Simple Landlord Guide: Adding Someone to a Lease

Updated December 2023

Your rental lease agreement is more than just a piece of paper—it’s a legal roadmap defining who lives in your property, their financial commitments, and maintenance responsibilities. When a current tenant wants to bring in a new roommate, it’s not just about rearranging furniture but updating that crucial legal contract.

Lease agreements are like protective shields for both landlords and tenants. Everyone listed is legally tied to the property, covering everything from rent and utilities to security deposits and damages. Landlords, on the other hand, play a role in ensuring a safe and well-maintained living space, respecting privacy and accessibility for all occupants.

Adding a new tenant isn’t a bureaucratic maze; it’s a straightforward process. It’s also a chance for landlords to vet potential residents, ensuring they meet their standard criteria. Our step-by-step guide makes this process a breeze, giving you every reason to add new occupants to existing leases.

Table Of Contents – Adding Someone To A Lease

As the landlord, you already know how to create a strong lease agreement. Now, learn how to adapt that existing lease to add another tenant.

Why You Should Add A Tenant To The Existing Lease Agreement

Why You Should Add A Tenant To The Existing Lease Agreement

Suppose a tenant approaches you about letting another adult live in your rental property. In that case, you may consider just letting the person move in without changing the terms of your existing contract, especially if the end of the contract is near.

That might seem more straightforward, but allowing unofficial tenant guests to stay in your rental properties is never a good idea. This situation creates a lot of unnecessary risks and can threaten your business.

Below are the main reasons for adding new tenants to existing lease agreements.

Update Rent Terms

Adding a tenant to a lease allows you to upgrade rental terms to accommodate the new occupant. This may include an increased security deposit or rent, especially if utilities are included, as more occupants mean more usage.

Legal Protection

A lease is a legally binding agreement that outlines the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and tenants. Adding new tenants to the lease ensures they are legally recognized as occupants bound by the lease terms.


All tenants listed on the lease are jointly and severally liable, meaning they are each individually responsible for all lease obligations, including the total amount of the rent and care of the property. This protects the landlord in case one tenant fails to meet their obligations.

Screening Process

Adding a tenant typically includes completing an application with the opportunity to screen the potential new tenant. This allows the landlord to discover any issues, such as a history of evictions, criminal activity, or poor credit, which could put their property at risk.

Rent Control

In areas with rent control, adding a tenant to the lease ensures the new occupant is also subject to rent control regulations. This can prevent disputes over rent increases or other changes affecting the tenancy.

Property Maintenance

When a tenant is officially recognized, they’re more likely to take better care of the property because they understand they are accountable for damages and maintenance issues.

Rules And Regulations

Lease agreements often contain rules regarding noise, use of common areas, pets, and more. Adding a tenant to the lease ensures the new tenant is aware of and agrees to these terms, which helps prevent future conflicts.

Insurance Purposes

For insurance purposes, it’s essential to have all occupants listed on the lease. This can affect liability and coverage in an accident or damage.

Subletting Prevention

By requiring new tenants to be added to the lease, landlords can prevent unauthorized subletting, which could lead to unvetted individuals living on the property without the landlord’s knowledge or consent.

Occupancy Limits

Adding tenants to the lease helps maintain accurate occupancy records, ensuring the property does not exceed legal occupancy limits, which can be a matter of health and safety.

Relationship Clarity

An explicit lease agreement with all occupants listed establishes a formal landlord-tenant relationship with each tenant, making communication and dispute resolution more straightforward.

In essence, adding a new tenant to an existing lease agreement upholds the integrity of the contract, ensures all parties are protected under the law, and maintains the order and condition of the property. It’s a critical step in the proper management of rental properties.

How To Add A Tenant To Your Lease In 5 Steps

Now that you have a better understanding of why you always want to add new occupants as tenants on a lease, it’s time to learn how to go about that. Sometimes, your existing tenant will approach you about wanting to add someone. Other times, you’ll need to ask your tenant to have a long-term occupant officially join the lease.

Either way, follow these five steps to either approve or deny the request the right way:

Step 1: Obtain A Written Request

If your tenant requests permission for another adult to move into their rental property with them, such as a partner or a roommate to help cover the rent, or you discover an unauthorized person living with your tenant in one of your properties, invite the tenant to submit in writing the request to add another person to the lease.

