Does Landlord Have the Right to Approve Housesitter?

by Janet Portman, Inman News

Identity photoQ: My tenant is planning on being away for three months, and has informed me that she will have a housesitter for the house and to take care of the yard and dog.

I told her that I’d need to meet, screen and approve this person, but my tenant says that’s ridiculous. She’s adamant that she has a right to have someone watch the place and doesn’t need my approval.

Who’s right? –Paul M.

A: In this situation, it’s reasonable for you to insist on knowing who will be living in your property while your tenant is away. You tenant isn’t going to be gone a mere week or two, and the housesitter isn’t simply collecting the mail and watering the plants.

A three-month, full-time resident is an occupant, not a mere visitor or guest. This person has plenty of opportunity to damage your property and cause problems, and although your tenant would legally be responsible (along with the sitter) for any damage, that will be cold comfort to you if you end up having to deal with repairs, unhappy neighbors and possibly an eviction.

Hopefully, your lease has a clause that prohibits unauthorized occupants — people living in the rental without your consent. This clause gives you the authority to insist on screening and approving any long-term occupant.

Even if the lease simply recites the name of the tenant, this alone gives you the leverage you need (by implication, you’re renting to only this person). Explain to your tenant that you will be prompt and reasonable, and be sure to follow through. Chances are, if this is a stable, conscientious tenant who takes pride in her home, she will have chosen a similarly minded friend whom she knows well to tend her nest while she’s away (in this respect, the two of you share the same goals).

But if your tenant got the housesitter’s name off a Web site bulletin board, there’s no telling what you’ll get unless you do some checking.

Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of “Every Landlord’s Legal Guide” and “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide.” She can be reached at [email protected].

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Copyright 2008 Janet Portman

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