The landlord has the right to restrict the tenant's use of the premises. The typical lease agreement requires that the landlord must approve any modification, addition or change to the property. Additionally, the landlord may prohibit visual clutter, such as flags, signs, outdoor decorations, plants, lights and other items that can be seen by others.

Lease agreements also contain provisions concerning the behavior of tenants and their visitors, the landlord's treatment of the tenant's premises and the tenant's use of facilities.

There are usually a variety of rules concern parking, mail, trash disposal and the like, which may not be incorporated directly in the lease but will be set forth in a separate document, often referred to as "house rules." The rules are still part of the lease (by reference), although they are not written into it. You should always ask for a copy of the house rules so you can avoid breaking them, and thereby inadvertently violating your lease.

Tenants' Use of Facilities

Tenants typically have the right to use swimming pools, tennis courts, exercise rooms and party rooms under the terms of the lease agreement. However, the landlord has the right to control the time and manner of the tenant's use. For example, swimming pools are usually open during certain hours of the day only. The tenant's use of exercise equipment may be limited to an hour or two per day to give other tenants the chance to use it. Tenants can reserve party rooms upon request but may have to put up a deposit and sign a cleaning agreement.

TIP: You should always read your lease and house rules, and ask about policies for visitors using the facilities on the rental property. For example, although you may be allowed to have guests at the pool, your guests could be prohibited from using the exercise room and equipment. It is always best to know the guest policy so you can avoid violating it unnecessarily.


A tenant is allowed to have visitors and guests on the premises. However, if the visitors violate lease provisions or property rules regarding behavior, they can be required to leave. Most landlords reserve the right to exclude anyone who, in the landlord's judgment, disturbs other residents.

Can the landlord limit the number of my visitors?

Yes, you may be limited to a certain number of guests in your apartment. Even if there is no specific number limit, if so many guests show up that they are disturbing other tenants, or creating an unsafe situation (such as too many people on a porch), some or all of them can be asked to leave. Restrictions may also be in place regarding who can use the swimming pool, tennis courts, exercise room or other amenities.

The landlord says I have to be at the pool when my sister and her children come to swim. Do I have to follow this rule?

Yes. Tenants are responsible for their visitors and their visitors' actions. If you as a tenant are required to accompany guests when they use the swimming pool, you must follow the rule or the landlord could prohibit your guests from using the pool entirely. Additionally, landlords commonly limit the number of visitors who can use the pool or tennis courts in order to give all of the tenants the chance to enjoy the facilities without overcrowding.

Prohibited and Limited Behavior

Many tenant activities and behaviors are prohibited and violate the lease agreement, resulting in possible eviction. Criminal activity is always a violation and will lead to termination of the lease. A tenant's disruptive behavior or even offensive conduct may also be cause for termination.

Standard lease forms commonly used by landlords prohibit a variety of conduct, including:

  • behaving in a loud or obnoxious manner
  • disturbing or threatening the rights, comfort, health and safety of other residents and property employees
  • engaging in or threatening violence
  • disrupting business operations
  • possessing or displaying a weapon in a common area
  • tampering with electric and cable connections
  • storing gas appliances in closets
  • heating the unit with a portable cooking stove
  • using windows for entry and exit
  • drug possession and manufacture
  • making libelous or slanderous allegations against the property owner and employees

Not all disruptive behavior will automatically result in termination of the lease agreement. Some limitations on conduct set out in the lease include may require the tenant to:

  • dispose of trash every week in the dumpster
  • use passageways for exit and entry only
  • use nonglass containers at the pool
  • not cook on balconies or patios
  • not operate a business out of the premises, such as a daycare

Though violating rules that merely limit behavior may not result in immediate termination of the lease, repeated lesser offenses may eventually lead to eviction.

All limits on tenant behavior will also apply to the tenants' visitors and guests. Unruly conduct by a visitor or guest will result in possible termination of the tenant host's rental agreement.

How do I know if there is a policy regarding tenants' behavior?

Landlords are usually up-front about their expectations. Check the "Prohibited Conduct" provision in your lease for a list of behaviors that violate the lease. It is in the landlord's interest to maintain a peaceful property, and you may have been given a list of prohibited behavior when you signed the lease. Also, the landlord may have had you sign a separate agreement concerning tenant conduct.

Signs are usually posted at pools, tennis courts, in laundry rooms and on parking lots that spell out the behavior that is expected from (or prohibited by) a tenant. For example, signs posted at swimming pools set out the hours it is open, the minimum age for swimmers, and glassware and toys that are prohibited.

Can I be evicted for my disruptive or inappropriate behavior?

Absolutely. The lease agreement prohibits most types of offensive behavior and allows the landlord to terminate the lease if your behavior violates policies. However, landlords typically give you a warning and allow you to correct the behavior before terminating the lease. For example, one loud party will probably not result in eviction, especially if you quieted down after receiving a complaint.

Do visitors have to follow the behavior policies?

Yes. The landlord has the right to exclude guests and visitors who are violating rules and policies. Further, the tenant can be penalized if her guests do not follow those policies.

For example, if the tenant's friend insists on parking in another tenant's assigned parking spot every time he visits, the visitor friend can be banned. Or if the tenant's visitor leaves her apartment intoxicated and threatens another resident, the landlord will treat the incident as if the tenant herself had made the threat. Under the lease agreement, she could be evicted. However, the most likely outcome will be that the visitor will probably be banned from visiting the property.

The lease agreement may give the landlord and his employees the right to ask visitors for photo identification and find out if the visitor is a resident or guest. If the visitor refuses, he may not be allowed into the complex.

Can the landlord make new policies that are not in the lease agreement?