This request is essential to have written notice of what the tenant hopes to do. Also, it gives you time to think before making a decision. Having only a verbal conversation means you might feel pressured to make an immediate decision. Ask for a written request, so you have time to do the necessary backend work before deciding.

Step 2: Check The Property’s Occupancy Limit

Before you continue, consider the legal implications of the request. You’ll want to ensure the tenant’s request does not cause the household to exceed the rental property’s occupancy limit (as set by local statutes and ordinances). In most regions, occupancy limits are two people per bedroom plus one more individual. Some specific localities, such as New York City, have higher occupancy limits.

If adding another tenant would be too many individuals in the rental, send a written notification that the request for an additional resident has been denied and why.

If adding another tenant will not break the occupancy limit, move on to the next step.

Step 3: Acquire A Completed Rental Application

Once you’ve determined that it would be legally permissible for another person to move in, send the existing tenant an official tenant application form for the potential roommate and ask them to return it to you by a certain date.  Each new person on a lease must fill out a rental application so you can perform a tenant background check and reference check. They should also pay the standard application fee to cover the cost of those checks.

You can download our basic rental application template here.

Do your usual screening process on additional tenants just as you would if you did not currently have a tenant. The new tenant should meet your usual qualifications and expectations—there’s no reason to lower the standard because someone is moving in mid-lease.

Step 4: Make A Decision

If you deny the application, send the current tenant and the applicant notice in writing that the application is denied. Be careful about violating privacy agreements between you and the applicant when informing the current tenant. Also, let the applicant know why you are denying their request.

If you approve the application, invite the tenant and the new roommate to sign a new lease agreement or an amendment to the current lease.

Step 5: Review The Details With The Tenants

Meet with the tenants and explain the details of an additional security deposit and the amended lease. Remind the tenants that they are both responsible for the full rent amount, even if one person does not pay their portion.

Go over the lease agreement with the new tenant so they understand the rental property’s rules and policies. Sign and date the new lease or the lease amendment and make copies for everyone.

Adding A Tenant To An Existing Lease vs. Lease Addendums

When compiling the legal paperwork to add a tenant to a lease, you can create an addendum to the existing lease or create a new lease agreement. The best option depends on the situation and your preference.

Using A Lease Addendum

When using an occupancy addendum, you’ll list anything that will change when the roommate is added and reiterate the tenancy terms for the new tenant.

For example, you will likely want to cover the following details:

  • When the new tenant is moving in, and when they will move out
  • Amount of any additional security deposit required
  • How much rent will cost and who is responsible for it
  • If the rental agreements are individual or joined (i.e., are they accountable for the entire rent if the other person moves out or stops paying?)

Be sure to cover any situations specific to your rental units, such as parking or utilities. If anything changes because of the additional tenant, the addendum must address it. Also, the addendum should reiterate that any part of the original lease not being replaced still applies to all tenants signing the agreement.

All tenants, including those on the original lease agreement, should sign the addendum with you. Keep copies in your records, and make sure all tenants have a copy.

Please read our complete guide on how to use addendums for lease agreements here.

Using A New Lease

Sometimes, you might use a new lease instead of writing an addendum. This is particularly common whenever a lot of the original terms of the lease will change with the addition of the new tenant or when you’ll be starting a new, full-term lease period with the addition of the tenant.

A new lease is also beneficial whenever you increase rent or security deposits or change other significant terms of the original lease. All parties must still agree to the new terms, but using a new lease might be more straightforward than having a long list of addendums to the original lease.

As with any lease, all parties should sign and have a copy for their records.

It’s Up To You And Your Tenants

Both a new lease and a lease addendum provide the same formality. These documents clarify the terms that will apply to the tenants living at the property, which is vital. Either documentation method is acceptable, so it’s up to you (and, in some cases, your tenants) to determine the best method for your situation.

As a landlord, you can change tenancy conditions when adding a tenant as long as all parties agree. Security deposits, rent, and utilities are a few things you might change. Regardless of the changes, however, you should update the lease agreement to reflect them.

There are many forms to keep track of throughout this process. From lease addendums to rental applications and lease agreements, landlords are often overwhelmed by keeping all these documents straight. Here at RentPrep, we offer a complete Landlord Form Kit that includes many sample forms you can use to make things easier. Take a look today!

