Limits on Tenant Guests and Other Restrictions

How restrictive guest policies and nosy landlord practices can be an invasion of your privacy

By , Legal Editor

In their efforts to prevent guests from becoming full-time residents without signing a lease or rental agreement, your lease or rental agreement may limit overnight guests. Some landlords may go to extremes in keeping tabs on your visitors and guests, or invade your privacy in other ways, Here are some of the main things to look out for.

Limits on Your Guests

Some landlords limit guests' visits—for example, no more than 10 days in any 6-month period, with written approval required for longer stays—to avoid having a guest turn into an unauthorized new tenant. A few overly concerned landlords go overboard by keeping tabs on legitimate guests who stay overnight or for a few days.

Some leases, rental agreements, or rules and regulations will require you to register any overnight guest. As you probably would suspect, it's overkill to require you to inform your landlord of a guest who will stay only a day or two. Extreme behavior in this area—whether by an owner or a management employee—can be considered an invasion of privacy for which you may sue in small claims court if gentle persuasion fails.

Other Ways Landlords Might Invade Your Privacy

Be concerned if your landlord does any of the following, and take decisive steps to get your landlord to back off:

  • Giving information about you to strangers who have no legitimate need to know. Your landlord may give information about your credit-worthiness or stability to prospective landlords, employers, banks, or creditors, but only if the question is directly related to a legitimate business need, such as your request for credit or a loan. Cautious landlords will ask you for a signed release before they answer even legitimate questions, but legally they are not required to have a release as long as the questions are legit.

  • Bothering you at work. While you want your landlord to have your work phone number in case of an emergency, you don't want calls unless it's absolutely necessary. If you get persistent and embarrassing calls, write a tough letter demanding that they stop. If as the result of the landlord's conduct you lose your job or a promotion, see a lawyer—you may have the makings of a worthwhile lawsuit.

  • Spying on you. Nosy interrogations and surveillance can give you reason to sue a landlord for invasion of privacy.

  • Turning off the power or changing the locks at your apartment. In most states, no matter how far behind you may be in the rent, your landlord may not lock you out or turn off any utilities. Known as "self-help" evictions, these moves expose the land­lord to significant liabilities. The only legal way to evict you is through an actual eviction lawsuit.

  • Sexual harassment. Harassment of a sexual nature is a form of discrimination that is illegal everywhere. If your land­lord engages in persistent, serious, unwanted advances, see an attorney. If you fear for your safety, contact your local police department.

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