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I'm a university student and I shoot skeet on the weekends. Currently getting ready to sign an apartment lease for next year and I noticed this clause. Section C is the part I am confused about, as it involves roommate terminology and is worded in a rather specific way.

I follow my state's (Missouri) laws and am knowledgeable about firearm safety. The unit I will be leasing is not shared with other roommates. Does this clause prevent me specifically from storing skeet gear (shotgun, shells, eye/ear protection, etc.) in my apartment, provided it is stored securely?

Tenant shall not, or permit any of Tenant's guests or invitees to, (a) unless otherwise permitted by the Rules and Regulations, keep any item of a dangerous, flammable or explosive character that might unreasonably increase the danger of fire or explosion or that might be considered hazardous or extra hazardous by any responsible insurance company; (b) engage in the manufacture, sale, distribution, use, or possession with intent to manufacture, sell, distribute or use illegal drugs, controlled substances or drug paraphernalia; (c) engage in acts of violence or threats of violence, including, but not limited to, displaying, discharging, or possessing a firearm, knife, or other weapon that may threaten, alarm or intimidate others or roommates; (d) engage or assist in the consumption of alcohol by a person under the legal age to consume alcohol in the State in which the Neighborhood is located, or (e) engage in any other illegal activities. It is understood and agreed that a single violation of this section shall be a default of the Lease.

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    Is this in public or government owned apartments or a private apartment complex? – Dave D Feb 5 at 22:12
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    Private apartment – Ben Roux Feb 5 at 22:16
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    If clause (c) were to be read as preventing possession of a firearm, then it's going to be very difficult to live in this apartment. Plan to eat out every night, and you won't be able to possess a knife to prepare or eat food with. – anonymous Feb 6 at 5:41
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    @anonymous: Well, that's down to grammar. Is it "[...] (firearm, knife or other weapon) that may threaten, alarm or intimidate [...]" or is it "firearm, knife or (other weapon that may threaten, alarm or intimidate) [...]"? Those are different sentences. – Kevin Feb 6 at 13:36
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    "...or possessing a firearm, knife, or other weapon..." I wonder if they realize that they've eliminated the ability of their tenants to have silverware, or basic food-prep implements? – Theo Brinkman Feb 6 at 19:12
55

Clauses (a) and (c) are potentially relevant. You have to look in the Rules & Regulations to see what exceptions are permitted. Although firearms and especially shotgun shells are of a "dangerous, flammable or explosive character", it is reasonable to believe that when stored properly, they do not unreasonably increase the danger of fire or explosion, and would not be considered hazardous or extra hazardous by any responsible insurance company. On the latter point, you could ask any responsible insurance company if they would consider such shells to be hazardous.

While in ordinary language simple possession of a firearm is not a threat of violence, the wording of clause (c) is open to a wider interpretation, since acts considered to be a threat of violence include displaying or possessing a firearm, knife, or other weapon that may threaten, alarm or intimidate others. The fact is that many people are alarmed by the simple existence of a weapon, so simply possessing a weapon could be interpreted as a "threat" in this special sense.

Since you are not in the position of having signed the lease and now need to deal with the consequences of this clause, the simplest solution is to explain your interest, and ask them if having your gear in your apartment would be a violation of the lease. Be really clear about this and get it in writing in some form, if they say "no problem". Then either pick a different place, pick a different hobby, or find a separate storage facility.

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    Solid answer. Sound analysis and sensible practical advice. – ohwilleke Feb 5 at 22:38
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    If you cannot possess a properly stored shotgun, than you cannot possess a properly stored knife which is going to make it hard to cook. – StrongBad Feb 6 at 17:15
  • @StrongBad: That hinges on the assumption that "safe storage" means the same for both knives and shotguns. And since there's no objective answer there, the advice from this question is relevant. Especially where there's no objective answer, agreement between parties is a suitable replacement. – MSalters Feb 7 at 15:39
6

I do not see how you can violate this section without threatening someone.

(C) has, I count 6 components. Pay close attention to how they interact.

engage in acts of violence or threats of violence,

This is the crux. It's a pretty clear statement, and its definition is reasonably narrow. Perfectly appropriate for a rental agreement. Don't hurt people, don't threaten to hurt them.

