What can I do to force tenants to now sign a lease agreement so that I am not taken advantage of?

Full Question:

I have rented two rooms in my home basically making it a shared residence. I made the mistake of letting the tenants move in without signing the rental lease agreements and after confronting them with the terms of the agreement they are now refusing to sign the lease. One of the tenants is also refusing to fill out and return the rental application which would give me the pertinent information I need to draw up the lease in their name. My question and the issue that has arisen from the terms is they disagree with my terms of limiting house guests and overnight guests. They believe they should be allowed to have whomever they wish in the house at any time they choose and for as long as they wish them to be there simply because they are paying me rent. I'd like to know what legal limits I can impose to protect myself from being taken advantage of and having unwanted, unannounced, and freeloading guests? Also at what point would a guest be no longer considered a guest? How long would they have to stay over in a certain period or how many days and nights in the term of a lease to no longer be considered guests. Furthermore, is it unlawful for me to request additional rent money should said guest stay for an extend period or on a regular basis such as every weekend or two or more nights a week? Also would there be any limits on the amount I would be allowed by law to charge that tenant for that person staying over?
01/27/2009   |   Category: Landlord Ten... ยป Guests   |   State: Virginia   |   #15077

Answer:

The relationship between a landlord and tenant and the right of a landlord to charge for a guest is governed by the terms of the lease agreement. It is permissible under the law for a landlord to charge for a guest. Often, the lease terms will specify the length of time that a guest may be permitted to stay. A landlord may also prohibit overnight guests. If the landlord signs and delivers a lease and the tenant accepts possession of the premises, the lease is effective as if signed by the tenant.

The following are VA statutes:

§ 55-248.8. Effect of unsigned or undelivered rental agreement. —

If the landlord does not sign and deliver a written rental agreement
signed and delivered to him by the tenant, acceptance of rent without
reservation by the landlord gives the rental agreement the same effect as
if it had been signed and delivered by the landlord. If the tenant does
not sign and deliver a written rental agreement signed and delivered to
him by the landlord, acceptance of possession or payment of rent without
reservation gives the rental agreement the same effect as if it had been
signed and delivered by the tenant. If a rental agreement, given effect
by the operation of this section, provides for a term longer than one
year, it is effective for only one year.


§ 55-248.31:01. Barring guest or invitee of tenants. —

A. A guest or invitee of a tenant may be barred from the premises by
the landlord upon written notice served personally upon the guest or
invitee of the tenant for conduct on the landlord's property where the
premises are located which violates the terms and conditions of the rental
agreement, a local ordinance, or a state or federal law. A copy of the
notice must be served upon the tenant in accordance with this
chapter. The notice shall describe the conduct of the guest or invitee which is
the basis for the landlord's action.

B. In addition to the remedies against the tenant authorized by this
chapter, a landlord may apply to the magistrate for a warrant for
trespass, provided the guest or invitee has been served in accordance
with subsection A.

C. The tenant may file a tenant's assertion, in accordance with
§ 55-248.27, requesting that the general district court review the
landlord's action to bar the guest or invitee.

§ 55-248.31. Noncompliance with rental agreement; monetary
penalty. —

A. Except as provided in this chapter, if there is a
material noncompliance by the tenant with the rental
agreement or a violation of § 55-248.16 materially affecting
health and safety, the landlord may serve a written notice
on the tenant specifying the acts and omissions constituting
the breach and stating that the rental agreement will
terminate upon a date not less than 30 days after receipt of
the notice if the breach is not remedied in 21 days, and
that the rental agreement shall terminate as provided in the
notice.

B. If the breach is remediable by repairs or the payment of
damages or otherwise and the tenant adequately remedies the
breach prior to the date specified in the notice, the rental
agreement shall not terminate.

C. If the tenant commits a breach which is not remediable,
the landlord may serve a written notice on the tenant
specifying the acts and omissions constituting the breach
and stating that the rental agreement will terminate upon a
date not less than 30 days after receipt of the notice.
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained elsewhere
in this chapter, when a breach of the tenant's obligations
under this chapter or the rental agreement involves or
constitutes a criminal or a willful act, which is not
remediable and which poses a threat to health or safety, the
landlord may terminate the rental agreement immediately and
proceed to obtain possession of the premises. For purposes
of this subsection, any illegal drug activity involving a
controlled substance, as used or defined by the Drug Control
Act (§ 54.1-3400 et seq.), by the tenant, the tenant's
authorized occupants, or the tenant's guests or invitees,
shall constitute an immediate nonremediable violation for
which the landlord may proceed to terminate the tenancy
without the necessity of waiting for a conviction of any
criminal offense that may arise out of the same actions. In
order to obtain an order of possession from a court of
competent jurisdiction terminating the tenancy for illegal
drug activity or for any other action that involves or
constitutes a criminal or willful act, the landlord shall
prove any such violations by a preponderance of the
evidence. However, where the illegal drug activity is
engaged in by a tenant's authorized occupants, or guests or
invitees, the tenant shall be presumed to have knowledge of
such illegal drug activity unless the presumption is
rebutted by a preponderance of the evidence. The initial
hearing on the landlord's action for immediate possession of
the premises shall be held within 15 calendar days from the
date of service on the tenant; however, the court shall
order an earlier hearing when emergency conditions are
alleged to exist upon the premises which constitute an
immediate threat to the health or safety of the other
tenants. After the initial hearing, if the matter is
scheduled for a subsequent hearing or for a contested trial,
the court, to the extent practicable, shall order that the
matter be given priority on the court's docket. Such
subsequent hearing or contested trial shall be heard no
later than 30 days from the date of service on the tenant.
During the interim period between the date of the initial
hearing and the date of any subsequent hearing or contested
trial, the court may afford any further remedy or relief as
is necessary to protect the interests of parties to the
proceeding or the interests of any other tenant residing on
the premises. Failure by the court to hold either of the
hearings within the time limits set out herein shall not be
a basis for dismissal of the case.

