt a landlord that has an illegal rental is worried about the legalities of guest converting to tenants.  More likely they want to keep their privacy....

@Allison Panila in my houses we limit only overnight guests to a total of 2 weeks over a year. No limits on day time visitors, but the tenant pays all their own utilities and we do not live in the property. If a landlord is living in the property, you can expect more restrictions. Legally speaking a landlord usually has more latitude if they live in the property. For example if a female is renting out rooms in her home, she can restrict applicants to all be females without violating fair housing. 

I think the landlord may be a little restrictive in this case, but we don't know how often the boyfriend is there or how much extra noise it is making. There is two sides to every story. Ultimately the tenant agreed to the lease, so she needs to follow the rules. I don't see this as a case where you "report" the landlord or hire a lawyer. Really the only remedy she can expect is being released from her lease, which it doesn't sound like she wants.

Maybe the landlord has the rules to avoid drawing attention from the neighbors, to avoid getting reported for illegally renting the basement. There could be any number of other hidden reasons. 

@Allison Panila I think the lease is poorly worded (which has resulted in some confusion), and I am certainly not surprised because your friend is dealing with a "mom and pop" type of landlord whom is also an O/O.  Regardless, from ANY landlord's position there is virtually no difference between "staying over" and "living there" except when it comes to legal tenancy status, which does not apply at all here because it appears this is an illegal unit.  So, you're really not bolstering your case by saying he has his own place.  It's not relevant.  Many of us can share lots of anecdotes about the unvetted "guest" of a tenant that caused all kinds of problems at our properties.  And your friend has got the LL's dander up because he is living above this.

Anything else I would add has already been said by others a few times.  And, I'll say this as constructively as I can - if you wish to someday be a landlord, you need to have thicker skin.

@Matt K. Nope! I just want to see the lease so I can decide what I’d like to do in the future. Man oh man you all must’ve been burned hard in the past, cause wow, the reactions to this are insane! (My opinion only) I can read a lease and not seek further action, right? That’s allowable? I thought so...until today! Why is everyone against me educating myself? :)
@Dan Heuschele I agree. I don’t have much more to come back with at this point except, I agree. I think she and I have both lived in situations before that were much more laid back than this and I wish everyone understood that the boyfriend legitimately didn’t live there, spend a ton of time there and may have been there a few times (3-5 I’m guessing before the landlord went for more money). I absolutely appreciate everyone bringing up the vetting of guests, that makes sense. I think again, I’m just lucky that I’m not friends with drug dealers or pedophiles or psycho killers, so those aren’t even things that come on my radar! Additionally, I find it enjoyable that I think I mentioned the landlord was a “She” and lots of people have said “he.” So interesting! I think also that maybe people think this situation is far more extreme than it is. She’s living there, paying the $50 a month, doing school and visiting her boyfriend whenever she wants. There’s no bad blood. I think the landlord may see it as a misunderstanding and there was no standoff when the landlord presented additional options in the first place. I simply wanted to know if it was legal/something that landlords do. And I guess I’m lucky I own my own house so no one but the bank can evict me! :)

I can only speak from a landlord perspective admittedly, but... 

We make a practice of ALWAYS emailing leases in dually executed format and documenting that way. This way, there is no funny business with editing PDFs, etc., as well as putting it on file that the day it was received, and the tenant clearly received it. This has saved our butts probably 10 times with slippery tenants.

In one very recent instance, a commercial tenant edited the lease to swap a Corporation out for his personal lessee status (AKA removing him as a guarantor), and literally added the Landlord's signature on it. 

That email was referred to and we made it clear that any document with a signature that was not done by us would be considered fraud and dealt with accordingly. 

Summary: My opinion is to ALWAYS have a dually executed agreement on digital record immediately after the second signature(s).

Originally posted by @Allison Panila :
@Matt K. Nope! I just want to see the lease so I can decide what I’d like to do in the future. Man oh man you all must’ve been burned hard in the past, cause wow, the reactions to this are insane! (My opinion only) I can read a lease and not seek further action, right? That’s allowable? I thought so...until today! Why is everyone against me educating myself? :)

 Again, I think your missing the point. If it was a good lease this post wouldn't of even had to been made. Plus from the sounds of it, it's a personality conflict that's not going to be in the lease.

But if you want to disect a poorly worded lease for fun I guess have at it. However it seems you've gained far more useful information from the "insane" psots here...

Originally posted by @Steve B. :
@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

 Hmm a landlord changes the terms of a lease after he or she sees someone of a protected class entering the appt.  that is a pretty clear fair housing violation by what I have read and been taught. 

Correction: I believe If the landlord lives in the property fair housing law do not apply

Your friend needs to get out of that place. The fact is that if she signed the lease & is in violation of it, the landlord can force the issue. You can argue over legal nuances, but the fact of the matter is that the landlord is acting like a dictator. 

I self manage our 20 units, and I couldn't care less about who my tenants have staying with them and for how long ... I also don't deal in low-end rentals, so I've never had problems with freeloading deadbeats like I guess some of these posters have that are adamant that your friend is a bad tenant?? If she likes the place & its the only thing in her price range, then play by the rules. Otherwise, get out of there ASAP, and tell her not to rent from someone who lives on the premises, you're just asking to be nitpicked.

Originally posted by @Allison Panila :
@Matt K. Nope! I just want to see the lease so I can decide what I’d like to do in the future. Man oh man you all must’ve been burned hard in the past, cause wow, the reactions to this are insane! (My opinion only) I can read a lease and not seek further action, right? That’s allowable? I thought so...until today! Why is everyone against me educating myself? :)

Nobody's picking on you, Allison. We've just all seen this movie before. "He's only VISITING! Honest! Cross my heart and hope to die!"

You almost always pay in blood, sweat, tears, and toil for the generally higher ROI on investment properties.

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!)...

Hey Allison, not trying to beat you up, but everyone is answering you from a business standpoint and you're in it emotionally.  Most investors are morally good people, philanthropic, etc, but when it comes to business, well that's how they treat it.  This is a good place to get advice or insight as you put it, but you just don't want to accept it because it doesn't line up with your idea of how this should play out.  Best of luck to your "friend"

@Ned Carey that’s a non-sequitor.  The landlord is responding to what he perceives as a lease violation that would t vary by class unless you have additional info not listed here .  What part of this post had anything to do with invoking a discriminating act against a protected class?