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Renting and guns

UT student is approached at night. Lets them know he is armed and then calls police. His landlord then tells him that having a gun on the property is not allowed, no doubt implying that it is better the guy had been robbed instead. Recently, TN’s AG opined on exactly that issue and, basically, if it’s part of the rental agreement, then landlord’s can prohibit ownership of weapons on their property. I’m as pro gun as you can get but if you agreed to it, you are bound by it. There is the curious case of the exception to owning if “authorized by law”. I don’t know what that means. Possession of firearms is authorized by law. Carrying is authorized by law if you have a permit.

Odd case.

23 Responses to “Renting and guns”

  1. Ron W Says:

    Of course, the “authorized by law” only applies to government agents which is a violation of the “equal protection of the law” clause in the 14th Amendment.

  2. mikee Says:

    My wife and I have several rental properties. We discuss home security with new renters before signing the lease. We point out the usefulness of the required renter’s insurance, and how the renters can pay for essentially any alarm service or home security company they want.

    Recently we were pleasantly surprised when a new tenant asked if the lease would say anything about keeping firearms in her rental house. It was the first time in our several years of landlording that we had been asked that.

    We instantly explained our strong support for home ownership of firearms, and learned that she has some pretty cool rifles. And learned how to use them from an FBI boyfriend decades ago.

    I feel better about her renting from us than almost any other tenant we have ever had.

  3. pdb Says:

    Can the landlord require that only people of a certain race rent there?

    Can the landlord require that only Christians or Muslims can rent the house?

  4. Jake Says:

    I’m glad Virginia makes it illegal to put that restriction in a (residential) rental agreement.

    If you’re renting it to live there, it’s your home. I don’t know that I’d agree that the landlord should be able to restrict gun ownership in someone else’s home, even if he is the property owner. I would say that it’s a specific case of the renter’s right to self-defense overriding the landlord’s right to control his property (just like the landlord gives up the right to unrestricted access to the property – he has to give “reasonable” notice, first – in favour of the tenant’s right to privacy).

  5. wizardpc Says:

    When I was in college, I rented an apartment that had an odd arrangement. Every unit in the complex had 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. You couldn’t rent a whole apartment. Your lease allowed you to use one bedroom, one bathroom, and the commmon kitchen and living room.

    As a result, you would sometimes be assigned random roommates that you a) didn’t know and b) didn’t like.

    After living with one other guy for about 6 months, a pair of 18 year olds were assigned the other two rooms. They began, almost immediately, smoking in the non smoking apartment and dealing marijuana. We asked them to stop and they wouldnt. So I went down to the office and asked them to be reassigned.

    My request was denied, because the apartment manager thought my personal observations being relayed to her in person was…hearsay.

    Three days later, the SAME apartment manager came to “inspect” my bedroom, because one of the kids’ mothers had called in to complain that I had a rifle in the apartment (a 10/22). After asking her to show me where in the lease it said I couldn’t have a rifle and her not being able to do so, she left.

    So personal observation about dealing drugs = hearsay and no action can be taken.
    Mom saying son said I legally owned a legal product not in conflict with the lease = inspection that might result in eviction.

    Had I not been 20 years old, broke, and unaware of any sort of rights, I might have ended up owning that complex.

    (BTW, as luck would have it the rifle was in my truck when she came back later to inspect the room while I was not there. As soon as my lease was up I moved out.)

  6. Weer'd Beard Says:

    I’m 100% in favor of property rights, but since it’s illegal to have a rental sign that say “No Dogs, No Irish” or anything similar, I donít see why they can say “No Lawfully held guns”. If we really had property rights this argument would fly. We obviously donít.

    FYI this was one of my huge concerns as a Massachusetts gunnie who rented.

  7. ZK Says:

    What Weer’d said. As much as I really do like my landlord, he will never know of the guns.

  8. Mike Says:

    Tenant/landlord law and regulation evolved out of revulsion for discriminatory practices, fire code violations and other abuses. Many states and municipalities already strictly regulate what landlords can and cannot put into a lease. It should be easy to forbid landlords from including lease language that would prohibit law-abiding gun owners from safely storing firearms.

  9. SPQR Says:

    This is an example of people not understanding the difference between constitutional rights, and anti-discrimination law.

    Anti-discrimination law are statutes adopted that restrain the conduct of private parties. Hence prohibitions on discrimination against potential tenants on race.

    Constitutional rights restrain governmental action, not private action. Hence no prohibition on discrimination of potential tenants on behavior like owning firearms.

  10. Montieth Says:

    Yeah, I have to disagree with this as well.

    Can an individual really give up fundamental constitutional rights via contract? Could a block of property owners in an area not allow their tenants to vote? Or read? Or talk to their congressmen?

  11. Bryan S. Says:

    SPQR nailed it.. this is a property rights issue, not a constitutional law issue. Unless the Tennessee constitution says something about it, but I highly doubt that.

    Just like the people who move into an area with a HOA, and complain they cant put up a flag pole, when you agreed to the contract, you gave your word.

    Although, in this case, the landlord sounds like he is changing the terms after the fact, but thats a contract law issue, I would believe.

    IANAL and all that.

  12. dustydog Says:

    Actually, it is an anti-trust issue. The owners belong to an association that ensures that all the area leases are the same, the rents and amenities are comparable.

    In Austin, the association has other benefits, namely keeping students and their parents from buying housing cheaply, and making it easier to sell your rental property (to other professors).

