Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Kelvin Nielsen
Sure, as a tenant, you have a smorgasbord of rights under your state’s landlord-tenant laws. You have a right to:
- Live in a habitable rental property that meets your state’s safety and health codes.
- Have repairs done within a reasonable period of time after requesting them from your landlord.
- Treated with respect and fairness in all matters.
- Break the lease under certain legally justified reasons, such as to start an active military career.
- Live in peace and quiet, away from any unreasonable disruptions.
That being said, your landlord has some rights, as well. So, can a landlord tell you how to live? Absolutely! Your landlord has a right to dictate to you how exactly you should live in their rental property so long as none of your rights are violated.
The following is how your landlord can dictate your lifestyle.
1. How many people you can stay with.
Most leases usually have a clause on occupancy limits. This helps landlords to ensure their rental property is going to be the right fit for the occupants. Because, failure to do that, landlords run the risk of having their property get too much wear and tear.
What’s more, overcrowding in a rental space can also lead to a myriad of potential health issues. The clause also helps unauthorized roommate situations.
2. Whether or not you can keep a pet.
Americans love pets. In fact, majority (up to two-thirds) of renter households in the country have pets.
Now, your landlord has a right to accept or reject pets. The only exception to this is if you’re disabled and have a service pet. In such a case, the Fair Housing Act requires that such a landlord accept a service pet regardless of their pet policy.
In other cases, though, as a tenant, you’ll have a responsibility to adhere to the pet policy. In the policy, your landlord can put several restrictions, including the size, number and breed of pet you can keep.
3. Whether or not you can make alterations to the property.
Most leases have a provision preventing tenants from making any property alterations to a rental unit without their landlord’s written consent.
Without your landlord’s consent, any of the following could happen. For one, your landlord could choose to evict you for violating the terms of the lease agreement. That’s why it’s always important to understand the provisions of the lease agreement before signing on the dotted line.
Two, your landlord could require you to revert the property back to its original condition before moving out.
Or three, your landlord could simply choose to keep the improvements. That said, they will be under no obligation to refund you the costs.
4. How you should maintain the property.
Yes, your landlord has a duty of ensuring you live in a safe and livable space. However, your landlord isn’t the only one with maintenance responsibilities. Similarly, as a tenant, state and local laws, require you to keep your rented premises in a certain way.
Among a bevy of other responsibilities, you’re required to:
- Notify your landlord of dangerous or defective conditions on the property.
- Fix things you break or damage.
- Use air conditioning, ventilating, heating, sanitary, plumbing, electrical, and other facilities properly.
- Dispose of waste in a manner that is clean and safe.
- Keep your rental property clean and safe.
If you don’t live by any of these rules, your landlord could choose to terminate your lease.
5. Whether or not you can run a business from the premises.
Your landlord can also dictate whether or not you can run a business on your rental premises. This is especially true if the home-based business you intend to run:
- Requires significant floor space. This can lead to your landlord breaching their mortgage agreement, as too much floor space can make a property get deemed as non-residential.
- Has the potential to damage the property. A painting business, for example, has such a potential. A hairdresser business is another example.
- Has the potential to cause disturbance to other tenants or neighbors. Starting a business as a music teacher in a flat complex with thin walls, for example, may not go down too well.
6. Whether you can have a roommate live with you.
Yes, your landlord can also tell you how to live by dictating whether or not you can have a roommate. And those who allow it can put restrictions on what types of tenants can live with you. That is, tenants that have passed their tenant screening process.
For example, tenants that:
- Make a good monthly income.
- Have a good rental history.
- Have no relevant criminal history.
- Have a good credit rating.
To sum, your landlord can tell you how to live. That’s why it pays to understand the terms of the lease so as to understand what you’re getting yourself into.
Hi, I’m Kelvin Nielsen, an experienced landlord and accomplished real estate lawyer. My focus is on answering your questions about renting in the hopes of making your life as a renter or a landlord a bit easier.