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Bob and his friends want to rent a house, hypothetically in Corvallis, Oregon USA. The prospective landlord presents Bob and his friends with a lease agreement that states that no guests are allowed, and no parties are allowed. Bob wonders if a landlord can legally restrict a renter's ability to have visitors and what might be the implication if Bob is found to have visitors. There is no text addressing the issue in the Oregon landlord tenant rights documentation.

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    A bit tangential to the question, but in a hypothetical jurisdiction where this is allowed in a lease, I wonder how a landlord might define "party". (And whether prohibiting a party is necessary if there are no visitors.)
    – Theodore
    Commented May 29 at 13:51
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    @Theodore The OP doesn't state whether Bob is the only tenant. A group of tenants could indulge in a wild party without any visitors. But even if he is the only tenant, it would be possible for Bob to throw a party for himself (although it might seem a bit sad /s). But
    – Peter M
    Commented May 29 at 14:29
  • Bob would not be the only tenant.
    – GBG
    Commented May 29 at 14:54
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    @CBG You should add that fact to your question, as comments like this are treated as being ephemeral and can be deleted at any time, whereas questions and answers retain their complete history no matter what changes are made.
    – Peter M
    Commented May 29 at 15:06
  • @PeterM That's one reason why I asked about the definition of "party". I wouldn't call a gathering a "party" unless there were some guests invited.
    – Theodore
    Commented May 29 at 18:48

9 Answers 9

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Can a rental agreement state that no guests or parties are allowed?

Yes, in the jurisdiction identified in the question.

Nothing prevents leases from containing such language in Oregon or federal law unless additional facts not mentioned in the question are present. Unlike Switzerland and Germany, which are civil law countries in a different legal framework, the default rules of law in U.S. states, in the absence of express state specific statutes, don't provide some bare minimum entitlement to a residential tenant except habitability for the tenant's own use.

This said, fair housing laws do prevent landlords from barring family members from living together (e.g., your minor child). But most "guests" and "visitors" would not qualify as family members within the meaning of the Fair Housing Laws.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing because of:

  • Race

  • Color

  • National Origin

  • Religion

  • Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)

  • Familial Status

  • Disability

If the guest or visitor excluded isn't implicated by one of these categories, the tenant can't rely on the Fair Housing Act for relief.

Bob wonders if a landlord can legally restrict a renters ability to have visitors

Yes.

and what might be the implication if Bob is found to have visitors.

It would be a breach of the lease, but the exact penalty would be spelled out in the lease.

As a default matter, it might be grounds for eviction. But often leases contain or have an implied in law right to cure a breach of the lease if it is brought to the tenant's attention, or require that beaches of the lease sufficient to justify an eviction be material.

It I were arguing this case for the tenant, I would argue that while the lease was technically breached, that the breach was not material enough to justify an eviction, and that the primary intent of the parties to ban guests and visitors was to prohibit an additional person who was a de facto tenant from living there rent free.

Thus, I would argue that the penalty ought to be something like a money judgment equal to the monthly rent, prorated on an hourly basis, times the number of hours that the visitor or guest was present, and would have my client tender payment of that amount to the landlord with an answer to an eviction complaint.

Usually, the landlord would only be pressing this ground for an eviction if the rent was current and the landlord actually had some other improper reason for an eviction that was unstated. So, the judge might go along with this interpretation of the proper remedy under the circumstances.

On the other hand, if the non-family member "guest" was present for three months, more or less full time, then it probably would be a material breach of the lease, or at least, would entitle the landlord to three additional months of rent for the second de facto tenant.


An answer by Fred notes that a Clarkmas County trial court judge did invalidate a similar lease term on unconscionability grounds. This is a quite liberal county (Biden had an eleven point lead over Trump there in 2020), which may have made it easier to find a pro-tenant trial court judge in that case. But as the answer notes:

the case does not establish a legal precedent on overnight guest visits in Oregon.