”Threat" means a credible threat that would pass a "Reasonable Person" test, i,e. A reasonable person would feel threatened. If you go over to your goldfish bowl and say "sic 'em Nemo, tear his throat out", that's not a real threat. But don't push it.

If you said that same thing about a ferret, that could be credible, the issue isn't whether a ferret is physically capable of it, but whether a "Reasonable Person" would think it *might. It's a Reasonable person, not an Omniscient one.

including, but not limited to,

That specific language means absolutely anything could cause the above effects, including your fists, a drone, pet ferret, whatever. It is saying that what follows are only examples to give you a sense of what the first part means. Nothing reasonable is excluded, but you probably can't violate the above rule with a bag of popcorn or a child's bubble blower.

The lawyers don't even need the examples that follow, they are more for the benefit of teenage tenants reading this.

displaying, discharging, or possessing

This part is irrelevant, since it's only providing examples of methods to accomplish the first part. "Stay away from my girlfriend, I have guns" would fit the example because it is a threat that is made via possessing.

But if you said "Stay away from my girlfriend, I have a big iron pipe", it doesn't matter whether you actually have a big iron pipe. So you can violate without displaying, discharging or possessing anything.

It doesn't even need to be about possessing a thing, threatening a fellow gamer or minor online celebrity would also violate.

a firearm, knife, or other weapon

This part is irrelevant, since it's only providing examples, again, it wouldn't matter if the attack weapon was a Cisco router.

that may threaten, alarm or intimidate

Again, we are still in the "example" zone, and it's only applicable to the first part. So they mean "a threat of violence that may threaten, alarm or intimidate".

  • a threat of violence that may threaten (duh)
  • a threat of violence that may alarm
  • a threat of violence that may intimidate

The "Reasonable Person" test applies. Some snowflake can whip themselves into a lather because they saw a copy of Guns and Ammo in your mailbox, but that is not a threat of violence. That said, don't push it i.e. troll them or prey on their fears to make them uncomfortable, because the least misunderstanding could indeed turn into a credible threat.

others or roommates;

Also irrelevant, since it means any human.

  • To be honest, the "Threats of violence [...] including [...] possessing a firearm" is not the same as "Threats of violence including telling someone about possessing a firearm". I can't speak for what's intended, but the sample given is "possession", not "speaking about possession". – David Mulder Feb 7 at 16:06
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    @DavidMulder when you add the phrase "but not limited to" it becomes the same. You are saying lack of actual possession should make a difference, but that's only true if parties could definitely know that which is not legally possible. Israel has a policy of ambiguity on whether they have war-ready nukes. Egypt has to assume the worst because they can't know, so does the victim here. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 7 at 19:11
  • Your parsing of the pertinent section is incorrect. The phrase "acts of violence or threats of violence" defines a category of prohibited conduct. The phrase "including, but not limited to" provides a clarifying modifier indicating that the following phrase is non-exclusive examples of the prior phrase. The Phrase "displaying, discharging, or possessing" provides the non-exclusive examples of conduct. The phrase "a firearm, knife, or other weapon" defines what that conduct applies to. – Theo Brinkman Feb 15 at 15:39
  • If you ever find yourself parsing the meaning or intent of a contract, and using the phrase "this part is irrelevant", that's a sign that you aren't parsing it correctly. (A particular part of a contract may be irrelevant to a particular situation, but it will never be irrelevant to determining the meaning or intent of the contract. – Theo Brinkman Feb 15 at 15:41
  • @TheoBrinkman all true, but I am using "this part is irrelevant" to provide a layman's meaning of "clarifying modifier" and "non-exclusive examples". Yes, they don't mean quite the same thing, but my goal is to deflect the idea that hitting someone with a frying pan should be OK since it is not enumerated. I mean, collectively the last 4 clauses basically mean brandishing, but clause 2 makes it clear the landlord reserves the right to broaden the definition e.g. To a Facebook threat. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 15 at 16:30
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Though the answer by @user6726 is correct and the advice good, you might still be interested to know the technicality that you asked about: Does a lease worded as you stated prevent anyone from possessing a firearm in that home?

