Q My husband and I have new renters in a beautiful house into which we have put a great deal of work over the years. We agreed to rent the property to three women and one child, who is with her mother on a part-time basis. We are quite certain, based on reports from neighbors and the number of vehicles on site, that all of the renters' boyfriends, and even some of the boyfriends' children, have now moved into the house.
We would never have agreed to this many people in the home, due to the wear and tear alone, had this been presented to us before we agreed to allow the new renters to move in. The lease has one tenant responsible for the rent, with her two female roommates listed on the lease. The very first line of the lease states: "Only the tenant and roommates listed may live in this residence. Any changes in roommates must be pre-approved in writing by the owners."
Is there a statute that we can use when we address this issue with the main tenant regarding what constitutes a visitor vs. a resident of a home? If the place is taken care of and we decide to allow this arrangement, can we request additional rent per person and additional deposits? We are already reluctant landlords. This probably happens quite a bit to other landlords, but we feel we've been deceived.
A Under Minnesota law, a landlord may evict a tenant for a material violation of their lease. Since your lease states that only four people should be living in the house, and any changes need to be pre-aproved in writing by the owners, your tenant and her roommates appear to be in violation of the lease. You can give them written notice of this violation and request they leave immediately. If they do not leave, you can pursue an eviction action, requesting that they be evicted for the material lease violation.
Several years ago, courts were stricter on this issue than they seem to be now. For instance, when a tenant had a significant other move in, this was thought to be a material violation, and courts were willing to evict. Now, courts look at the building code to see whether the unit is over occupancy. Obviously, at some point, there can be too many people living in a rental unit, and courts consider it a material violation. In your case, with three or four new tenants, it sounds like you might be there. But this is not a slam dunk, and you should look at the state building code and any ordinances in the city where the unit is located to see if there are occupancy restrictions that apply to this house.
If you decide to allow this arrangement, you may request additional rent and security deposits from each new tenant. You would need to draft a new lease or an addendum to the original lease adding the extra tenants. Make sure you and all the tenants renting your house sign the new lease or the addendum. You also should advise the tenant and her two roommates on the original lease that they are liable for any property damage caused by their "visitors," so adding the extra tenants to their lease benefits all parties involved. Since you have sufficient proof from all the cars parked there overnight that additional people are living in the house, and the neighbors have indicated others are living there, it opens the door for discussions with your tenant and her roommates regarding the lease.
Kelly Klein is a Minneapolis attorney. Participation in this column does not create an attorney/client relationship with Klein. Do not rely on advice in this column for legal opinions. Consult an attorney regarding your particular issues. E-mail renting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Kelly Klein c/o Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488. Information provided by readers is not confidential.