Boyfriend Was Resident, Not Guest
Facts: A site owner filed a complaint in an Ohio state court, claiming that a resident failed to comply with the terms of her lease by: (1) allowing unauthorized persons to reside in the unit; (2) allowing visitors to disturb the rights and comfort of neighbors; and (3) failing to report changes in household income.
At trial, the resident testified that she had signed a lease addendum regarding visitors, which provided that she was not permitted to have a guest stay in the unit for longer than a total of one week in any six-month period without written consent from the site owner or manager. She said that her boyfriend stayed overnight only one night every two weeks, and was there in the daytime approximately four days out of the week.
The owner testified that she believed that the resident's boyfriend was living in the unit because she had seen him standing in the doorway of the unit in his boxer shorts, being “very casual,” and walking to the unit and opening the door. She also said that she observed the boyfriend's mother arrive at the unit carrying items such as stereos, clothing, and Rubbermaid containers, and that she had received numerous telephone calls and anonymous letters from other residents concerning problems with the boyfriend. The owner said that she had asked the resident to produce either six months of rent receipts, a signed lease, or a current utility bill demonstrating the boyfriend's address, but that the resident did not do so.
The resident argued that the restriction limiting a guest's visitation to one week out of a six-month period was unreasonable and unconstitutional, as it violated her constitutional right to privacy.
The trial court ruled that the restriction on guests in the lease was neither unreasonable nor unconstitutional, issued a judgment in the owner's favor, and ordered the resident and her boyfriend to vacate the premises. The resident appealed.
Decision: The appeals court upheld the lower court's ruling.
Reasoning: The appeals court disagreed with the resident's argument that the trial court misinterpreted the lease by not defining the term “week” as seven consecutive days, under which the boyfriend would not have been considered a “resident” and the guest rules would not have been violated. The court concluded that the trial court appropriately construed the addendum as referring to an aggregate seven days within a six-month period.
The court also found enough evidence to conclude that the boyfriend stayed at the unit more than seven days in a six-month period, and that the resident thereby violated the terms of her lease.
Finally, the court ruled against the resident on the issue of having a constitutional right to privacy that the lease denied by restricting her freedom to invite guests into her home.
- Merritt v. Heritage, April 2010