D. If the tenant is a victim of family abuse as defined in
§ 16.1-228 that occurred in the dwelling unit or on the
premises and the perpetrator is barred from the dwelling
unit pursuant to § 55-248.31:01 based upon information
provided by the tenant to the landlord, or by a protective
order from a court of competent jurisdiction pursuant to
§ 16.1-253.1, 16.1-279.1, or subsection B of § 20-103, the
lease shall not terminate due solely to an act of family
abuse against the tenant. However, these provisions shall
not be applicable if (i) the tenant fails to provide written
documentation corroborating the tenant's status as a victim
of family abuse and the exclusion from the dwelling unit of
the perpetrator no later than 21 days from the alleged
offense or (ii) the perpetrator returns to the dwelling unit
or the premises, in violation of a bar notice, and the
tenant fails promptly to notify the landlord within 24 hours
thereafter that the perpetrator has returned to the dwelling
unit or the premises, unless the tenant proves by a
preponderance of the evidence that the tenant had no actual
knowledge that the perpetrator violated the bar notice, or
it was not possible for the tenant to notify the landlord
within 24 hours, in which case the tenant shall promptly
notify the landlord, but in no event more than 7 days
thereafter. If the provisions of this subsection are not
applicable, the tenant shall remain responsible for the acts
of the other co-tenants, authorized occupants or guests or
invitees pursuant to § 55-248.16, and is subject to
termination of the tenancy pursuant to the lease and this
chapter.

E. If the tenant has been served with a prior written notice
which required the tenant to remedy a breach, and the tenant
remedied such breach, where the tenant intentionally commits
a subsequent breach of a like nature as the prior breach,
the landlord may serve a written notice on the tenant
specifying the acts and omissions constituting the
subsequent breach, make reference to the prior breach of a
like nature, and state that the rental agreement will
terminate upon a date not less than 30 days after receipt of
the notice.

F. If rent is unpaid when due, and the tenant fails to pay
rent within five days after written notice is served on him
notifying the tenant of his nonpayment, and of the
landlord's intention to terminate the rental agreement if
the rent is not paid within the five-day period, the
landlord may terminate the rental agreement and proceed to
obtain possession of the premises as provided in
§ 55-248.35. If a check for rent is delivered to the
landlord drawn on an account with insufficient funds and the
tenant fails to pay rent within five days after written
notice is served on him notifying the tenant of his
nonpayment and of the landlord's intention to terminate the
rental agreement if the rent is not paid by cash, cashier's
check or certified check within the five-day period, the
landlord may terminate the rental agreement and proceed to
obtain possession of the premises as provided in
§ 55-248.35. Nothing shall be construed to prevent a
landlord from seeking an award of costs or attorneys' fees
under § 8.01-27.1 or civil recovery under § 8.01-27.2, as a
part of other damages requested on the unlawful detainer
filed pursuant to § 8.01-126, provided the landlord has
given notice in accordance with § 55-248.6, which notice may
be included in the five-day termination notice provided in
accordance with this section.

G. Except as provided in this chapter, the landlord may
recover damages and obtain injunctive relief for any
noncompliance by the tenant with the rental agreement or
§ 55-248.16. The landlord shall be entitled to recover
reasonable attorneys' fees unless the tenant proves by a
preponderance of the evidence that the failure of the tenant
to pay rent or vacate the premises was reasonable. If the
rental agreement provides for the payment of reasonable
attorneys' fees in the event of a breach of the agreement or
noncompliance by the tenant, the landlord shall be entitled
to recover and the court shall award reasonable attorneys'
fees in any action based upon the tenancy in which the
landlord prevails, including but not limited to actions for
damages to the dwelling unit or premises, or additional
rent, regardless of any previous action to obtain possession
or rent, unless in any such action, the tenant proves by a
preponderance of the evidence that the tenant's failure to
pay rent or vacate was reasonable.

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