Can my landlord add another roomate to my house without my permission? Recourse?

I rent one bedroom in a six bedroom house in a Philadelphia, PA. When I signed the lease, the landlord advertised and stated that five bedrooms would be leased and the sixth would be some type of common room. We have utilized this room and placed a futon in it and used it for storage, etc. To lose access to this room would be an annoyance to me. Furthermore, the roommates I have now are fine. I have no interest in taking the risk that the new one will be a pain, and my, uh, fastidiousness level is much higher than most everyone in the house right now so I frankly suspect this will mean just another person to clean up after. Plus, we just don’t have the room in the kitchen or refrigerator for more stuff.

My landlord expressed an intention in November to move someone into this sixth room. I objected vociferously and made my position clear. To my mind, the number of roommates in a house is an amenity like any other. He cannot simply alter the number at a whim without my agreement or without materially compensating me. I sent him this e-mail via Gmail that he did not reply to but I have since exchanged other e-mails with him at this address with no problems:

When I came home today I was surprised to discover a packaged up set of cabinets blocking my hallway into the house ready to be installed. Clearly he intends to move a sixth roommate in. There has been no discussion of a reduction in rent and no second refrigerator. Also, I don’t appreciate him doing construction on the house without notifying me. Specifically I think it violates the, “quiet enjoyment of the home,” clause of my lease because he hasn’t warned me at all and he always uses the cheapest possible contractors. The last time he had someone in to replace a shower they made an enormous mess that took days of vacuuming and scrubbing to clean up.

Where should I go from here? The lease is specifically for my room rather than the entire house. Do I even have a leg to stand on? Should I basically resend the prior e-mail via certified letter? If he eventually were to move in a sixth roommate, how should I go about seeking damages? Obviously I’m not just going to start writing him smaller checks for the rent, but I don’t want to be a pushover in this situation.


Do you have a lease or anything else in writing? Do any of your roommates have a lease or anything in writing? If not, then you probably have no real recourse, except maybe if he isn’t allowed to run a boarding house, which is what he is doing. However, if you report him, you will all be looking for other accommodations because he will be shut down and you will all be evicted.

You agreed to allow a sixth roommate to move in if the landlord installed cabinets, among other things, and now you’re upset that he’s going to install cabinets? It seems to me he didn’t need to “warn” you, you basically asked him to do it.

We don’t want the cabinets. The cabinets were a part of a list of conditions to be met prior to leasing to a sixth roommate. He’s been evasive on the issue, but I’m dubious of the idea that he is investing in additional cabinets out of his generosity and selfless desire for us to have more cabinet space.

Yes, as stated in the OP, this is a leased room.

I’ve looked into the maximum number of unrelated people that are permitted to live in a single-family dwelling in Philadelphia and it’s 3, although I’m not sure that it applies to our situation because it seems to specifically apply to, “educational housing districts,” that we don’t seem to be a part of. I don’t believe that the landlord has the appropriate permits for a, “multi-family dwelling.”

I agree. If he fulfils your requests then you’re SOL. :frowning:

If he fufills all of my requests including the rent reduction and second refrigerator, I’ll be as happy as a clam (I hope, with the new roomate). I suspect that he’ll do neither after the addition of cabinet space.

Hmmm - my question is, if you go ahead and reduce your rent amount even though there is no confirmation, what is the landlord going to do - evict you? Wouldnt he have to go to court and if he isnt exactly meeting the legalities of rental space for the home, he’s taking a chance of being completely shut down and possibly paying fines… yes?

But I’m no lawyer, but to me this is an interesting situation.

I suspect that the landlord can add another roommate without your permission. Can he do it without incurring damages? Hard to say, but it seems that your only remedy would be release from a contract (the lease.) Does it stipulate what happens in the event that one party breaks it?

Generally not for a “3 day notice to pay or quit”. IANAL.

Does your written agreement specifically state that only five bedrooms will be rented and the sixth will be available as a common room? Aside from the kitchen and the sixth bedroom/common room, are there any other common areas?
What do you think you’ll gain by reporting any possible code violations?

IMHO, this problem is too complex and fact sensitive to be addressed appropriately on the SDMB, especially since there is a standing policy against dispensing legal advice here. Ideally, ya’ll should retain an attorney, but I can see why the expense might make this impractical. Failing that, I would suggest you contact the Tenant’s Action Group. They may be able to help and, if not, may be able to refer you to other resources which can. Good luck.

Not generally. It has a few clauses for, “Event of Default,” (me not paying the rent) and what happens when the house falls into a suck-hole in a giant earthquake, but there isn’t an overall description for what happens if the lease is broken.

