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Landlord Demanding Housing Contract and Security Deposit as a non-resident Rent, Utilities

Discussion in 'Commercial Landlord & Tenant Issues' started by Koufax55, Apr 5, 2016.

  1. Koufax55

    Koufax55 Law Topic Starter Guest

    Jurisdiction:
    Pennsylvania
    My landlord is insisting that members of my organization who do not live on the Property Association's premises sign an "Out of House Contract" obliging them to a $500 security deposit.

    The contract does not stipulate a sum of rent, as there is no rent. There is, however, an "out of house fee" that sums to $700. "Out of House" members are simply part of the organization who have access to common areas, but live elsewhere.

    Is such a contract legal, and can a security deposit be required by non-tenants?

    Lastly, the landlord deducts from security deposits for "routine maintenance and cleanup items." Each item and its fine is clearly stipulated in the contract. Is this allowed?
     
  2. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    What kind of organization?

    What are those members doing on the property if they don't live there?

    No rent?

    What are you occupying?

    Residential dwelling? Commercial building? How is it you don't pay rent?

    You're going to have to explain all that before anybody can make any helpful comments.

    Depends on what those non-tenants are doing and why they are doing it. Care to explain?

    You say it's clearly stipulated in the contract. Presumably you read and understood the contract before you signed it so, yes, it could very well be allowed.

    But that also depends on an explanation of your situation. As you can see, you've left out a lot of important details, without which I am clueless (and likely everybody else).
     
  3. Koufax55

    Koufax55 New Member

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    It's a fraternity house. Non-tenants just live elsewhere. Non-tenant members have access to common areas (they access to enter the house by conventional means) and do not pay the rent/sign the contract of "in-house members." The contract I'm referring to is separate from that of tenants.

    Does this clear things up? I am not a tenant but am being asked to sign a housing contract and pay a security deposit for a property I do not pay rent for/live in.

    Important to note that this contract is NOT signed yet.
     
  4. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    You're not being forced to sign the contract.
    You're free not to sign the contract and pay the deposit.
    Should you make such a choice, you won't be allowed onto the premises.

    If you dislike your OPTIONS, your remedy potentially lies in some courtroom in your county.
     
  5. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Yes, that clears it up.

    I believe (but can't guarantee) that the arrangement between the owner of the building and the fraternity (or chapter) is a commercial arrangement and not residential.

    A commercial tenancy is not provided with the same consumer protections as a residential tenancy so the terms and conditions of the lease contract is what counts.

    1 - Charging fees (or fines, as you called them) for "routine maintenance and cleanup items" is legal because both parties agreed to it.

    The PA Security Deposit law applies only to residential tenancies, not commercial tenancies.

    While the building is, of course, residential, the arrangement is commercial just like renting a house to a dog rescue service, a day care facility, or a professional who put up his shingle and invites customer traffic.

    Pennsylvania Security Deposit Law

    2 - Asking non-members to sign a contract and put up a security deposit is a bit iffy.

    The PA landlord tenant statute does not appear to distinguish between residential and commercial tenancies and in Section 250.102 Definitions says:

    "“Person” means natural persons, copartnerships, associations, private and public corporations,..."

    Implying that the statute would also apply to a fraternity chapter renting a dwelling from an owner.

    Section 250.504-A Tenants Rights (in part):

    "The tenant also shall have right to invite to his apartment or dwelling unit, for a reasonable period of time, such social guest, family or visitors as he wishes so long as his obligations as a tenant under this article are observed. These rights may not be waived by any provisions of a written rental agreement and the landlord and/or owner may not charge any fee, service charge or additional rent to the tenant for exercising his rights under this act."

    https://www.thelpa.com/PA_landlord_tenant_act.pdf

    Based on that provision I believe that the owner would not be able to charge the fraternity chapter if the fraternity chapter was inviting social guests for a reasonable period of time.

    That begs the question: Where is the line between a social guest for a reasonable period of time and a non-member of the fraternity regularly using the premises?

    I also have to wonder what the position of the chapter officers is. Seems to me it's up to the chapter officers to push back and invoke the statutory right.

    If the chapter officers aren't doing that then perhaps they agree (even tacitly by not voicing an objection) that the deposit agreements don't involve charging the chapter and that the non-members are not just social guests invited for a reasonable period of time.

