Knowing when a guest becomes a tenant can be tricky. Tenants can have friends, family members, or partners over to visit. And the covenant of quiet enjoyment ensures that a tenant’s guest can also stay the night. But suppose a few nights turn into a week, a month, or even longer? Then, the question arises: when does a guest become a tenant?
As a responsible landlord, it is essential to identify long-term guests. You can usually spot a guest who is now a tenant if they get mail delivered, live in the rental unit for most of the time, or pay part of the utility bill. The problem is that the tenant may not realize that the guest has become a lodger. Unfortunately, some rogue tenants try to hide that more people live in the apartment than the lease states.
How can you safeguard your rental unit from guests-turned-tenants? This article will help you recognize when house guests are living on the property without permission. You will also find out if you can evict a tenant who fails to add an occupant to the lease. At the end of the article, you learn how to include occupants not on the lease in the rental agreement.
Guest vs. Tenant
The difference between a tenant and a guest is that the tenant is on the lease. Tenants live in the property for at least a month and are legally liable for damage to the property. However, guests only stay a few days and have no legal accountability.
It’s vital to remember that occupants not on the lease could cause you legal issues. For example, occupancy laws may limit the number of people allowed to stay in a specific space. Additionally, you may also be liable for any accidents that an unofficial tenant causes.
Also, if you accept any type of rent from a tenant’s guest, they become a tenant with a verbal lease agreement. This can then cause your problems if you want to evict them to get them out.
How can you recognize when a guest has taken up residence? Here are four of the most common scenarios that show if a guest staying in one of your rental properties has become a tenant.
Romantic partner — guest or tenant?
Suppose a tenant occasionally lets their partner stay for a few nights. There is no evidence that the guest has move furniture or other permanent items to the apartment. In that case, they are most likely a guest and not an occupant.
So, can a boyfriend or girlfriend live with their partner without being on the lease? No. Anyone living permanently in a rental unit should have their names added as an occupant on the lease agreement.
In this scenario, a college student returns home because they decide to take a semester off. They are living in the rental unit for more than a month or an extended period. In this case, they are considered tenants, not guests, and should be added to the lease agreement.
Nanny or babysitter
A landlord will consider a nanny as a regular guest, not a tenant, if they are only in the property during the day and evenings. So even though they could be in the property for five to seven days a week, the fact they don’t live with the family or regularly stay overnight means they are in the guest category.
However, a permanent live-in caregiver or nanny should be added as an occupant to a lease.
Parents or relatives — tenant or guest?
Knowing when a tenant’s relatives cross the line from guest to tenant can be challenging. For example, parents may spend a holiday living in the rented house of their adult son or daughter. They are probably still guests if they don’t spend more than two weeks. Some landlords have a guest clause for immediate relatives to stay for an extended period with their written consent.
However, suppose an elderly parent can no longer live alone and moves in with one of their children? In that case, they are living permanently in the rental property. Therefore, they should be added as an occupant in the rental agreement.
When Does a Guest Become a Tenant?
In some cases, there is no clear-cut rule saying when a guest becomes a tenant. However, there are a few tell-tale signs of when a guest status should change to tenant status.
- Spending the night: Someone who regularly spends the night is no longer a guest. For example, security cameras in communal areas or parking lots could allow you to identify “non-paying tenants.” Maybe the guest’s vehicle is regularly parked overnight in the parking spot allocated to the apartment. But it’s good to remember frequent daytime-only visitors are guests.
- Guests who pay rent: If the frequent visitor pays you a portion of the rent, they become a tenant under an informal landlord-tenant agreement. Even if you only have a verbal agreement, they have rights as tenants, making it harder to evict them.
- Guests use the property as a mailing address: Someone receiving mail or magazine subscriptions signifies living in a property. Even if they live somewhere else, getting letters and packages is a sign of guest-turned-rouge.
- Guests who move in personal belongings: A guest bringing in furniture or a significant number of personal items is an obvious sign they are now tenants, not visitors. Of course, a toothbrush and change of clothes wouldn’t be enough to indicate a move from guest to tenant status.
- Guests who have a key: If a guest spends a significant amount of time in the apartment and has a key, they probably live there more than a guest. So, you are entitled to add their name and have them sign the lease or start formal eviction proceedings.
How Many Days Can a Tenant Have a Guest Visiting in the Home?
Generally, guests can stay with a tenant between ten and 14 days in a six-month period. After 15 days, it is up to the landlord to decide if the guest should be viewed as a tenant. However, the number of days could be fewer depending on the lease terms.
How to Create a Guest Policy
Create a guest policy in the lease agreement terms to avoid issues with long-term guests staying in your rental properties. This should stipulate the number of days a guest can stay over within a stated period. In addition, you could include a clause regarding the number of consecutive nights.
For example, in a two-bedroom apartment, you could say that no more than three people can spend the night. Or the guest policy could say that someone can’t stay more than 15 nights in a six-month period.
The guest policy should also state what happens if a guest stays longer than the terms of the agreement. This usually means that their name is added to the lease, and the cost of rent will increase. If the tenant refuses to amend the current lease, you can start the eviction process for a lease violation.
Here are some points to include on a guest policy:
- The maximum number of guests allowed to live on the property
- The kind of guests you allow without your consent (i.e., immediate family or close relatives)
- The number of consecutive nights a guest can stay
- How many nights a guest can stay in the rental unit within a specified period
- What happens when guests stay longer than the designated time
Adding a Tenant to an Existing Lease
You should include any adult living in your rental property in the lease. The means that they are legally responsible for sticking to the lease terms and paying rent. Sometimes, it can be challenging to add a suspected rogue tenant to the lease. However, this is a conversation that you need to have.
Before you speak with the tenant about the long-term guest, you should have sufficient evidence of occupancy. It is also crucial to check the lease terms to ensure that you have legal grounds to amend the lease or serve an eviction notice.
In some cases, the tenant may not realize that their action constituted a lease violation. For example, they may have allowed a friend who had fallen on hard financial times to crash out on the sofa. Or a romantic relationship could have become be more serious, and their partner is spending more time in the apartment.
If you are happy with an additional tenant in the apartment, you can offer to add the new occupant to the lease. You can then inform the tenant of the increase in the monthly rental payment.
Suppose the tenant refuses to acknowledge that the behavior of the guest doesn’t constitute occupancy? In this case, you can inform the tenant that you have grounds for eviction based on a lease violation. In addition, you can discuss examples of guests who become tenants in the eyes of landlord-tenant law.
Before you try to include an additional tenant in the lease or pursue a formal eviction, it’s best to speak to an experienced eviction attorney.
The main difference between tenants and guests is that guests don’t have their name on the lease, pay rent in exchange for housing, or stay for an extended period. Anyone regularly staying in your rental until can be considered a tenant and no longer a short-term guest. It’s good to remember that you should not accept rent from guests because then you make them a tenant. In this case, you have a verbal agreement without any paperwork to back you up.