Yes. Standard lease forms allow landlords to put new rules into effect immediately if they are distributed and are applicable to all rental units. For example, a rule that all decorations must be removed from doorways and porches must be obeyed as soon as you are informed. A notice or warning that the new policy will begin in 1 week, for example, is not required.

New rules and policies cannot require tenants to pay a new fee or additional amount of money. The tenant's financial obligations are set out in the lease agreement and cannot be modified while it is in effect.

Tenants' Privacy

Although the tenant has a right to privacy, the landlord typically has a right of entry to make repairs to the premises under the lease agreement. Some state laws allow landlords to enter in order to make health and safety inspections for dangers that present a hazard to the building and other tenants. However, in nearly all cases, the tenant must have notice that the landlord plans to enter or has entered the premises.

In California, for example, a landlord must give the tenant 24 hours notice, and even then may only enter the premises under the following circumstances:

  • to make necessary or agreed-upon repairs
  • to show the apartment to prospective tenants, buyers, mortgage holders, repair persons and contractors
  • when the tenant has moved prior to the expiration of the rental term
  • when the landlord has a court order authorizing entry
  • in case of an emergency that threatens injury or property damage if not corrected immediately

TIP: Your landlord may not disclose information about you to other persons, with the exception of law enforcement agencies, without your express consent. Check your lease and make sure you "opt out" of the landlord's disclosure policy, if he has one. You do not want to receive junk mail and telephone solicitation calls as a result of renting a place to live.

Am I entitled to notice by the landlord before he enters my apartment?

Yes. Lease agreements generally require you to be notified at least 24 hours in advance if the landlord or his employees are coming into the premises. However, if you have requested certain repairs, you will not receive a separate notice.

Sidebar: In an emergency, a landlord is not required to give notice to the tenant that he is entering her apartment. For example, burst pipes that are flooding the apartment unit are an emergency situation, and the landlord may enter without notifying the tenant.

I received a message on my answering machine that the landlord was coming in to do a general inspection. If I do not call back and agree, can he still enter my apartment?

Yes. Unless you call and tell him "no," it is assumed that you have no objection to his coming in to inspect your apartment.

You have the right to reschedule inspections and exterminations, for example, for your convenience. However, you cannot unreasonably deny the landlord access. For example, after rescheduling extermination twice, the landlord can give you notice and enter. He has the right to maintain a schedule of exterminations and protect the health and safety of other tenants by making sure all of the units are free from insects and vermin.

Does my landlord always have legal access to my apartment?

No. He can only enter the premises at your invitation, in conjunction with his duty to maintain the premises (with proper notice), if you have requested repairs or if there is an emergency.

TIP: If you believe your landlord is illegally entering your apartment:

  • Write a letter demanding that the illegal entry stop and demand 24 hours notice for future entries.
  • Keep a log on the entries if they continue.
  • If you are there when the landlord illegally enters, he is trespassing and you should call the police.
  • Bring a lawsuit against the landlord in small claims court for breaching the Warranty of Quiet Possession, using your logs as evidence.

Can the landlord show my apartment to potential tenants?

Only with notice and only if the lease agreement allows it. Check your lease agreement for a provision allowing the landlord to enter and show potential tenants your apartment. If one does not exist, he is violating your right to privacy by going into your apartment. On the other hand, the agreement may give the landlord the right to show the apartment, (but you are still entitled to notice).


Landlords typically have strict pet policies. Standard lease forms usually prohibit animals of all kinds, including mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, rodents and insects. A tenant must get the landlord's consent to have a pet on the premises. An animal or pet deposit is almost always required.

Landlords can create as many restrictions as the want when allowing pets on the property, including:

  • limiting the number of pets allowed
  • requiring proof of rabies and distemper vaccinations
  • requiring proof of registration with the local municipality
  • creating leash and collar rules
  • restricting the presence of animals in common areas
  • requiring spaying and neutering of pets, and declawing of cats

Exotic animals are routinely prohibited on properties where other pets might be allowed. For example, large snakes are usually not allowed under the lease agreement. Also, many landlords will prohibit "vicious," poisonous or venomous pets, and certain dog breeds from the property.

TIP: If you bring a pet in to live with you without getting the landlord's consent, you have violated the lease agreement and you may be subject to eviction.

However, "service animals" or "assistance animals" are excepted by a variety of local and federal laws and cannot be barred from the property. They may still have to abide by certain rules, such as having appropriate vaccinations and being registered with the municipality, but they cannot be barred.

TIP: In some lease agreements, landlords reserve the right to ask for verification that the dog is a service animal. Have a copy of the dog's service certification readily available for the landlord to keep in her file.

Can my mother bring her dog when she comes to visit?

Unless your lease provides differently, animals are not allowed in the premises, including those belonging to visitors and guests. You can always ask the landlord or property manager and perhaps she will consent, but if you allow the dog in your apartment without consent, you have violated the lease agreement.

My landlord allows pets but has prohibited me from getting any more. If she already allowed me two cats, do I have a right to a third?

No. Limits on the number of animals, particularly cats and dogs, are common. Although the landlord has consented to pets and you may have paid a pet deposit, if you bring another cat to live with you, you will be violating the lease.

I have a friend who has a service animal. Can he and his dog visit me at my apartment?

Yes. Disabled individuals with service animals cannot be prohibited from bringing their dog onto the premises. The best practice in this situation is to notify the landlord of the circumstances so she will not think you are violating the lease if she spots the animal on the property.

My neighbor has complained to the landlord that my dog barks during the day and disturbs him. Do I have to get rid of my dog?

Very likely. Just as you are prohibited from disturbing your neighbors, so is your dog. The lease agreement typically requires that the landlord give you notice so you can correct the problem (e.g., find a new home for the dog).

Sidebar: If the dog must go and you decide to move before the lease ends, you are breaking your lease and the landlord can demand all the rent due on the months that are left.

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