Vehicles and Parking
Lease agreements commonly allow landlords to regulate the "time, manner and place of parking all cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, boats, trailers and recreational vehicles." The number of vehicles a tenant is allowed is usually limited. For example, the lease agreement may permit two vehicles per unit or one per occupant.
Depending on the type of property that is being rented, the tenant may or may not be assigned a specific parking space. Visitors may be allowed to park in their host's assigned space with that tenant's permission. If not, they may not park in another tenant's assigned space and generally must park in a visitor's parking area if it is provided.
TIP: Many apartment complexes require parking permits and will tow cars left overnight without one. If you have guests who will be staying with you for a few days, find out if you can obtain a temporary parking permit for their vehicles.
The term "vehicles" may include boats, trailers, ATVs, motorcycles or recreational vehicles. The landlord can prohibit those types of vehicles entirely from the premises if she chooses. However, landlords generally permit boats and recreational vehicles to be parked in a less obvious location, such as the back of a parking lot. Keeping a recreational vehicle on the premises may require that the tenant pay an additional fee.
Motorcycles are in the same class as cars and trucks if that is the tenant's primary mode of transportation. In that situation, the motorcycle can be parked in the tenant's assigned parking space or anywhere on the property a car would be allowed.
CAUTION: Inoperable vehicles typically violate the lease agreement and will be towed by the landlord if not removed.
I own a vehicle that is not operable and is parked in one my assigned spaces. Can the landlord make me move it?
If your vehicle has become an eyesore, you may be asked to move it to another part of the parking lot that is not so visible, or remove it altogether from the property.
Standard lease agreements do not allow unauthorized vehicles on the premises. A tenant may or may not be entitled to notice before the vehicle is towed. A vehicle is unauthorized and illegally parked if it:
- is inoperable, including a flat tire;
- is on jacks, blocks or has wheels missing;
- takes up more than one parking space;
- belongs to a resident no longer living on the premises;
- is parked in a handicapped space without the proper tags;
- blocks other vehicles from entering or exiting the premises;
- is parked in a fire lane;
- is parked in another tenant's assigned space;
- is parked on the grass or sidewalks;
- blocks garbage truck access to dumpsters; or
- does not have a current license, registration or inspection sticker.
Alterations to the Rental Property
Some alterations to your rental unit are considered acceptable, and the landlord does not have to be notified. For example, pictures, photographs and other decorative wall hangings are usually allowed under the lease.
A common issue is the tenant who wants to put up a satellite dish on her patio or balcony. Many lease agreements do not allow radio, television or other antenna to be erected or installed on or anywhere within the premises without the landlord's consent. However, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibits landlords from restricting a tenant from installing certain satellite dishes and other types of antennas, as long as the tenant meets FCC limitations.
Is hanging artwork on the walls considered an alteration?
Not usually. Lease agreements generally allow artwork, photographs and other decorative items to be hung on the walls or in the grooves of wood paneling. You must use small nails and make small nail holes; large anchor bolts or expansion bolts may be considered an alteration.
Can I hang curtains in my apartment without "altering" the premises?
Yes, window coverings are allowed. If you hang curtains and have to install the curtain rods, let the landlord know and assure her you will repair any holes in the wall. Also, she may not mind the curtain rods at all if you plan to leave them when you move out.
CAUTION: If you want to install blinds, notify the landlord as you will be tampering with the woodwork around the window or the window frame. The landlord may consider this a major alteration.
If I make alterations without the landlord's consent, what will happen?
Making major alterations without the landlord's consent violates the lease agreement and you could possibly be evicted. A major alteration is anything from repainting a wall to changing out a light fixture to structural modifications. After the lease ends, the landlord may deduct the cost of removing the alterations from your security deposit.
I want to paint my apartment at my own expense. Is this a problem?
Painting is considered a major alteration. Additionally, paint can stain and damage the premises if it is not applied correctly. If you paint without the landlord's express consent, you are violating the lease agreement.
EXAMPLE: A standard lease provision prohibits "painting, wallpapering, carpeting and electrical changes."
Can I be prevented from hanging the American flag outside my rental unit?
Yes. If no flags of any kind are permitted, you cannot fly an American flag (or any other flag). You can display the flag inside the privacy of your home, but not in the common areas of the rental property.
SIDEBAR: Typically, a person has the right to fly the American flag or any other symbol as protected free speech. However, because the tenant is on private property (the landlord's), he has no free speech rights in common or open areas.
Can I place a satellite dish on my porch?
Under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, a tenant has a limited right to install a satellite dish or receiving antenna on their leased premises. The landlord is allowed to impose reasonable restrictions regarding installation. The most significant of these rules include:
- limiting the size of a satellite dish to one meter (39.37 inches)
- restricting installation to areas exclusively within the tenant's use (meaning the dish or antenna, as well as installation hardware, cannot extend beyond the tenant's porch, patio or balcony)
- allowing reasonable restrictions by the landlord to prevent damage to the property (during installation and removal)
However, the lease agreement can be more liberal than the minimum requirements of the FCC. If satellite dishes are not mentioned in the lease, you are probably allowed greater latitude in the size of the dish and method of installation.2
TIP: More detailed information from the FCC on tenant and landlord rights regarding satellite dishes is available at http://www.fcc.gov/guides/installing-consumer-owned-antennas-and-satellite-dishes.
Can I hang Christmas lights outside my apartment balcony?
Unless Christmas or holiday lights are prohibited, you may hang Christmas lights as long as they are not a nuisance to a neighbor. For example, if they are very bright and blink throughout the night, you may be required to turn them off at a certain time.
SIDEBAR: The landlord can prohibit you from publicly displaying religious symbols in the lease agreement. Although you have the freedom to practice your religion, you are only protected from government interference, not a private individual's restrictions (such as the landlord) on private property.
Can I have a grill on my balcony?
Yes, but it is very likely you cannot use it on the balcony. Grilling near the exterior of the premises is a fire hazard and is probably prohibited in the lease. Even if the lease does not mention grills, city codes typically prohibit open-fire cooking within 10 to 15 feet of an exterior wall of a residence.