Landlord’s House Rules Spark Controversy

by | Aug 28, 2017 | Rental Property Management Tips

A Minnesota landlord is in the news for its 22 pages of house rules that have some tenants saying they won’t renew their leases.

One tenant was compelled to call a local consumer hotline over the rules, which include prohibitions on texting, a limit of three guests per day, and a dress code for guests.

It appears that the rules may be intended to hamper potential drug trafficking at the property, but rules like these are so broad they might miss the target. Meanwhile, the landlord runs the risk of angry tenants and a trashed reputation.

House rules should help, not harm the landlord. Here are some strategies that can streamline management while helping landlords avoid legal pitfalls:

House Rules Should Clarify, Not Confuse

House rules need to be clear in order to be effective. That usually means keeping it short and sweet. For instance, instead of worrying about clothing or the number of guests, a landlord can simply prohibit tenants from selling drugs. If they do, they’ll get evicted. Plain and simple.

Additionally, the rules need to make sense to the tenants. Everyone wants the property to be safe and orderly, but tenants shouldn’t be scratching their heads trying to figure out why they have to follow a particular rule — especially when violations can lead to eviction. Clarity encourages cooperation.

House Rules Should Not Conflict With the Lease

The tenant needs to agree to modifications of any material terms in the lease agreement. House rules are not a loophole or work-around for modifying the lease without a tenant’s consent. In addition to specific terms, house rules can’t interfere with the overall spirit of the lease. Here, for example, tenants are severely limited when hosting common events like Thanksgiving dinners. Such a broad restriction may not be enforceable.

House Rules Should Not Be Applied Indiscriminately

One of the worst missteps a landlord can make with house rules is to sound tough but then back it off by saying “We probably won’t enforce it,” or by applying the rules on a case-by-case basis. Landlord rules must be applied as written to every tenant who violates those rules. Evicting some while giving a pass to others could result in a discrimination claim, and that’s a costly mistake.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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