Can A Landlord Refuse To Add A Spouse To The Lease?

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Moving in with your significant other is a big step. This step is even more monumental when you are married to this person. When you and your spouse move in together there is much to consider. Before you start unpacking and popping open the champagne, however, consider you may need to speak to your landlord first.

Your landlord can refuse to add your spouse to the lease for several reasons. If your apartment does not allow for extra occupants your landlord can deny your request. When your spouse does not pass your landlord’s application process your spouse may also be denied. If your landlord refuses to add your spouse to the lease you can request making him or her an authorized occupant while you ride out the lease.

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Check Your Lease

If you wonder whether or not your landlord can refuse to add your spouse to the lease you should check your existing lease.

Does Lease Allow For Roommates?

You should first inspect the lease to see if it allows you to add a roommate. Some leases may already have a built in clause that either allows you to add a roommate or a number of persons. This does not necessarily mean your spouse does not need to still go through the application process. It does, however, mean that you are allowed to add another occupant to your rental agreement.

Your Lease May Have An Occupancy Limit

Your lease, and the law, may stipulate how many people are allowed to occupy the dwelling you rent. If you already have one or several roommates you may be at capacity. The occupancy limit can vary from state to state, so be sure to check local laws to see how many people should realistically be able to legally occupy your dwelling.

Check State Laws

State laws differ when it comes to adding your spouse to your lease. Some states may allow you to add your spouse to the lease without needing a new lease. Most, however, will require you to go through your landlord.

Be sure to look up the exact laws and tenant rights in your state to ensure you are following all the rules. You do not want to move your spouse into your home before you are certain you are following the proper guidelines.

Contact Landlord

When you get married and decide you want to move your spouse into your home you should contact your landlord. Depending on the relationship you have with your landlord this can be either tedious or joyus. Regardless, honest and professional communication is the best way to go when you want to add your spouse.

Explain Your New Marital Status

First things first, tell your landlord you are married. If the marriage is new, tell your landlord you just tied the knot. Perhaps your spouse is active in the military, or travels for long periods for work. Regardless of why you are just now moving in with your spouse, be sure to let the landlord know you want to live with your legal spouse. Marriage is a strong legal bond, and this bond may be reflected differently than a “roommate” in your landlord’s eyes.

Express Understanding Of Landlord’s Rights

Let your landlord know you are aware of the laws in your state and you read your lease. This lets your landlord know you are serious and that you know the necessary steps in order to add your spouse to the lease. This may help expedite the process. It certainly saves your landlord having to explain things to you.

Make It Enticing

If you and your spouse love where you live there is no harm letting your landlord know this. Perhaps you two are looking to nest in this home for some time. Let your landlord know you are willing to sign a multi-year lease.

It also helps to be a good tenant who keeps the place in good order. Make sure you are keeping the place clean, with rent paid on time.

Spouse Is Subject To Same Tenant Standards

When your spouse applies to be added to your lease he very well may be required to meet the same criteria as you when you applied. Before your spouse applies, confirm he or she meets the criteria. If your spouse does not meet your landlord’s standards then your landlord can refuse to add your spouse to the lease.


Credit checks are standard with most landlords when reviewing prospective tenants. Ensure your spouse has adequate credit when applying to be added to the lease. If your spouse does not have credit, perhaps try to line up a guarantor. Having you as a co-signer may not be enough since you are already on the lease.

Criminal Background

Landlords also may check your spouse’s criminal conviction history. If there is anything that might show up on a criminal background check you should be prepared to explain it.


Be sure your spouse is prepared with references. Former landlords, personal and professional letters of recommendation can all be helpful. Anything that can help your spouse look like a good and reliable tenant may help get him or her on the lease.

If Your Landlord Rejects Your Request Can You Move Out?

If your landlord refuses to add your spouse to the lease you two may start looking for other apartments. Before you sign a lease somewhere new you should read your lease. You likely will still be responsible for paying rent through the end of your lease terms.

If you break your lease, you can hurt your credit and your landlord can come after you in court for the rent you owe. You may have to ride out the lease until it ends before you and your partner can live in your dream home together. You have the option of trying to sign a second lease while you finish your current one, but that can be costly.

Request To Make Spouse an “Authorized Occupant”

Perhaps your spouse has bad credit. Or maybe there is another factor that prevents him from being added to the lease. If this is the case you can ask the landlord to add him as an Authorized Occupant. An Authorized Occupant would not make him part of the lease, but it would allow him to live under the same roof.

This means that you would still be solely responsible for the rent and the lease terms. Make sure you are comfortable with those terms and the landlord approves this arrangement. If so, an Authorized Occupant agreement may work for you and your spouse.

Related Questions

Can My Landlord Raise My Rent During My Lease?

In most cases, your landlord cannot raise your rent during your lease without your consent. A lease is a binding document that both you and your landlord must follow. This means that any desired changes that differ from the lease must be agreed upon by both parties. If for some reason, there are terms in your lease that allow or lay out a rent increase throughout your lease then your landlord can enforce this increase. In other words, if your lease says your rent will rise during your lease after a certain amount of time then it will.

Can My Landlord Charge More For Utilities If I Add A Roommate To The Lease?

If your landlord allows you to add a roommate your utilities, and even your rent, may increase. When you add a roommate to your lease your landlord will likely have the prospective tenant apply first. Once the roommate passes the necessary criteria most landlords will draw up a new lease. The new lease will include your roommate, but at this time it may include other changes. If there is a new lease then your landlord can make adjustments on rent and utilities at this time. Since an additional person will liven the dwelling it is normal for utilities and rent to increase.

Can I Get My Spouse Evicted If We Divorce?

If you and your spouse are both recognized as tenants on a lease you can not kick him or her out. The two of you have equal rights as tenants if you are both tenants on the lease. If your partner is not on the lease but lives with you it may be slightly easier to have him or her removed from the home.It is ultimately up to your landlord to allow one of you to take over the lease in its entirety. You should contact your landlord if you and your spouse divorce and one of you is seeking to continue the lease and the other wishes to leave.

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Signing The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, your landlord likely has the right to refuse to add your spouse to the lease. The landlord can refuse if your apartment does not allow for additional occupants, or if your spouse does not meet your landlord’s standards.

There are, however, alternatives if your landlord is not willing to add your spouse to the lease. Perhaps you ride out the final months of your lease separately while looking for a new home. You can also ask your landlord to make your spouse an authorized occupant.

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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