Monthly rent and utility dues are a standard part of any lease agreement. However, when you read your lease’s fine print, you might find some not-so-standard clauses governing what you can and can’t do in your apartment. As a rent-paying tenant, you don’t love the idea of a landlord telling you how to live your life, and you may even wonder if it’s legal. In most cases, it is. Read up on some surprising examples of things and activities your landlord can ban.
Landlords’ responsibilities to their tenants
Just like you have an obligation to pay rent, your landlord has an obligation to you. He or she must maintain a “habitable” property. The definition of “habitability” varies by state, but it essentially means a property should be reasonably safe, clean, pest-free, and quiet. Basic utilities such as running water and electricity are also hallmarks of a habitable dwelling.
A landlord may prohibit certain things in his or her property in order to maintain this “implied warranty of habitability.” In other words, they can—to an extent—tell you how to live your life, IF doing so makes the property safer, cleaner, or more habitable for everyone!
So, can a landlord ban candles and incense?
Enough with all the legal mumbo-jumbo. You’re ready to get lit! And by lit, we mean, draw yourself a nice bath, throw on a sheet mask, and light your favorite lemongrass candle. Just as you’re starting to relax, though, you remember that annoying clause in your lease agreement. It goes something like this…
“NO BURNING OF INCENSE OR CANDLES. Any property damage resulting from non-compliance will be the tenant’s responsibility.”
The candle ban stinks in more ways than one, but how does banning them protect the property’s habitability? It makes every tenant safer by reducing the risk of fire.
Believe it or not, candles are among the top ten preventable causes of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. As many as 23 candle-related fires are reported each day—and you don’t want to be involved in one of them.
Rather than challenging your landlord, think about creative alternatives to candles and incense. For example, you can use oil diffusers for aromatherapy and you can invest in flameless candles or string lights for mood lighting! Trust us, it’s way cheaper than being on the hook for candle-related property damage.
Can my landlord ban pets?
Landlords can prohibit pets entirely, or they can ban certain breeds, sizes, and types of animals. If your apartment bans pets, there should be a cause on your lease detailing its policy. It may look something like this:
“NO PETS ALLOWED anywhere on the premises without prior consent from the lessor, regardless of whether or not they belong to the tenant. If tenant is found in violation, the lessor may a.) charge a fee of $__ per night b.) find the tenant to be in violation agreement and begin eviction proceedings.”
On the other hand, even if you choose a pet-friendly apartment, you may find that this “friendliness” comes with restrictions, conditions, and fees. If your pet’s moving in with you, your landlord will likely make you fill out a pet addendum (a document that adds to your lease contract).
In the addendum, you’ll provide your landlord with specifics on your pet (species, breed, name size), and the landlord will list your obligations as a pet-owning tenant. In addition, this extra “contract” should also spell out pet fees, and breed and weight restrictions.
If you own a purebred or mixed Pit Bull, Akita, Rottweiler or Cane Corso, pay close attention to your apartment’s pet addendum. These pups are among the most commonly banned breeds, according to Scout Knows.
Can my landlord ban cigarettes?
Your landlord or property manager can ban cigarettes, vapes, and other forms of smoking both in and outside of individual rental units. But, why can this behavior be prohibited and not others? Because technically, smoking is not a right, so policing your liberty to do so does not violate yours.
Additionally, many landlords argue that by maintaining smoke-free environments they are protecting their tenants’ wellbeing and the property’s integrity. After all, secondhand smoke affects non-smokers, causing everything from ear infections to lung cancer, as stated by the CDC. Property managers also consider the cost of smoking-related property damage such as cigarette burns, nicotine-stained walls, and irreversibly fetid carpeting.
In most cases, a no-smoking rule must be spelled out on the lease to be enforceable. However, in certain localities and situations, a landlord may simply submit written notice of the new provision 30 days before it goes into effect. If you’re looking for a cigarette ban on your lease, scan the document for language like:
“NO SMOKING of any type allowed in our outside housing units, foyers, hallways, parking lots, or any building facility with the exception of a designated area. Tenants with smoking guests will be found in violation of the rental agreement and may face eviction.”
Can my landlord ban everything?
Though it may seem like landlords have a lot of power, there’s plenty of things they can’t do. For example, your landlord may not discriminate against tenants based on “race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin,” per the Fair Housing Act of 1986.
Unfortunately, there’s no law against annoying and overbearing property managers (yet). But, if you’re unhappy with yours, you can evict your landlord from your life by finding a new apartment (with a more flexible lease) on ApartmentSearch.