    So, what is the position of the chapter officers?
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2016
  6. Koufax55

    Koufax55 New Member

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    The landlord is not willing to negotiate. It is likely that contracts just won't be signed, however we are seeking legal help to potentially better the future of the chapter. The chapter and its officers are entirely against the new contract/security deposit policy.

    I'm working to interpret all that you're saying here. The landlord is not requiring non-members to sign a contract, he is requiring non-resident members to sign the "Out of House Contract." Those who would sign this contract are members, but their dwelling is not within the chapter house. The claimed purpose of the contract is so that all members can be held accountable for damages to common areas.

    To clarify, each individual brother signs a contract and the Property Association owns the house and is run by chapter alumni.

    The reason this is such an issue is because non-resident members already pay rent and a security deposit for their actual dwelling.

    Thanks for all of the advice. I'm eager to hear what you have to say after reading my clarification above.
     
  7. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    There's nothing to 'negotiate." The landlord is demanding the contracts. If the chapter and its officers are against it they can say no to the landlord and continue to allow the non-resident members access to the property.

    Then it's up to the landlord to make the next move. What that can be is impossible to predict but his options include letting it go, evicting the chapter (which likely would not hold up in court), call the police and report non-resident members as trespassers (unlikely that the police would get involved once apprised of the real situation) or just non-renew the lease when next it expires, at which time the landlord would have a lot more leverage if the chapter wanted to stay there.

    The fraternity chapter is the tenant. The non-resident members are also "tenants" to the extent that they have access to the property as part of their membership. That being the case, the statutory provision I quoted earlier wouldn't apply and the landlord would just be breaching the lease by trying to essentially charge the "chapter" the additional security deposits that are not specified in the current lease.

    They probably already are, IF the lease already holds the chapter responsible for the acts of the members and IF the membership in the chapter holds the members responsible for their actions.

    And they would certainly be accountable for their negligent or intentional acts that cause damage to the property. ("Animal House" comes to mind. :):D)

    Then it's up to the chapter officers to refuse to go along with the owner's demands and then see what happens. Keeping in mind that, upon expiration of the current lease, the owner can impose any conditions for the new lease as long as those conditions are not prohibited by law. Since the PA security deposit statute does not apply to commercial rental agreements the landlord could jack up the security deposit for the chapter to whatever level makes him comfortable with the occupancy.

    Then it's up to the chapter officers to decide to relocate or accept the new lease under the new terms.

    My questions:

    Will the non-resident members just refuse the contracts? You do understand that they cannot be forced to sign them.

    Will the chapter officers back them up by telling the landlord to pound sand?

    Will the landlord attempt to retaliate for the refusal?

    Keep in mind that I haven't read the lease but I think he would not be successful in evicting through the courts base on the refusals to sign the contracts.

    Beyond that, it's anybody's guess as to what might happen.

    I think you and I will be continuing this discussion as developments unfold. Please continue to use this thread and not open up any new ones. It's best to have all the background in one place.
     
  8. Koufax55

    Koufax55 New Member

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    Answers to your questions:

    1) Non-resident members are going to refuse the contracts, no questions asked.
    2) Chapter officers will back them up.
    3) The landlord would retaliate in some unknown manner as he has behaved irrationally in the past.

    My remaining question is, should in-house members still sign their contract, or should the entire membership pool not sign anything put in front of us until the entire dispute is resolved? To reiterate, in-house members and out of house members are asked to sign separate (but overwhelmingly similar) contracts.
     
  9. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    Then it would behoove the chapter officers to seriously consider relocating at the end of the current lease.

    Everybody forming a united front to refuse to sign would be optimum. But that's up to them.

    Don't the resident members already put up a deposit to the chapter when they rent their rooms from the chapter?
     
  10. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    If the landlord is an idiot, by forcing a mass refusal it'll cost him or her dearly.

    However, if the landlord's position is based solidly upon the lease between him/her and your organization, I suspect a mass refusal will result in legal action, probably an eviction proceeding.

    Before your organization takes a position that could prove detrimental to your financial interests, I suggest you seek guidance from your national headquarters.

    Having represented a couple Greek organizations over the years, I've found the national HQ to be helpful in negotiating solutions acceptable to their members, thereby avoiding greater financial and personal penalties.
     

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