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landlord/tenant Q&A

LAURENE H. YOUNG, (B) MPM, RMP, REALTOR
Young Hawaii Homes, Inc.
2011 President, Oahu Chapter
National Association of Residential Property Managers

Q. My tenant seems to always have guests overnight. There have been complaints about one of her guests. The guest makes a lot of noise late at night, yells at other people if they confront him and parks his car in other people’s spaces. There have been a few complaints about my tenant’s other guests but not as bad as this one. What can I do? Can I tell my tenant that she can no longer have any guests stay overnight?

A. There is nothing in the Landlord-Tenant Code that says that tenants are responsible for the conduct of their guests. I also couldn’t find anything in our standard Hawaii Association of REALTORS® (HAR) Rental Agreement that stated that. It also doesn’t say that parents are responsible for the conduct of their children.

But, when a tenant moves out, the tenant must leave the unit in the same condition as when they moved in, except for normal wear and tear. It doesn’t matter who caused the damage since the tenant would probably not be able to prove someone else caused the damage.

It gets a little more complicated when that guest or minor causes problems like those that you described. Hopefully you have something written down in your addendum or house rules. As for prohibiting guests altogether, that is probably an unreasonable request as many people have guests from time to time and few of them cause problems. If there are lots of problems with guests, some agencies like Section 8 may prohibit the tenant from having guests as a condition of continuing to subsidize the rent. But for most private landlords, judges will likely not allow you to prohibit any guests from staying overnight.

Some problems associated with guests include noise complaints, increased wear and tear to your unit, increased utility costs if the landlord pays for the water or electricity, safety issues, fines issued by the association. If the guest is posing a danger to others in the complex, you have a responsibility to do something. Send your tenant a 10-day notice to comply with the terms of the lease since there are noise problems, someone is parking in an incorrect stall, or if someone is living there who is not on the lease. If your tenant doesn’t correct the problem within the 10 days, or if the problem recurs, you can move to evict her. You should also talk with your tenant. Perhaps she doesn’t want this guest there but doesn’t know how to prevent him from coming over. You can then work with her and perhaps the police to deal with that situation. If there is domestic violence or drugs involved, you will have to deal with that and may have to evict her if the situation becomes worse. If the safety of other tenants in the complex is in jeopardy, you may have to evict her sooner if she cannot get the situation under control.

You should have a guest policy in your lease. It should state that tenants are responsible for the conduct of their guests while their guests are present at the unit. State how many nights a guest can stay overnight and if you have a very small unit, you might even state the maximum number of guests allowed. You may not want your tenant to call you every time they have someone stay over for one night nor do you want 10 guests in your one-bedroom apartment. The HAR Rental Agreement states that guests may not stay longer than fourteen (14) days without written approval of landlord. A tenant who is trying to get away with a 14-day rule may have a guest live there for 13 days, live somewhere else for one day, move back in for 13 days, etc. You may want to further state in your guest policy that this means that guests may only stay for 14 days per x-month period.

If you don’t have anything in your lease that says that tenants are responsible for the conduct of their guests, add it as soon as possible. If your tenant is still on a fixed lease, you may have to wait until her lease ends and change it then. Or, you can change it if the tenant agrees or if you give her the option to end the lease early and she agrees. Check with your attorney on how best to proceed in this situation.

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