when does a guest become a tenant

It is a given that tenants will have guests coming and going throughout their time at your rental unit. These guests can be visiting friends, family members, or even significant others. However, problems arise when these guests end up staying an indefinite amount of time. That is the point when they can turn into long-term guests.

What’s the big deal?

These long-term guests can easily become a liability for you. They aren’t on the lease, so they are essentially immune from the terms and conditions that your actual tenants need to follow. If they cause damage to your rental unit or endanger your actual tenants, then it can be incredibly difficult to legally hold them accountable. There is also the fact that you cannot collect rent from them.

In the case of eviction, they also complicate the process and turn into a bigger liability. If there is someone who claims to live in your rental unit but isn’t on the lease or rental agreement, then they can make a claim to your property and refuse to move out.

When Does a Guest Become a Tenant?

The difference between a guest and a tenant is fairly straightforward. A tenant is on the lease, whereas a guest is not. The issue comes in when guests begin to act like a tenant. These are considered ‘long-term guests’ or ‘rogue tenants’. They have no legal accountability because they are not on the lease. There are a few different common examples of a guest versus a tenant.

Nannies: If nannies are only on-site during regular business hours or stay the occasional night, then they would be considered a guest. However, if they are full-time nannies that live on the property, then they would be considered a tenant.

Romantic Partners: If romantic partners visit and only stay overnight occasionally, then they would be considered just a guest. However, if they spend most of their days and night at your property, and stay overnight for many days in a row, they should be considered a tenant. This is especially relevant if they park at the property frequently, and have furniture and personal belongings at the property.

College Students: College students coming home for weekends or short breaks are considered to be just guests. However, coming home for long breaks, such as over the summer, they would be considered tenants as long as they are 18 and over.

Elderly Parents: A common reason for your tenant’s elderly parents to move into your unit is because they can no longer live alone. Obviously, they would then need to be put onto the unit as a tenant. However, if they are visiting for a few weeks, or helping with a new child, for example, they would be a guest.

The timeline for a guest becoming a tenant varies depending on the different laws or statutes in your specific area.

What to do About a Long-Term Guest

Now that you’ve determined whether or not you have a long-term guest, it’s time to figure out what to do. While it may not seem like a big deal at first, it can quickly spiral out of control.

Learn more: Do Your Tenants Have Long-Term Guests?

When originally making your lease, it is important to make sure that you have a limit to how many consecutive days or nights guests of your tenant can stay, or have them require approval from you if they want to stay longer. Double-check your state or local laws, so you can know how to enforce your limitations.

If this issue comes up after your tenants have already signed your lease and you do not have a clause that addresses long-term guests, then you can have both parties involved sign an addendum, adding the guest to the lease as another tenant after they have gone through your normal tenant screening process. Having them sign an addendum is the only way to be sure that the lease terms and conditions of your property are being upheld.

If the long-term guest refuses to sign the lease addendum, then you might be able to void the entire lease and evict your tenant on the grounds that they did not uphold the conditions of the lease. This is dependent on state rental laws regarding long-term guests. Keep in mind that the eviction process can become more complicated, since your state may legally consider the guest an unlisted tenant who can make a claim to your property and refuse to move out.

Make sure the law is on your side, no matter how you go about dealing with long-term guests. This can include consulting state and local laws about how many adults are legally allowed in each bedroom. Your state might also have regulations on how to enforce your long-term guest clauses.

Be sure to talk to a lawyer about your area’s landlord-tenant laws. As with any legal matter, the best way to avoid a sticky situation is to ensure that your lease is legal and comprehensive. Getting help from a lawyer to guarantee that your lease is rock-solid will address problems before they arise.

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