The unconscionability argument which succeeded in that case, and apparently wasn't appealed, is a common law doctrine used to invalidate contract terms that are extremely unfair substantively and are often also accompanied by circumstances that call into question the fairness of the process by which the contract was entered into by the disadvantaged party. It was a long shot argument and kudos to the lawyer who successfully pulled it off.

But as noted in Fred's answer, it doesn't create case law that is binding in any other Oregon case, and the fact that the court relied upon this very general common law doctrine tends to confirm that there is no statutory protection for a right to have visitors or guests, and that there is no controlling state case law on point.

Also notably, as explained at the link in Fred's answer:

The case involved a mobile home park landlord who filed an eviction case because the tenant was allowing her adult son and his girlfriend to stay in the tenant’s home without park approval. The park is a “55 or older” facility, and neither the son or girlfriend met the park’s age requirements. More importantly, the son’s presence in the park was accompanied by constant visitor traffic at all hours of the day.

The tenant's adult son would have been protected by Fair Housing Laws and if the son had been married to the girlfriend, so would she. Also, the fact that this was a mobile home park, where the mobile home was owned by the tenant who is only leasing the land under what is effectively an immovable fixture to that land (for most economically practicable purposes) also probably colored the judge's opinion. This was not a case of a typical residential apartment with an unrelated friend visiting only briefly. If the tenant had lost the case, in all likelihood, her mobile home would be completely lost because there would be no economic way to find another place where she could move it and then move it there. This would be a much bigger economic burden than just having to move out with no rent owed and no monetary award other than court costs, since the eviction was for a non-monetary default.

Unconscionability arguments are notoriously difficult to win as a defense to a contract, and there are lots of unconscionability cases involving much more unfair terms that don't prevail. So, I stand by my answer, while acknowledging that ultimately legal decisions are made by human beings and if you can convince a particular judge on a particular day that you are in the right, and can find any fig leaf of a legal argument to back that conclusion, sometimes you can win the case.

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    Do you have any law supporting this? I can see arguments going both ways, but my instinct is that this is incorrect -- especially in Oregon, which I imagine is much more tenant-friendly than most states.
    – bdb484
    Commented May 29 at 12:16
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    In NYC, this answer is wrong. Commented May 29 at 13:36
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    @Peter I guess I read your link differently. From what I read it says the landlord can't restrict who lives there. It does not say the landlord cannot restrict parties and guests.
    – Fred
    Commented May 29 at 14:13
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica Oregon law (ORS 90.100 (45)) actually defines the term "tenant" and a "tenant" is entitled under a rental agreement to occupy the dwelling to the exclusion of others. So a roommate can be a tenant, but a guest is not a tenant.
    – Fred
    Commented May 29 at 14:27
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    @Peter-ReinstateMonica I am trying to answer under Oregon law as identified in the question, and of course, the relevant federal law.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 29 at 16:43
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Clackamas County, Oregon

According to this law firm

The judge found that the rental agreement policy allowing only 14 overnight visits per guest per year was “unconscionable.”

However, they go on to say,

As a trial court decision, the case does not establish a legal precedent on overnight guest visits in Oregon.

I haven't been able to find anything to state that it is explicitly illegal for a landlord to restrict guests, but it does look like you could successfully fight it in court.

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  • Good catch. Lots of lawyers would have missed it.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 29 at 17:10
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    Note that Corvallis is in Benton County.
    – Davislor
    Commented May 29 at 21:25
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Because an apartment, even if rented, is the center of the tenant's life there are limits to the rules a landlord can impose. The right to lead one's life as one pleases, as well as this principle's tension with the rights of others, is codified in Article 2 of the Basic Law:

Every person shall have the right to free development of his personality insofar as he does not violate the rights of others [...].

This means that very few things that do not disturb others can be forbidden to a tenant. A clear example are the kind of sexual activities one engages in, a question which also led to a landmark SCOTUS decision in the U.S. Having guests over for non-sexual activities is, perhaps, less spectacular but falls in the same category (translation by me):

Tenants can listen to music in their apartments, may invite guests and cater for them. This is use in compliance with their rental contract. At the same time, the obligation to be considerate must be observed at all times.

