long-term guestsTo protect yourself and your property, every adult living at your rental unit should sign a lease agreement to hold them legally responsible for rent payments and conditions of the lease.  Most standard leases stipulate that tenants are accountable for any guests’ behavior and are responsible for enforcing the property’s rules and regulations.

But what happens when a guest becomes more than just a temporary visitor to your property?

A long-term guest that considers your property his home, needs to be handled differently than the standard guest language in a lease agreement. Even if this long-term guest was not involved in the original lease signing process, it is in a landlord’s or property manager’s best interest to make sure any person living at the rental property is documented and accountable to the terms of the lease.

What is a Long-Term Guest?

Any person who stays at your property that is not listed on the lease agreement is considered a guest of your tenant. A temporary guest transitions into a long-term guest when they take up residence on your property without permission from a manager or owner.

While some states might have a designated time period in which a temporary visitor is classified as a long-term guest, in most cases a landlord can specify if a visitor becomes a long-term guest after 7, 14 or 30 days (or more).  It is the responsibility of the landlord to include lease conditions about when he needs to be notified if a guest is staying at the property for an extended period of time and at which point the guest needs to be added to a lease agreement.

Why Do Tenants Have Long-Term Guests?

Your tenant may not even realize they are violating the conditions of your lease when they let a friend crash on the couch in between jobs or apartments.  Or maybe a family member is visiting from out of town or going through a life change and needs the support of your tenant. Other common situations involve romantic relationships, where a tenant invites a boyfriend or girlfriend to stay with them.  Or an adult child going through a transition. A couple days easily becomes a few weeks and after awhile, the temporary guests have been calling your property home for months.

Why Are Long-Term Guests Dangerous?

Long-term guests can become a liability to a landlord or manager when they fail to uphold the rules of your property and conditions in the lease agreement.  A long-term guest can evolve into a bigger liability if you are in the process of evicting a leased tenant, but are unaware of an undocumented occupant.  If someone claims to live at your property but is not listed on your rental agreement, the eviction process will become more complicated when the unlisted tenant makes a claim to your property and refuses to move out.

Do I need to have screen long-term guests?

As a landlord, it is your right and responsibility to protect your property, yourself and your residents by taking the appropriate steps to ensure your tenants are responsible renters.  Anyone who signs a lease agreement to live at your rental property should go through a tenant screening process to ensure their fiscal responsibility and rule abiding behavior.  If you require a long-term guest to become listed on the lease, you should proceed with your standard tenant screening criteria.

Get the Law On Your Side

Your state laws may have specific regulations about how you can enforce long-term guest clauses in your lease agreements.  You should also consult state and local laws concerning the number of adults legally allowed per bedroom per property.  Talking to a lawyer familiar with your region’s landlord-tenant laws is the best way to protect yourself, your property and your tenants’ rights.

Refusing to Sign

If a long-term guest refuses to go through with your screening process or sign your lease agreement you may be able to void the lease altogether and move forward with an eviction on the grounds that your tenant did not uphold the conditions of the lease regarding long-term guests.

A long-term guest is not necessarily a bad thing, but they do need to be held accountable for the lease terms and conditions of your property and the only way to enforce this is to have them sign an addendum adding them to the lease.

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