Unfortuantely, the lease does not state that. We have access to the entire house including kitchen, bathrooms, living room, dining room, laundry room, basement, etc. I’m very inclined to shy away from reporting any code violations becuase I don’t want to move out over this, and even if I did want to move out early (which I probably will come June) I don’t want to be disruptive to my other roomates, of which at least one or two (including my prospective new roommate) would pretty much be forced to move out as well. Maybe if one or two of the others expressed a strong desire to move out early. Who is generally held liable for the fines in such a situation? The landlord that illegally created a six-person dwelling without the proper permits or are the leasees generally held responsible as well?

I know, this question was probably too specific. I’ll try to see if my school has any free legal services and if that doesn’t work I’ll also contact the organization you’ve described, but I guess my problems are relatively minor compared to some of the other work that organization might be doing. I’m not really a victim of discrimination here, just a landlord that is (IMHO) being a bit of a jerk.

I guess the most important general question I’m trying to get a sense of is, since I don’t plan on suing my landlord in the near future, do I have anything to gain (legally) from communicating to him via e-mail or certified mail that I view him as being in violation of some of the terms of the lease? That is, in adding a sixth roommate that he specifically advertised and promised would not be there (but it’s not in the lease) or failing to give the notice described in the lease prior to sending contractors in to make improvements on the property?

Or should I just document it myself (take some photos, etc.) and hang onto it for later in case I do decide to seek damages from my landlord?

It sounds like he’s “renting rooms”–not that he rented a house to you and four other people–so unless your lease says something like you have “rented a room in a house comprising four other bedrooms, and in which all five tenants share equally the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room, and the storage room,” then I think you’re SOL. He’s renting rooms in a house and now he wants to rent another room in the house. I’m not sure that it matters much that he said he wouldn’t rent that last room out; what counts is in the lease. You can’t argue that he’s changing the terms of the lease because it’s not in the lease.

This landlord is not one of the current people in one of the other rooms, right? It’s not that one guy bought or rented this house and then sought out roommates and leased out bedrooms to them, is that correct? The landlord is totally off separate somewhere?

You should probably contact a tenants’ rights board in PA in any case. Just to hear what they have to say.

The issue of the number of bedrooms rented is not in your lease, so forget that. Your next issue seems to be that you may not get along w/ a possible new roommate? So that could easily turn into a self fulfilling prophecy, forget about it, it’s a non issue as it hasn’t happened yet. Then you suggested to the landlord that more storage spce would be needed and it looks as if he may be complying w/ your suggestion. Beyond that there’s been little or no other action, so why are you getting yourself all worked up over what might happen? If you’re reasonably happy w/ your living arrangement, why would you take any legal action? Where are you damaged, besides in your imagination. Taking legal action is likely to screw up things for your roomies as well as the landlord, to what end?
I think you’re making mountains out of molehills. I’m assuming this is some kind of student lodging situation and you are young. Part of learning and maturing is in getting along and adapting. Your “fastidiousness” is just that, yours. If the living conditions become uninhabitable in the future you may have a legitimate complaint, but right now you’ve got nothing.

He’d probably relent if you and the others agreed to increase your monthly rent to compensate for the lost income from the new tenant. :wink:

Instead of retaining an attorney, how about you spend the loot on an extra refrigerator? In the long run and all legalities aside, this is HIS house and he can pretty much do whatever he wants. It’s a sticky situation and I feel for you, but hey, your new roommate might even be a hot chick ! Ever think about that? :wink: Good luck

Just some practical advice: If you’re not willing to move out over it, then I wouldn’t make a big stink. If you are, then you might have a big advantage. The potential loss to the landlord of having empty rooms is big enough that he’s likely to be willing to make some concessions.

I get along fine with the current roommates and I suspect I’ll get along fine with the sixth roommate. I simply don’t feel any compulsion for magnanimity towards my landlord, and the noncommunicative manner in which he’s behaved especially doesn’t lend itself to my generosity. I feel the same way as if he had failed to provide a washer or dryer that he promised to provide when I signed the lease.

It is his house, but I have signed a lease with him and so long as I keep to the terms of that lease there are a great number of legal priveleges that go along with that. In short, no, he can not do pretty much whatever he wants, and I’m certainly not putting up my money for permanent improvements to his house. Furthermore, I already live with two perfectly attractive young women and I don’t care because, as several threads on this Board will suggest, becoming casually involved with your roommates is an extraordinarily terrible idea.

Anyway, I’ll just go ahead and try to contact my landlord again and make it clear that the house is opposed to adding a sixth roommate, ask again if he’s willing to accept a reduction in rent, etc. and go from there.

Bolding mine. One of those things is not like the other.

I still fail to understand how he supposedly didn’t give you notice. If you were to call him and say, “Hey, the water heater is busted, can you send a plumber?”, would you expect him to hang up the phone, call you back, and say, “Hey, I’m sending a plumber over!”?

I’m not saying that it’s not an unfortunate situation. I’m saying that you may want to approach your problem from a different angle.