Every 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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