Realty Bites

Can my NYC apartment building really ban me from having overnight guests?

By Austin Havens-Bowen  |
December 15, 2020 - 9:30AM

Your landlord can't ban you from having overnight guests, but there are precautions you should take this holiday season.


Because of Covid-19, my rental building has had a ban in place since March on guests staying over. My parents usually stay with me for Christmas. We’re all healthy and plan to stay home. Can my building really ban me from having overnight guests?

Your landlord can suggest that you shouldn’t have overnight guests because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they cannot ban them. 

Adam Frisch, senior managing director of leasing at Lee & Associates, says New York’s Real Property Law and the terms of your lease permit you to have guests spend the night. “A landlord can ask whatever they want, but they cannot ban [you] from having guests,” he says.

"Ordinary use of leased premises doesn't become a lease violation based on a landlord's whim, or even on a landlord's well-intentioned policy with some grounding in science, if it abrogates the tenant's right to use and enjoy his or her home as provided in the lease agreement," says Sam Himmelstein, a lawyer who represents residential and commercial tenants and tenant associations (and is a Brick Underground sponsor).

[Editor's Note: Realty Bites tackles your NYC rental questions. Have a query for our experts? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]

However, there are some things that your landlord can require of your guests, and you should also be mindful of your neighbors and take certain precautions, especially this holiday season, as Covid-19 cases escalate across the U.S.

First, your landlord can require all guests to wear face masks when they’re in common areas and in the elevator. 

Second, you should also be mindful of your neighbors, especially if any are seniors, who are in a higher risk category. Guests could increase their risk of exposure. So, any guests, either spending the night or just visiting for a few hours, should minimize time in common areas.

But consider following NYC’s Department of Health guidelines, which recommend hosting holiday celebrations virtually this year and only celebrate in-person with those you live with.

Otherwise, you should be aware that indoor gatherings in private residences are limited to 10 or fewer people. You should also limit the number of people who are staying the night at your apartment, Frisch says. It's just common sense, considering the airborne nature of the virus.

Even if it’s just a few of you, prior to your gathering, ask your guests to get tested and discuss their health risks and recent activity—who have they been around? In your apartment, practice social distancing and don’t share plates or cups. Need a gift idea? Stock up on face masks and hand sanitizer to offer your guests. 

Also, keep in mind that if your guests are from out of state, they’re required to quarantine for 14 days, unless they test out. To do so, they must get tested within three days before coming to New York, quarantine for three days when they arrive, then get tested again on the fourth day. If both tests are negative, they can end the quarantine. This doesn’t apply if they’re coming from states contiguous with New York, like New Jersey or Connecticut.

Just like the rest of 2020, this holiday season is very different. So, while your landlord cannot prevent you from having overnight guests, you still face some restrictions on how many people can visit you. Plus there are some precautions that you really should observe. Consider it the neighborly thing to do, because as New Yorkers we are all in this together.



Austin Havens-Bowen

Staff Writer

Staff writer Austin Havens-Bowen covers the rental market and answers renters' questions in a column called Realty Bites. He previously reported on local news for the Queens Ledger and The Hunts Point Express in the Bronx. He graduated from Hunter College with a BA in media studies. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with his boyfriend and their two cats.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.