In particular, you cannot play loud music or stomp around in your apartment past 10 p.m. — even if that is not forbidden in your contract! — if it annoys your neighbors, because they, too, have a right to live their lives as they see fit, including having a reasonable night sleep.

Generally, tenants enjoy strong legal protection in Germany, reflecting the underlying asymmetry between a rich landlord and a tenant who seeks to satisfy their primary need of shelter. Many provisions, even if signed "voluntarily" by both parties, would simply be void. A commercial rental contract, by contrast, can be negotiated with much larger freedom.

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  • Even if your conclusion on the merits is right under German law, this is probably not due to the very general human rights protection in the German constitution which is cited in this answer. The parallel U.S. case involved a state statute which prohibited same sex sexual activity, not a mutually agreed lease (which might be invalid under a U.S. statute, but is not unconstitutional). If your conclusion is right, it would be due to something in the German civil code or a German landlord-tenant statute which says so, not for the reasons cited. Could you summarize the paywalled article?
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 29 at 17:07
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    @ohwilleke Interestingly, the constitution in Germany is immediately effective law; you don't need a statute for that (that's a difference to the U.S., I believe). Many details of its application would be determined in lawsuits, at the end of the day. I'm not aware of any specific law. I felt confident enough about the gist of Article 2 that I wrote this answer. (Regarding the other answer: It does not quote any law, does it?) Commented May 29 at 19:47
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    @ohwilleke Re "The issue is that constitutions are about what governments can do": I think you are mistaken here. The Basic Rights also govern interactions not involving the government, e.g. between private individuals or businesses and individuals, as immediately valid law. Violations are immediately void (even if that fact is only asserted much later by a court). Commented May 29 at 20:33
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    To give a simpler example. The German civil code says that if your property is hit by a truck you can sue for the damages caused by that when it's that person's fault. Destroying your property by crashing your truck into it violates your legal rights, but it doesn't violate your constitutional rights. Similarly, the German civil code says that if you don't pay a promissory note when its due you can be sued for non-payment. This is also a violation of your legal rights, but it isn't a violation of your constitutional rights. There ARE lots of statutes and cases spelling out your legal rights.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented May 29 at 21:13
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    @ohwilleke Of course a truck crashing into my property violates my property rights protected by Art. 14. Even without any other law it would be immediately unlawful. What makes you think that it wouldn't? Commented May 29 at 21:26
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No

There are some implicit rights that come with a lease contract which the landlord cannot restrict. These include having guests, including Bobs new girlfriend who stays for several nights a week. This can only be limited if the guest(s) violate house rules, such as having a loud party every night or otherwise disturb other persons.

Parties can be restricted by the house rules, but they're usually OK once in a while and if one seeks to avoid excessive noise after 10pm.

8

No

Who is in your (rented) home at any time is your decision. The landlord cannot mandate rules for this.

You can have guests for up to 6 weeks. If your guests stay longer, it could legally be considered subletting instead of having a guest. The landlord can restrict subletting.

Direct family members (parents and children, not siblings) and significant others are not "guests". They can stay longer than 6 weeks without any repercussions.

The landlord cannot change the rent depending on how many people live there or how many guests you have.

The landlord can restrict commercial activity. Having guests for money, whether it's per day or per hour, can be restricted.

The landlord cannot circumvent your rights by restricting access to the whole building. So for example if you have an apartment in a building, the landlord cannot restrict access for your guests by claiming they are not allowed through the front door or in the elevator to your apartment.

The landlord can restrict access for specific persons for specific reasons though. For example violating the house rules. They cannot ban "fans of football" or "guest of Tim the tenant", but if Frank the fan, buddy of Tim, gets drunk and pees into a corner of the staircase, the landlord can ban Frank and only Frank from the premises, including the rented out apartment. They cannot ban all football fans or all guests of Tim though.


