When Does a Guest Become a Tenant?

A frustrating topic for landlords is figuring out when a guest becomes a tenant. It can be confusing to determine the difference between a guest or a tenant.

In the post below we will break down what the difference is and what you need to know as the landlord.

A table of contents for When Does a Guest Become a Tenant?

What is the difference between a tenant and a guest?

What is the difference between a tenant and a guest?

Plain and simple, a tenant is named on the lease while a guest is not mentioned in the lease. If a friend moves into the rental without the landlord’s consent or knowledge that doesn’t make the person a tenant.

When you and your tenants signed the rental agreement, listed on that agreement were all the tenants (i.e., roommates) who would ultimately be liable for payment of the rent and carrying out the obligations specified in the rental agreement.

While most rental agreements run their course without any changes necessary, on occasion, you may find that one needs updating. One situation where this becomes painfully obvious is when the people seemingly living in an apartment are clearly not the original tenants.

Clues that you may have a longterm guest:

A guest that is overstaying their welcome will leave clues for the landlord to find.

If you notice vehicles parked at the rental overnight or mail being sent to the apartment it may be time to discuss the lease with your current renter.

This is why it can be helpful to have a good relationship with the neighbors of your rental properties. They’ll be able to tell you if there seems to be an abundance of traffic in and out of the rental.

If you have a suspicion that a guest has moved in, let your tenant know you plan to do an inspection of the rental property. It will be easy to spot if someone new is living in the rental.

Do occupancy standards affect longterm guests?

Every municipality has occupancy standards in place. These are laws that dictate the legal number of people that can reside in a property based on square footage.

You’ll want to research your local and state laws but we’ve found that these laws are pretty loose in most areas.
Chances are that you will not have grounds for eviction based on occupancy standards since the living room and dining room can count towards total square footage. Unless your tenant has many people living in the rental it’s unlikely they’re violating occupancy standards of the municipality.

Should I accept rent from a non-tenant?

You should never accept rent from a non-tenant. If a guest, parent, or friend wants to help contribute towards rent they can provide those funds to the renter.

As a landlord, you are opening yourself up to unnecessary scrutiny from a judge if you accept rent from a guest.
Never accept any rent payment from a non-tenant.

Should I amend the rental agreement?

Should I amend the rental agreement?

Laws vary, of course, but in general, a guest becomes a roommate per the verbiage specified in the rental agreement. This is why it is vitally important to cover your bases in your rental contracts—have them written and/or reviewed by a competent real estate attorney. It will be money wisely spent.

Assuming that the necessary verbiage is contained in the rental agreement, simply follow the process.

For example, if the rental agreement states that a tenant can have a stay-over guest 4 times in one month, and you know that Shelly has stayed overnight 14 out of 18 days, there is a great chance you can convince Bill and Bob that they need to add Shelly as a tenant to the rental agreement.

If they decline, you should attempt to either reconsider your request or tell Shelly to stay over less often. Abide by the rules or face the consequences.

Should I evict my tenant for having a longterm tenant?

Your final option would be evicting the tenant and guests.

If Bill and Bob are breaching their rental agreement, you have every right to begin the eviction process.

If you choose not to, it is in your best interest to get Shelly on that rental agreement.

Courts vary widely in their treatment and application of “guests versus roommates” and you may want to find out how your local jurisdiction treats such cases. Of course, the past is not necessarily indicative of how they may rule in your case, but history is a good indicator of how they may respond.

The best rule of thumb to follow is this: If it looks like someone has moved in, try your hardest to get them on the rental agreement. Failure to do so can cause unneeded problems for you down the road.