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Can a lease prevent a tenant from posessing a gun

Question: Does an owner have a legal right to insert a clause in a lease preventing a tenant from owning and possessing a gun on their property?

Answer: Owners have a legal right to prohibit the keeping of firearms at your properties, just as you can prohibit tenants from keeping pets or parking oversize vehicles in your parking lots.


The U.S. Constitution (specifically, the Second Amendment, which concerns the people's "right to bear arms") is aimed at the government, not at individuals. So, while recent Supreme Court decisions have struck down attempts to restrict gun ownership, these cases have all involved states or localities whose laws have been found to infringe on the amendment. Owners are neither a state nor a locality and have wide latitude in deciding how they choose to run their property business.

Owners that instigate a “No Gun” policy for their properties should be prepared for another argument. "That's discrimination against gun owners!" will surely be lobbed their way but gun owners are not a protected group under federal, state or local laws.

Unlike members of a race, religion, ethnicity and so on, gun owners enjoy no protection from negative treatment aimed at them simply because they happen to own guns. You certainly can't target protected groups with your policy, such as applying it to members of a particular race only, but you can refuse to rent to every applicant who wants to keep guns on the property.

Owners must think about how to implement their policy. For those tenants who have leases, you'll have to wait until the leases are up to insert your new clause. You can't impose your new rule on tenants who are mid-lease, because doing so would entail a unilateral change in an important term or condition of the rental, which is exactly what a lease is intended to prohibit. But if you have month-to-month tenants, you can announce your new policy with proper notice, which is 30 days in most states. Tenants who are unhappy with the new rule will presumably refuse to sign your new lease or monthly agreement. If they don't move out voluntarily, they'll be candidates for eviction.

It will be very difficult, however, to ensure that tenants are following this policy. Unlike a ban on pets or oversize vehicles, it will be tricky to enforce a gun ban because it may be very hard to catch rule-breakers. Landlords and neighbors can readily see pets and RVs, but it's quite possible that people will keep guns without anyone ever knowing about it.

 

Privacy laws in most states will prevent you from inspecting your tenants' homes for evidence of violations. And ironically, if rule-breaking tenants take steps to keep firearms out of reach and locked away (as they should for safety reasons), it will be harder still for you or any guest or maintenance worker to spot them while in the unit on legitimate business. janet@inman.com

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