People are usually looking for "yes" or "no" answers with this type of legal inquiry, but the reality is that, when the wording is ambiguous or has obvious major flaws, then the answer is not "yes" or "no" and it is up to the whim of whoever is making the decision. If this went to court, say, if a tenant believed the landlord was breaking the lease by kicking them out, then it would be up to whatever that particular judge felt like ruling at that particular time.

The landlord can easily point to (c) and say "They possessed a firearm, which is listed as being a 'threat of violence.'"

You can easily point to (c) and say "The lease also prohibits knives, so any sane person must assume that the lease makes certain reasonable assumptions."

Both parties would be correct. In a situation like this, there is not currently an answer, and there will only be an answer in the future if the matter is pressed. The correct way to view this is not that "As it stands now, the action is prohibited," or "As it stands now, the action is allowed," but rather as "As it stands now, the action is neither prohibited nor allowed, but it will become one or the other at some future time when the matter is pressed by either party, and which it becomes depends on the person making the decision."

If either party has any thought that it could be decided against them in the future, then entering into such a deal is a risk. Like all risks, the risk taker would need to weigh both sides, and without all the details (does your landlord hate guns? is your landlord a gun-rights advocate? are they nice? etc.) nobody is likely to be able to make an informed decision about what the answer will become in the future.

This is why the accepted answer's suggestion is good; both parties need to do something to disambiguate the contract so that the answer exists when the deal is being struck instead of in some unknown future.

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As per user6726's answer, it seems that clause (a) might apply to you, but in many jurisdictions, only significant amounts of ammunition (in the order of a large box or crate full of) are considered a fire or explosion risk, hardly a brick or two. For instance, a quick search shows from Fire Marshall's Office in Prince William County, Virginia carrying a small box of shotgun shells in a truck does not require a transportation license (only perhaps a firearms license), but transporting a crate weighing more than 500 pounds will require treating the cargo as an explosion hazard. I infer that possession at home might fall under the same or similar guidelines.

As for (c), the preamble explicitly states engaging in acts of violence or threats of violence, and it cites possession of a firearm as an example. As I understand, mere possession does not equate a threat of violence; proper ownership means having your shotgun unloaded, locked in a safe, with ammunition stored separately. It is my interpretation that to violate this section, you would have to display the firearm, as for example by sitting near the window, arm in hand, or walking around slinging your gun.

I cannot think you would get in trouble if you are a lawful owner and you do not do anything stupid. The only real risk I can think of is if someone wanted to "SWAT" you, e.g. if they held a grudge and they knew you owned a gun (saw you carrying it in a case, or they know you shoot at a range), they could call the cops on you and pretend you made threats, and when the cops come around, kicking down the door, they could find the firearm and submit it as evidence.

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    The phrasing does explicitly include "possessing" as a category of threat. It makes no distinction between safe or unsafe storage. The OP needs to add an extra clause as an exception to cover his shotgun. – Graham Feb 6 at 8:18
  • I have to wonder whether the use of the word possess wasn't simply lazy or sloppy word usage and the better word would have been brandish. Brandish is distinct enough from display, so those don't overlap, and because brandish means to wave or flourish something, usually a weapon, in a menacingly way, it actually makes sense there. Possession, as has been noted elsewhere, doesn't seem to make sense there. – A.fm. Feb 6 at 9:35
  • @A.fm. - It may not 'make sense', but it such contracts are never presumed to have meaningless language, and (as you've pointed out), 'possessing' is quite distinct from 'displaying', and therefore can't simply be ignored. A clause prohibiting possession of an object or category of objects is going to mean exactly that, unless such a clause is prohibited or otherwise limited by applicable law. – Theo Brinkman Feb 6 at 19:17
  • That’s true, @TheoBrinkman but my point was more that, rather than risk getting in trouble, no matter how remote those odds, and it seems like mistaken language (which it does, but of course, may not be), the most practical thing to do is just ask to replace possess with brandish. – A.fm. Feb 6 at 20:01
  • @user24185 wrote "proper ownership means..." Please do not provide your opinion as fact, especially in discussions about legalese. If this is a legal requirement of the state in question, then please say so. Proper ownership most certainly does not mean unloaded, locked in safe, ammo stored separate. Any two, and depending on the setting possibly any one, of those measures is usually adequate. And some proper, responsible owners leave their firearms loaded, unlocked, and at the ready; what is necessary depends on the situation. – Aaron Feb 6 at 20:01
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The language of lease's is designed to be vague and broad to give the landlord options for kicking you out and taking your security deposit.

