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landlord helpEvery tenant will want to have a guest over from time to time. But that seemingly simple practice can easily give rise to problems for a landlord. 

What if the guest is disruptive, dangerous, or violates house rules?  And what if they become a more permanent fixture to the rental property.

The problem stems from the fact that a landlord has no idea who the guest is, nor how much access they have been given.  Do they have a key?  Access to security codes?  In multi-family, the landlord has to look out for the safety of other tenants.  And in single-family properties, the landlord has to consider occupancy standards, possible damage or theft, and complaints from the neighbors.

The best tenant guest policy is to anticipate the problem and lay out the rules –and possible consequences, in the lease. You’ll want to consider some of the following points:

Prohibit tenants from giving security access to guests.

Tell tenants where guests can park if that is an issue.

State any restrictions on how many guests can be in the rental property at one time.

Are there noise, smoking rules?

The words “tenant will be evicted” should appear to warn the tenant they must keep all guests under control, and are responsible for any damage or disruptions their guests create.

How long can an overnight guest stay before they become more than a guest?

Prohibit the tenant from moving anyone else in without your express permission — avoid the “I thought you knew” defense.

If the guest stays on, include provisions in the lease that allow the landlord to approve the new resident, including a requirement that the newbie fill out a rental application and agree to a tenant background check — just like a tenant.  Let them know the house rules.

Other rights you may have as the landlord — like raising rent for the new occupant, will depend on the laws in your state or city, so check with an attorney first, then disclose those rules in the lease.

There is always the opportunity to renegotiate the lease and add the new occupant as a tenant.  That provides rights to the landlord to collect rent against any of the tenants, but also gives rights to the new occupant, so consider the big picture.

The safest bet is to enforce the guest policies uniformly so that a tenant doesn’t allege discrimination.  You wouldn’t want to allow male tenants to have short-term guests with no hassles, but get on the case of a woman who is doing the same thing– so plan ahead and develop policies geared toward protecting the property and the safety of other tenants.

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    Also, with regard to those people who would like to host guests for a dinner party, especially around the holiday season, plan to structure a guest policy that is family friendly, but be careful with “special exceptions” for any holiday as allowing for Christmas parties but denying another religious holiday (however obscure) could be construed as discrimination.

    Different policies for tenants with guests who arrive for a senior bridge club versus young children hosting a birthday party may also put the landlord in harms way for age discrimination lawsuits.

    Your policies, if changed or newly implemented may NOT be immediatly enforceable against tenants who do not receive written notice at a minimum, and where the rental agreement does not call for “policies” to be obeyed by them. A quick look-up of the legal definition of a policy will show anyone that a policy applies to members of the subject corporation (meaning the employees of the landlord and / or management firm) and do not necessarily create a new obligation on the part of third parties like tenants (unless they are on-site managers), so be very careful in implementing new policies without a review period and future implementation date that allows them to be enforced evenly over all tenants at once.

    A better route than “policy” and posted rules on signs is to build all legal matters explicitly into written contracts. Relying on a presumption that everyone knows the policy or plausible denial of a tenant may be foolhardy.

  • Doug

    The above is all very well and good but I’ve not found detailed leases to be very effective as a landlord. While dealing with honorable tenants, they are not needed. One can have all the terms and clauses in the world when dealing with deceitful tenants and the lease is virtually useless.

    Here in Connecticut, the only surefire way of winning an eviction in housing court is to evict for non-payment. Ending tenancy based upon a tenant’s default on one or more lease terms is called evicting for lapse of time (you are ending the lease due to a violation and thus the time for tenancy has lapsed). The housing court judges can and generally do give a 6 month stay of execution to almost any tenant being evicted for lapse of time, thus defeating the intent of the lease. Evictions for “no right of occupancy” and “nuisance” are very hard to prove, needing hard evidence such as police reports..

  • Another Doug (in CT)

    I agree with the other Doug in CT. After 20 years of adding in lease detail for each tenant “innovation” (no salt walter fish tanks, no parking boat and trailer in front of unit, etc) I’ve gone back to the original lease which I thought was very strict when I first read it.

    It’s more important to throw out the applications that have *any* red flag and interview the rest. I can tell with good accuracy what the experience with any given tenant will be like just from how they act during this process. When it’s slow I take them anyway and put up with results, otherwise I pick carefully and often end up friends.

  • Anne

    I needed information on this subject because I have recently had a problem with noise and extra guests parking on other’s yards. I have warned and the guests keep coming so I have asked her to move. However, she has not and claims discrimination. I do not want to go to court over a discrimination suite but have a situation that is uncomfortable for the other tenants. From now on my lease will include more on the guests that are able to come and park at a residence. Thanks for the tips.

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