As a landlord, finding out that someone has been living on your property unbeknownst to you is far from good news. Long-term guests aren’t bound by the terms and conditions of the lease, so having them reside with your actual tenants is a problem waiting to happen. If you’ve found yourself wondering why the office has suddenly been changed to a makeshift bedroom or the couch in the living room looks suspiciously like someone’s been making a bed out of it, you might just have a long-term guest on your hands. So what are your options?
Establish a Policy for Long-Term Guests
The best way to handle this situation is by preparing for it long before it ever happens. Handling long-term guests will be much easier if you establish rules in your lease agreement (and remember, for any legal questions or changes to your lease agreement, always consult a local lawyer, preferably one with rental property experience). It’s common for landlords to put a limit anywhere from a few days to a week or two for a visitor. Set your limit based on how comfortable you are with unregistered guests staying on your property.
In determining your policy, it helps to consider who your tenants typically are. If your tenants are college students, for example, it’s only a matter of time until they have an out-of-town friend over for a weekend or perhaps a week. This sort of situation is expected and won’t likely result in any issues, but if someone is crashing on the couch almost every night for a semester, it could spell trouble for you as a landlord. Guests not signed on the lease aren’t bound by its terms and conditions nor compelled to pay rent, and in the event of an issue, trying to hold them accountable would mean for a legal headache. Be quick to reiterate to your tenants the terms of the lease if you find that a guest has stayed so long they can’t even be considered a guest anymore.
Additional Reading: College-Age Tenants: What to Expect
Managing Complicated Situations
Not all situations are as clear-cut as a couch-dwelling college classmate shacking up in the living room, and it’s important to keep that in mind when choosing how to approach your tenants about the issue. A college student coming back to his or her parents’ house for the summer sure has a different ring to it than some old buddy who’s been saying he’ll move out when he gets back on his feet for four months. A sick family member moving in to get necessary help and attention from family might be a violation of the lease, but you don’t want your tenants thinking you’re the modern-day Scrooge.
In these situations, communicate to your tenants the concerns on your end and be willing to hear them out. Unless the long-term guest is a plague on the house, tell your tenants you’d be happy to allow the guest to move in permanently if they’ll sign an addendum to the original lease. Whether you keep rent the same or raise it to reflect the new number of heads under the roof is up to you.
Additional Reading: Communicate with Tenants for Pain-Free Management
No matter the potential situation or the type of renter, setting clear rules upfront is the best way to head off any complications due to a long-term guest. And when all else fails, rely on strong communication between yourself and your tenants to navigate any potential pitfalls that spring up.
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