Changing Locks On A Tenant’s Guest

By E-Renter Tenant Screening
Posted on November 30, 2006 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Many landlords with rental properties often come in for a spot of trouble with unruly tenants or tenant guests, as can be seen from the following scenario. A landlord who has a legal rental lease with a tenant, allowed the latter to let a friend stay for a few weeks, while he / she searched for a place to stay. However, things didn’t pan out as expected. When the time came for the visitor to move, he refused outright. While, the landlord would like to retain his original tenant, and the tenant too wants to stay, the landlord would prefer the guest to leave his property. The question is, can he legally change the locks on the doors, allowing only access to the original tenant with whom he has a lease, and prevent the visitor any access to the rental unit?

Well, as long as the landlord has not accepted rent from this guest, or in any other way indicated he / she has been accepted as a tenant, his tenant’s guest is nothing, but an unauthorized occupant. A tenant allowing a guest to stay for a few weeks does not turn the guest into a co-tenant.

Theoretically, an unauthorized occupant is nothing more than a common trespasser and a landlord can seek help from the state in getting rid of him. A good beginning would be to call the local police. And, it would be legally kosher for the landlord and tenant to change locks to keep the trespasser out.

However, while the law may be on your side, the problem is, a long-term guest may claim, he has been treated like a tenant, and therefore has the same rights enjoyed by tenants. And, as you know, tenants enjoy freedom from illegal evictions, including lock changing.

So, unfortunately, the best course of action is to avoid changing locks, or do anything to force the guest from the property. Any such action could land you in legal trouble, if the guest goes to a lawyer cooking up a tale of being a tenant who has been locked out. The only remedy is to file an eviction suit against the interloper. Next time, get it in writing that the guest is not a tenant, only a friend of your real tenant, who has been allowed to stay for a few weeks, without paying rent, while he / she searches for rental accommodation.

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