Dealing With Long-Term Guests

There’s nothing wrong with a tenant having a friend over for a few nights, but you do have a lease agreement for a reason. If a tenant’s guest has overstayed their welcome, what is a landlord to do?

Examples of Long-Term Guests

Some landlords choose to turn a blind eye, but long-term guests can cause quite a few issues in a rental property. The fact that this person has not signed a lease means you have no grounds to evict them or charge them for problems they have created. It’s important to know when exactly a “guest” is crossing the line. Here are some examples of long-term tenants:

  • A boyfriend or girlfriend moving in
  • A friend who needs a place to crash until they “get on their feet again”
  • Someone the tenant has sublet to without permission
  • Sick or elderly parents that a tenant has taken in to care for
  • Kids coming back home from college

Issues Caused by Long-Term Guests

There are lots of things that can go wrong in a rental unit when a long-term guest is staying there. Landlords don’t have the right to restrict a tenant’s guests unless they are breaking the law or the rules of the lease, as this interferes with tenants’ exclusive possession rights.

One fact many landlords are unaware of is squatter’s rights. In some states, someone who has been staying on a property for a consecutive period of time can actually gain the rights of a tenant, even though they’re not on the lease. This is a tremendous liability issue, as you will lose a lot of control over your property and will be subject to all kinds of rules and processes regarding the long-term tenant. If you want the person out, you’ll have to do a formal eviction and act as if they are paying rent.

The most prominent issue caused by long-term guests is the lack of a preliminary screening. Long-term are essentially strangers in your unit, and because they have never filled out a rental application or signed a lease, you have no way of knowing who they are or what they do.

Include a Clause about Guests in the Lease

The first step to combatting long-term guests is to have the appropriate language in your lease. If the lease agreement mentions nothing about guests or visitors, then you’re pretty much out of luck if something happens because of one. The lease agreement should include a clause about guests from the beginning. If you’re having an issue after the fact, then you need to amend the lease.

It’s important to decide on how long a guest can stay in a unit before the tenant needs to ask for permission. You should also include the limit to the number of guests that are allowed stay on the property. These numbers are completely up to you; you may wish to state that any guest staying longer than 7 consecutive days will need permission, or perhaps limit guests to no more than 14 days in a 6-month period. It doesn’t matter what you choose — just make sure it’s reasonable and that it’s in the lease.

Here is an example of a guests/visitors clause:

GUESTS & VISITORS. Any adult guest or visitor, remaining on the premises in excess of seven days shall be considered a Resident, and Tenant is subject to an immediate increase in rent of $100.00 per month retroactive to the first of the current month. If Tenant denies guest/visitor is a Resident, Tenant must submit proof of Visitor’s Name, Address, and Landlord’s name and address for verification.

Hear the Tenant Out

If your tenant approaches you to request permission for a long-term guest, hear them out. Even if the request is outside the boundaries of agreed-upon terms, the tenant may have a good reason for the guest to be there. For instance, you may consider granting permission for a tenant’s grandmother who is ill and needs assistance. However, it’s probably not a good idea to let a tenant’s old friend who’s out of a job to stay in the property long-term (chances are they won’t be leaving anytime soon).

As you always should, approach the situation in a calm, compassionate manner. Remain professional and analyze the circumstances rationally. In the event that you do grant permission, make sure you and the tenant are both aware of the terms and that you agree on a date for the tenant to leave. Once that date rolls around, follow up with the tenant to ensure that the guest is gone. Also, inform the tenant that they are completely responsible for the guests’ actions.

Confront the Tenant

If your tenant has not disclosed any information about a long-term guest and you have reason to believe they are violating certain terms, you should act immediately. Most landlords will stay quiet and wait to see what happens, hoping the guest will just disappear on their own. Unfortunately, most issues aren’t solved this easily and you will have to talk to your tenant to see what’s going on. Remind the tenant of the rules about guests and visitors and refer them to the appropriate lease clause. If there is a long-term guest staying in the unit, provide them with a rental application so that they can be added to the lease. If the tenant is not complying, you may have to start the eviction process. Always give proper notice for evictions and give warnings for lease violations (i.e. noise, damage, parking violations, etc.).

Most of the time, there’s no good reason for allowing long-term guests on your property. That’s why it’s imperative that you include specific terms in your lease and enforce them accordingly.