Can my landlord legally prohibit guests during COVID-19?

September 15, 2020

Can my landlord legally prohibit guests during COVID-19?

As college students return to campus, many upperclassmen who can live in off-campus housing will return to their apartment spaces. But as local universities create protocols to stop on and off-campus gatherings from occurring to stop the spread of illness, many renters may be asking, “Can my landlord legally prohibit guests during COVID-19?”

Guests in Apartments During COVID-19

Though each university has its own set of requirements for COVID-19 campus restrictions, some colleges in Pennsylvania have utilized gathering size limitations. For example, at Penn State, the university has the following guidelines in the Borough of State College:

  • Gatherings of more than 10 people in all housing types are prohibited.
  • Gatherings at public parks of more than 25 people are prohibited.
  • Gatherings in other private commercial property shall be restricted by the limitations established by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Some universities have issued warnings that off-campus gatherings that do not follow social distancing guidelines may result in disciplinary action; however, in most cases, a university’s power ends there.

For example, universities in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area have issued the following guidelines for on and off-campus gatherings:

  • Wilkes University: “If large gatherings are reported by members of the community, we will take disciplinary action.”
  • King’s College: Unsafe activity should be reported to the pandemic safety officer.
  • Misericordia University: Common sense actions should be taken to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
  • University of Scranton: “In all cases, gatherings should not exceed 25 people, including the residents of the apartment, but should be smaller if social distancing cannot be maintained; Masks and social distancing should be enforced by the residents when gatherings include individuals who do not reside in the residence.”
  • Marywood University: Gatherings should be kept at 50% capacity.
  • Keystone College: “Students will be able to gather as long as they wear face coverings/masks and abide by social distancing guidelines of six feet between individuals and follow the maximum number of people in a room based on the College’s and Pennsylvania guidelines.”

Though these regulations are largely for university controlled housing, students at colleges in NEPA may be wondering, “Can my college and landlord stop off-campus gatherings?”

Landlord Limitations on COVID-19 Gatherings

Under Pennsylvania’s real estate law, property owners have broad rights to control property for the sake of preserving the structure from damage or protecting tenants, visitors, or guests.

However, in cases where the governor has issued a lockdown or restriction because of COVID-19, the landlord can use his or her rights to prohibit guests. For example, in Philadelphia, Temple University students were told gatherings had been banned as even small gatherings resulted in the spread of COVID-19 cases.

The exception would be that in the case where the prohibition on guests impacts family relationships, it could be a violation of the tenant’s rights.

Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano: Tenant Rights During COVID-19

Since 1962, the Scranton landlord-tenant dispute attorneys at Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano have been fighting for the rights of landlords and tenants throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. If you are questing the legal authority of a landlord, we’re here to help. Contact our NEPA landlord-tenant dispute lawyers today for a free consultation.

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