When a Guest Becomes a Roommate

Posted by Teresa on September 2, 2009 under Landlord Tips, Tenant Screening & Background Checks | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

man-asleep-on-couch on tenant screening blogDo you have a guest clause in your lease agreement? If so, your tenant has agreed that no guests can stay in the rental unit longer than the time specified on the lease. For some landlords, that’s seven days; for others, fourteen. And some specify no guests for more than fifteen days out of any thirty-day period.

If your current lease agreement does not contain this important clause, make sure you add it before you sign another lease with this or any other tenant. This way, you will avoid a sticky situation: when your tenant allows a guest to stay indefinitely in your rental property.

On one hand, your tenants are free to certain enjoyment of their rental unit, including entertaining friends and hosting guests. But on the other hand, when a guest becomes a permanent fixture, you could be held liable for their actions.  Having an unknown entity living in your rental unit puts you at risk, along with your other tenants, and the neighbors.

Hands-on landlords must balance staying on top of their tenant’s activities with being a nosy pest. However, you have every right to know what’s going on in and around your property. So, when you observe a guest at your rental unit who appears to have moved in, it’s time to ask the question.

If you’ve established good communication with your tenant, then asking if “Joe-Bob,” “Alison,” or “Spike” have moved in is completely reasonable. If the tenant is a good one whom you’d like to retain, then take a rational approach. Be prepared to offer options to your tenant: if they have broken the rules outlined in the lease, then they need to have the person leave, or add them to the lease—with proper background screening, of course.

It’s vital that you enforce the terms of your lease completely and evenly—every rule applies to every tenant. And, it’s important that your tenants know you mean business and that you expect them to live up to their agreement. Letting something like this slide can only lead to further—and possibly larger—problems.

Of course, hands-off landlords don’t often know who’s coming and going in their units—so their tenants can get away with stretching the terms of their lease. After all, if you’re not paying attention, they’re probably not going to tell you!