"Party" is not really legal term. If your "party" confirms to all legal and house rules, then it cannot be restricted. If it breaks such rules, it can be. If your party is a loud metal concert with 30 people blocking the fire exits at 3am on a weekday, you will be in trouble, rental agreement or not. If it is a quiet meditation sit-in with 5 people on Sunday afternoon, there is no way a landlord could restrict that.

As above: your landlord cannot dictate what you do in your own home as long as there is no specific violation of rules. They cannot pre-emptively disallow things "just in case".

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I would recommend you ask the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. If this is arising in the context of a notice from your landlord, you might be able to get legal aid through the Eviction Defense Project or the Bar Association. Here are some of the most relevant statutes.

ORS 90.403(1)(b) permits:

The rental agreement with the tenant prohibited subleasing or allowing another person to occupy the premises without the written permission of the landlord

In context, this appears to be referring to a situation where the original tenant moves out.

A tenant also has a duty under ORS 90.740(4)(j) to:

Behave, and require persons on the premises with the consent of the tenant to behave, in a manner that does not disturb the peaceful enjoyment of the premises by neighbors.

Additionally, ORS 90.220(1) says:

A landlord and a tenant may include in a rental agreement terms and conditions not prohibited by this chapter or other rule of law including rent, term of the agreement and other provisions governing the rights and obligations of the parties.

As for what’s prohibited by law, here are a few of the most relevant sections. ORS 90.135 makes a lease provision unenforceable if it was “unconscionable when made.” ORS 90.262 lists some restrictions on “a rule or regulation, however described, concerning the tenant’s use and occupancy of the premises.” In addition to the six prohibitions in part (1), part (3) specifies:

If adopted, an occupancy guideline for a dwelling unit shall not be more restrictive than two people per bedroom and shall be reasonable. Reasonableness shall be determined on a case-by-case basis. Factors to be considered in determining reasonableness include, but are not limited to:

(a) The size of the bedrooms;

(b) The overall size of the dwelling unit; and

(c) Any discriminatory impact on those identified in ORS 659A.421 (Discrimination in selling, renting or leasing real property prohibited).

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  • As a small college town, I suspect many landlords in Corvallis have been burned by (1) additional live-ins and (2) neighbor complaints to the city on excess noise.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented May 30 at 17:08
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, (Scotland and Wales have different laws that I never needed to think about.)

Clearly yes when a home onwer is renting out a bedroom in their own home. But legally that is not a tenancy so don't come under tenancy laws.

I have seen it for a flat above a doctors office not allowing visitors when the doctor is open due to noise.

I have seen it when renting individual bedrooms to high risk clients groups (like woman who been raped) justified based on security.

As a landlord letting out a normal home, I can't see any possibility of me getting a judges to enforce a tenancy agreement that states that no guests are allowed. As to parties, I would have need to prove they are doing harm. If parties are doing harm, I don't need the tendency agreement to say they are not allowed to get a court order.

However having a "no parties" in a tendency agreement would premit me to include in a reference that I have had reports of parties taking place. Hence would allows me to write a letter to a problem tenant reminding me that the next landlord would be asking in their reference request if tenant kept to the agreement.

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Is a residential home a Party House? When you rent a Party House for a party, are you allowed to live in said Party House "because you paid for"?

If both answers to this questions are negative, than the landlord can deny the right to parties in a residential home.

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You rent a place. The landlord is willing to give you the place for a certain monthly payment with certain restrictions. It is up to you to decide if you are willing to pay the suggested rent under those conditions or not. Some restrictions would be illegal, like “no black visitors” or “no gay visitors”. “No parties” or “no dogs” is most likely legal.

More restrictions should mean less monthly rent obviously.

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    So, some restrictions would be illegal, while others would be legal. Hmm. What about a restriction that said "no guests are allowed and no parties are allowed", would that be legal? (aka: the actual question...)
    – AakashM
    Commented May 29 at 8:54
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    I downvoted because "most likely legal" is a guess, not an answer.
    – JBentley
    Commented May 29 at 14:28

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