A Clackamas County trial judge’s opinion highlights a problem that landlords face when trying to establish reasonable – and enforceable – limits on the number of overnights that any one guest may spend at a tenant’s home.
The case involved a mobile home park landlord who filed an eviction case because the tenant was allowing her adult son and his girlfriend to stay in the tenant’s home without park approval. The park is a “55 or older” facility, and neither the son or girlfriend met the park’s age requirements. More importantly, the son’s presence in the park was accompanied by constant visitor traffic at all hours of the day.
The park issued a 30-day, for-cause notice to the tenant after confirming that the son and girlfriend were indeed staying there. At trial, the judge believed the evidence that the son was staying in the home, but took issue with the park’s overnight guest policy. The judge found that the rental agreement policy allowing only 14 overnight visits per guest per year was “unconscionable.” The court stated that the limit was “unreasonable, obscure, and empowers Landlord excessively to Tenant’s detriment.” The judge went on to consider other factors in deciding the case, but an underlying theme was that tenants should be allowed more time for guest visits.
As a trial court decision, the case does not establish a legal precedent on overnight guest visits in Oregon. However, while each case is different, landlords could limit their potential liability by expanding overnight visits above 14 days per year. Based on this particular judge’s opinion, a 21-day per year limit might be a good safeguard. This adjustment could help negate the “unconscionable” argument by establishing a more relaxed guest policy.
This issue arises most frequently in mobile home parks, but can also affect RV parks, apartment complexes, and single home rentals. Mobile home park landlords can revise their guest policies by issuing a rule change notice under Oregon law. Non-park landlords can implement a new guest policy by having tenants sign off on a new guest policy rule. However, as usual, consult with an attorney before undertaking any rule changes with your tenants, and before filing an eviction action based on guest limitation violations.