Everyone has different views on firearms, so it stands to reason that if you don’t want to allow firearms in a rental property you own, you should be able to ban them.
However, some states have laws that govern whether you can or can’t do this, so make sure you know what the law says in your state.
The Second Amendment and whether landlords can ban guns
The second amendment protects the rights of gun owners, but only at a federal level.
In other words, it protects the federal government from interfering with peoples’ gun ownership, but it says nothing in regards to state gun laws, including whether or not it is legal to own a gun in an apartment or other rental property.
Because of this, states have the right to come up with their own landlord-tenant laws regarding firearms in rental property.
Can a landlord add a no-firearms clause to a rental contract?
If landlords can ban guns in your state, the correct way to do this is to add a no-firearms clause to the residential lease agreements you have with tenants.
That way, if a tenant is in possession of a gun in your property and you find out about it, it counts as a violation of the lease terms and you can proceed to deal with it as you would any other violation of the terms.
Before you go about putting a no-firearms clause into writing, make sure there is no law prohibiting it in your state.
If your state has no specific laws regarding firearms in rental properties, then you are generally free to do what you want about the issue, including putting a “no-guns policy” in a lease.
The 4 states that have specific laws about guns and rental agreements:
In Virginia, the Rental Housing Act prohibits landlords from restricting their tenants from possessing guns in their rental units. This means that, if you rent properties in Virginia, you cannot include a no-firearms clause in your lease contracts.
In Tennessee, landlords are permitted to prohibit their tenants from possessing firearms in their rental properties, including if they have handgun carry permits. The law also specifies that you can ban guns through a clause in the lease agreement.
Minnesota law states that landlords cannot restrict their tenants or their guests from lawfully possessing firearms inside their rental properties. So, if someone has a permit for a gun, there is nothing you can do to prevent them from carrying it or keeping it on your property.
Wisconsin landlord-tenant law is the most confusing of all the states that have laws about banning guns in rental properties.
Landlords may prohibit firearms in common areas of their properties, but the law does not say that landlords can prohibit tenants from having them in their own rental units.
Also, the prohibition of guns in common areas in Wisconsin rental properties does not apply to parking lots, where tenants are permitted to keep guns inside their personal vehicles.
The law in Wisconsin also includes a bunch of other rules for banning guns in apartments, including posting signs of a certain size near all entrances of the building that inform residents of the ban and where it applies.
Can you actually enforce a no-gun policy?
Banning guns in rental properties in your lease agreement is one thing, but enforcing that ban is something else altogether.
Landlords cannot search a tenant’s rental unit without their consent, and even asking for that consent — not to mention performing a search — would be extremely uncomfortable for everyone. This awkward situation could definitely damage landlord-tenant relationships and result in bigger problems.
The only way you could realistically enforce a no-gun policy in a rental property would be if you happened to see one of your tenants (or their guests) carrying a firearm in or out of their rental unit. In this case, if you have a no-firearms clause in the contract, you could proceed to evict them, if you wish.
Alternatives to a no-gun policy for landlords
If you want to have some control over firearms in your rental properties, an alternative to trying to ban them altogether is to include certain restrictions on them in your rental agreements. For instance, you might say:
- No guns in common areas unless tenants are transporting them to/from your rental unit
- Tenants must keep guns safely locked inside their units
- Firearms in rental units must be kept out of sight through windows/doors
- Guns must be carried to and from units in a case or covered in some way
This type of compromise may be the best option for allowing tenants to exercise their gun rights, while making you and others more comfortable with having firearms in your rental property.
The Bottom Line
Gun rights are a controversial topic in the United States, and many people wonder if landlords can really ban guns.
The short answer is yes — in all but two states you are allowed to include no-gun clauses in lease agreements.
However, enforcing these policies is a whole other matter, and you may want to consider how it could affect your landlord-tenant relationships and, potentially, your rental income.
Ultimately, unless you own rental property in Virginia or Minnesota, what you do about the issue of banning guns in a property you own is up to you, and any violations of the lease terms you impose can be dealt with according to your state's other landlord-tenant laws.