  13. Phil R. Says:

    This is one reason why I don’t make more of an effort to go shooting over here in the UK. If I wanted to own a rifle (cue gasps and fainting) I would have to go to my landlord and say “How’s about letting me bolt a gun-safe to the floor of my flat?” It could go well, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    That and the safe and the installation thereof would probably cost me more than the rifle…

  14. Chas Says:

    What if the rental agreement included prohibition of exercising the right to vote, or free speech or other civil rights? How about a landlord prohibiting NRA members?

  15. Jake Says:

    Constitutional rights restrain governmental action, not private action. Hence no prohibition on discrimination of potential tenants on behavior like owning firearms.

    While it’s not a Constitutional Rights issue, it is a natural Rights issue. Just like a tenant’s natural right to privacy in his home can create a legal restriction on the landlord’s right to access his property, a tenant’s natural right to armed self-defense can restrict a landlord’s right to ban certain items from his property.

    By allowing someone else to use his property as a home, the landlord implicitly gives up certain personal rights in regard to that property in favour of certain of the tenant’s personal rights which are implicit in the concept of a ‘home.’

  16. Mr Evilwrench Says:

    If the landlord does not allow firearms, it does not interfere with your right to own firearms, just your right to do it there. You have the option to find a landlord who is more accommodating, so your right is intact. It’s the same thing with smoking. I don’t think there’s any dispute that a landlord may prohibit that. You do not have the right to violate the landlord’s right not to have firearms on his property.

  17. Chris Says:

    So all of you that say this is a property rights issue would be ok with a lease clause that said no bibles allowed in the property?

  18. TomcatsHanger Says:

    If the government can force folks to rent to others regardless of their apparent race, religion, or sexual orientation, sure as hell exercising armed self defense should be a protected class as well.

    No discrimination is no discrimination. Either all or nothing. Property rights do NOT trump human rights.

  19. Borepatch Says:

    IANL, but it seems that (a) the landlord is free to put whatever he likes in the lease terms, and (b) if as a result of his terms someone is harmed (e.g. robbed because they cannot have a gun), then there is action for a tort.

    “But for the landlord’s actions …” and all that. You could also argue that the landlord’s act of prohibiting armed tenants creates and attractive nuisance, and so people without a contractual relationship with the landlord might also have cause of action if they are attacked nearby.

    As I said, IANL. However, if our side took a leaf from the progressives, it would form a non-profit to look for cases where it could sue landlords for this sort of thing. If the Bradys/Mayors Against Gun Stores can sue legitimate businesses to shut down gun rights, why couldn’t someone sue legitimate businesses to advance gun rights?

    Of course, this sort of scorched earth strategy is part of what’s leading this country to hell, but it’s headed that way no matter what. And aren’t we all told that the Personal is Political?

  20. Michael Says:

    At a former apartment I was in, they put up signs next to the door prohibiting firearms, after I moved in. I checked my lease, which said that I was bound by a Code of Conduct. I asked the office for a copy of that, which didn’t say anything about firearms. I tried to anonymously call the parent company to ask about the policy, and I was told that it was “required by their insurance company”. Ultimately, I didn’t want to press the issue as I didn’t want them becoming aware of my rifles. I moved out shortly thereafter, but was quite pissed at them changing the rules after the fact in a legally ambiguous manner.

  21. Ian Argent Says:

    @Borepatch’s view is mine, as well. I just thrashed a similar issue out in comments at Snowflakes. The landlord is free to prohibit by contract. If he does he is liable for affirmatively defending the tenant(s) and securing his premises to the “disarm” line; and providing safe, secure, and convenient storage so that the tenat’s right to bear arms off the property is not infringed.

    I somehow doubt that most landlords would prohibit under those circs…

    The problem is that currently, the “common” law is that the landlord’ sinaction in banning guns from the property is likely actionable, and a “prohibition” clause is considered effective. This needs to change.

  22. Matthew Carberry Says:


    You’d have to prove that possession of firearms is the only way to “reasonably” (“completely” isn’t and can’t be required under the law for obvious reasons) provide for tenant safety. There’s no science to back that claim.

    The chances of being a victim of a violent crime in your home from someone who does not, at the time, have the right or privilege (given by the homeowner/renter) to be there is astronomically low. Further, if you don’t associate with violent criminals or people known to be involved in drug trafficking the rates of victimization by violent crime drop almost to statistical insignificance. Hard to make a valid case that the one thing you -must- have for safety is a firearm given the facts, particularly if other defensive arms are allowed you.

    For instance, landlords are only required to meet fire code and in many cases provide you a fire extinguisher. They don’t have to let you put in a halon system or foam cannon or whatever you view as a necessity above and beyond a “reasonable” line.

    In any event, I still can’t fathom -why- anyone would want to live somewhere they aren’t wanted.

    Don’t like a lease (or a job for that matter)? Negotiate a change, rent from someone else, or suck it up and buy your own place. If those aren’t options, make the call whether gun prohibition, on other people’s private property where you have no right, natural or otherwise, to be in the first place, is a deal-killer for you.

    Sometimes personal integrity requires sacrifice or at least a little inconvenience.

    For the record, I’m not particularly swayed by parallels to civil rights statutes as I think it’s none of the .govs business in all but the most egregious cases, usually involving tacit government intrusion or regulatory capture in the first place.

  23. Ian Argent Says:

    @Matthew Carberry: You got it the wrong way round. My ideal would be a regime where the baseline would be that anyone may carry and possess; and if the property owner wishes to deny a visitor the means of effective self-defense, they must assume the burden of ensuring that all their visitors are effectively defended, and that their restrictions do not impinge in any way on the ability of their visitors to carry and possess off the property.

    Given those restrictions, most property owners won’t bother.