How Landlords can Handle Long-Term Guests

What to do when a guest overstays their welcome.

An older woman and a teenage girl sit in a clean, white kitchen. The teenager has a cookie in her mouth and is reaching for something unseen on the counter. The older woman holds her hands up as if in conversation with the younger girl.

We all know the importance of a clear lease agreement. It sets expectations and provides a shared reference point for both landlord and tenant. However, what happens when a tenant's guest overstays their welcome? This creates a situation akin to having an unauthorized subtenant, someone who isn't bound by the lease agreement and can put you in a difficult position.

If you have experienced problems with long-term guests, you may have learned the hard way that unless you have some solid language in the lease agreement regarding long-term stays, it can be very difficult to get your tenant to comply.

Who Is Considered A Long-Term Guest?

The line between guest and tenant is clear: anyone who has signed the lease is a tenant, anyone who hasn't is a guest. At first glance, it may not seem like that big of a deal for your tenant to have long-term guests stay at the rental property. You might be thinking of a significant other who stays over a few nights per week, or a situation where family members from out of town visit for a week or two.

While these situations are usually fine and unobtrusive, many property owners are familiar with cautionary tales involving long-term guests who have created major problems. Notably, in certain states, if a person resides in a rental property for long enough, they may actually gain certain tenant or squatter's rights, necessitating an eviction process despite the absence of a formal lease agreement. The risks associated with unauthorized occupants in a property you own are considerable, as there is no legal framework governing their stay.

Thebiggest problem with a long-term guestis that you will not be able to do the appropriate screening that you would for a tenant. You won't know what this person's criminal or work background is, nor what they are like as a tenant or neighbor. In the event of damage, noise, or any other lease violation, you would have no real ground to stand on for "evicting" them, collecting damages or enforcing the lease agreement. If you neglect to add a clause about long-term guests to the lease agreement, you run the risk of jeopardizing both you and your property. In other words, you are providing a place to live to a person who is not on the lease agreement and bound to the property in any legal way.

Examples of long-term guests might include:

  1. Retired parents who plan on staying several months.
  2. A girlfriend or boyfriend moving in.
  3. A family member on an extended vacation.
  4. A friend who has experienced hardships and is staying until they get back on their feet.
  5. Anyone your tenant is renting a room to via companies like Airbnb.
  6. A subletter that your tenant contracted with.

There's no limit to the number of long-term guests that your tenant may invite, further compounding the problem. In order for you to enforce and uphold the rules and conditions you've outlined in the lease agreement, you must have all the adults in the unit listed there with their signature, as well as a clear-cut guest provision.

5 Tips On Dealing With Long-Term Guests

Whether you have discovered your tenant is hosting guests or you want to prevent such a scenario for the future, there are plenty of things that landlords can do to deal with long-term guests.

Here are 5 tips on making sure that you are doing everything you can to reduce or eliminate long-term guests at your rental property.

1. Include Appropriate Language In The Lease Agreement

If your lease agreement doesn't already include a clause about long-term guests, it's time to amend it. Make sure you are clear about overnight guests and your expectations. For example, you may want to state that one or two guests staying for less than 7 consecutive nights don't need permission, but any guest who will be staying longer than 7 nights must get written permission from the landlord.

Another option is to limit the consecutive nights that a guest can stay to 2 or 3. This can prevent boyfriends, girlfriends, or partners from slowly becoming permanent residents without your knowledge. Yet another example might be to limit guests to no more than 14 days in a 4-month period. No matter what you decide, make sure the language is clear and that you are in compliance with any state laws.

2. Treat Subletting Differently

Many landlords are finding themselves at a crossroads with tenants who sublease or turn their rentals into pop-up hotel operations via platforms like Airbnb. It's a smart move to spell out the rules about subletting in the lease agreement, making it crystal clear if it's off the table or under which specific scenarios it might be allowed. More and more, landlords are taking a firm stand by outright prohibiting short-term rentals through Airbnb in their contracts.

3. Talk With The Tenant

If your tenant approaches you to request permission for a guest to stay past your agreed-upon terms, be open to hearing what they have to say. You may consider granting permission for an out-of-state family member who is visiting, but not their out-of-work buddy who needs to crash somewhere during his divorce proceedings. If you do give permission, make sure you are both clear on the exact terms of the stay and when the guest will be leaving.

Make sure to follow up with the tenant to ensure the guest is indeed gone. Before granting permission, remind the tenant that they are responsible for the guest's behavior, including any damages to the rental. If the tenant wants to add a roommate or live with a significant other and you tentatively agree that it's okay, start the rental application process the right way with the guest and take it from there.

4. Act Quickly

The biggest mistake you can make is to delay any kind of action once you discover or are told about a guest. Some landlords who are confrontation averse will take a wait-and-see approach, hoping the guest will go away on their own with no problems. Obviously, this is a less than ideal way to manage your property, and you need to be more assertive in finding out what's going on. Once you learn the details of what's happening with the guest's stay you can make your next move, such as reminding the tenant about the guest rules, asking the guest to fill out an application to be added to the lease, or in extreme cases, start the eviction process against your tenant for breaking the lease agreement.

5. Give Warnings And Eviction Notices When Necessary

As much as you may not want to deal with an eviction, you may be faced with worrying problems from the long-term guest. Some of the more common issues that might arise include abuse of parking spaces, noise, damage, liability for injury, and using community equipment (laundry) and areas (swimming pool or clubhouse) that is expressly reserved for tenants. For each violation, deliver a written warning to the tenant, who is responsible for all guests on the property, short- or long-term. Even if the tenant is not the cause of, or is unaware of the infractions, they are still responsible and must receive the warnings. Lease violations should trigger your eviction process as well, even if the issues stem from the guest and not the tenant.

Take It Case By Case

There are plenty of scenarios that landlords encounter with guests of tenants that are completely innocent and deserve some consideration and a compromise. Consider that everyone will have guests at some point, so creating a guest policy that is too restrictive can backfire into your tenant sneaking in long-term guests and hiding other activities from you. Instead, create a reasonable policy to be your starting point and keep the lines of communication open. When your tenant understands the regulations on guests, but knows you are a reasonable landlord, they will be more likely to come to you with each unique situation.

On the other hand, abuse of guest privilege is just like any other lease violation, especially when it comes to subletting and short-term stays that earn money for the tenants. When you have your basic guest policy right there in the lease agreement, it is easier to simply cite that and enforce it until you get the result you want. You must treat long-term guest abuse just as you would any other problem with your tenant, and act quickly to prevent any problems, immediately and down the road. Whether you are fine with an additional roommate and just want them on the lease, or you just want all guests out for good, your long-term guest policy and how you enforce it is the best way to move forward.

Created on: 04/18/24

Author: CreditLink Secure Blog Team

Tags: subletting, short-term rental , violation , lease violation , friend , family , visit , tenant guest , guest , long-term guest , airbnb,

Explore More