Here's the main points of the situation:

1) The Landlord can evict you any time they want for any reason.

You might be able to fight this, but it won't be worth it

2) The landlord cannot show up at your house, remove your stuff, and change the locks.

That's illegal. There's a process. Its called eviction. It takes at least a month. You can find another place to live in that time.

3) The landlord can take your security deposit for any reason

You'll have to sue to get it back. The suit will decide whether you violated the lease or not. If you feel you can argue that you did not violate the lease, you might be able to get your deposit back. All-in-all, probably not worth it. I would not give a security deposit and stake my life on getting it back.

4) The landlord does not enforce the law.

If you violate the law the landlord has nothing to do with it. That's between you and law enforcement.

5) If you violate the lease (and not the law), the worst that can happen is you get evicted and lose your security deposit

As long as you did nothing illegal, that's it. You aren't going to jail. You don't owe huge fines (beyond your security deposit). Nothing goes on your record.

6) The landlord wants reasonable, rent-paying occupants.

They are not likely to flippantly kick you out if you are behaving reasonably and paying rent on time.

Also, most landlords are decent people and will likely give you your security deposit back if you behaved reasonably.

7) The language in the lease is vague enough that you can make a case that you are not violating it.

With reagrds to firearms here's what your lease says:

"[You are prohibited to] engage in acts of violence or threats of violence, including, but not limited to, displaying, discharging, or possessing a firearm...that may threaten, alarm or intimidate others or roommates;"

You aren't threatening anyone with your shotgun -- you can argue that this means you are in compliance with the lease. This really is only for your own peace of mind. As stated above the landlord can evict you at any time and take your security deposit. Whether you actually violated the lease in this case would be decided by courts. , if it came to that.

Does this clause prevent me specifically from storing skeet gear (shotgun, shells, eye/ear protection, etc.) in my apartment, provided it is stored securely?

Its too vague to say what a court would decide. It could be argued either way.

My advice:

Sign the lease. Don't inform your landlord about the shotgun. Pay your rent on time. Don't destroy the property. Don't violate the law. Don't do anything that would attract the landlords attention to yourself. Establish a reason for yourself why you are in compliance with the lease, if it makes you feel better. The worst that could happen is you are evicted next month and have to give up your security deposit. Then again, a meteor could fall on your head too.

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    There's nothing "vague" about the lease terms posted in the question. In fact, they are quite clear. You are advising that Ben should sign of the lease contract with the active intent of violating its provisions. Such an act would be 'bad faith', which would be directly usable against Ben in any resulting legal action. – Theo Brinkman Feb 6 at 19:24
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    No. I would never advise him to sign anything in "bad faith". It is vague. Its not clear what would "alarm or intimidate others". Anything in the world could meet that criteria. It's not clear whats prohibited here. Is it a firearm "that may alarm or intimidate others" ?? Or is it just a firearm? Or is it a "firearm that may alarm or intimidate others" thats used in a violent or threatening manner?? These words strung together could mean ten different things. – a1s2d3f4 Feb 6 at 20:11
  • you literally did advice him to sign the contract in bad faith. You advised him to sign the contract with the active intent to violate the terms of the contract, and attempt to conceal such intent and subsequent violation. That is textbook bad faith. The plain text of the contract says that possession of a firearm counts. It is in the text as an explicit example of conduct which is prohibited by the contract. – Theo Brinkman Feb 8 at 16:22
  • "(c) engage in acts of violence or threats of violence, including, but not limited to, displaying, discharging, or possessing a firearm, knife, or other weapon that may threaten, alarm or intimidate others or roommates" – Theo Brinkman Feb 8 at 16:23
  • No. Actually I did not. I advised him that he can interpret the vague statement in the contract in his favor. That's not bad faith. It happens all the time. That's why many contracts are written in such technical and concise language. I don't know why you are quoting the contract again. You can highlight "possessing a firearm" all you want -- that doesn't mean the sentence is saying possessing a firearm is prohibited. It looks to me like it has to satisfy two other qualities, being an act or threat of violence, and it has to threaten, alarm, or intimidate others. – a1s2d3f4 Feb 8 at 16:47

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