How Do You Remove A Tenant From A Lease Agreement

As a landlord, you may also find yourself in a situation where you need to remove a tenant from a lease. If a couple separates, for example, one may decide to move out while the other stays. If friends live together, one may move on while another chooses to stay alone or with a new roommate.

The process of removing a tenant from a multi-tenant lease is not dissimilar from that of adding a new tenant.

Step 1 – Review The Lease Agreement

Start by looking at the original lease to determine the modification provisions. Specific clauses outline how changes can be made and how tenants can be added or removed.

Step 2 – Communicate With All Parties

Speak with all tenants involved, including the one leaving and any remaining on the lease. Everyone should be aware of the situation and the process.

Step 3 – Voluntary Termination Agreement

Ideally, the tenant who is leaving would mutually agree with the landlord and the remaining tenants. This may involve signing a document that releases them from their obligations under the lease, with the consent of all parties.

Step 4 – Negotiate Terms With Remaining Tenants

The landlord must ensure the remaining tenants will still fulfill the lease obligations, including the total amount of rent. This might involve signing a new lease or an amendment with the remaining tenants.

Step 5 – Find A Replacement Tenant (If Necessary)

If the remaining tenants cannot afford the rent on their own, or if the lease requires a certain number of occupants, it may be necessary to find a new tenant to take over the departing tenant’s portion. The landlord should approve the new tenant, and they should meet the same screening criteria as the original tenant.

Step 6 – Document Everything

Any agreements should be documented in writing, including lease amendments, tenant removal agreements, and new lease agreements if adding a new tenant.

Step 7 – Return Of Security Deposit

The departing tenant’s share of the security deposit might be returned if agreed upon by all parties. However, landlords often retain the security deposit until the end of the lease term and may only return it after deducting any damages or unpaid rent.

Step 8 – Official Lease Amendment

The lease should be officially amended to remove the departing tenant. All remaining tenants, the departing tenant, and the landlord should sign this amendment.

FAQs About Adding Someone To A Lease

Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about adding a new tenant to an existing lease agreement.

Can You Add Someone To Your Apartment Lease After Signing Without Telling The Landlord?

If a tenant allows someone not on their lease to live with them long-term, they may be in violation of their lease agreement, which is a legal contract between landlord and tenant. Consequently, the landlord may evict the tenant for violating the agreement.

Good lease agreements should define who is considered a long-term guest and who is an unauthorized occupant.

Does It Cost More To Add Someone To A Lease?

Additional costs are often associated with adding new tenants to an existing lease. New tenants must complete an application form and pay an application fee to cover the cost of tenant screening. The same fee rules will apply as they did for the original applicant.

Tenants may argue that they already cover the rent; therefore, these new background and credit checks are unnecessary. However, additional tenant screening can reveal important information, such as previous renting issues and criminal backgrounds.

Adding a new tenant may also increase the security deposit since they add risk to the property. In some cases, rent may increase as well. This is especially true if the utilities, for example, are included in the rent.

Can A Landlord Refuse To Add Someone To The Lease?

Landlords are not required to allow changes to the tenancy terms once the original lease agreement is signed. This means they can refuse to add someone to a lease for various reasons, such as occupancy limits or issues highlighted by tenant screening.

However, landlords may not deny any applicant for discriminatory reasons. If a landlord refuses an applicant over a protected class issue, this is cause for dispute and potentially a significant fine.

Do I Need To Tell My Landlord If My Partner Moves In With Me?

Yes, most leases require that a tenant inform the landlord about any long-term guests or changes in occupancy. Your partner will typically need to be added to the lease as a tenant, especially if they live there permanently.

What If The New Tenant Has A Pet?

If the new tenant has a pet, you must check the original lease agreement for the pet policy. If pets are allowed, there may be additional fees or deposits required. If pets are not allowed, the tenant should negotiate with their landlord.

Do Adult Children Need To Be Added To Lease Agreements?

If adult children live with their parents in a rental unit, the best action is to discuss the situation with the landlord. In many cases, landlords will require any adult occupant to complete an application process and be added to the lease to reside in the property legally.

However, there can be flexibility, and it’s not uncommon for landlords to allow adult children to live with their parents without being on the lease, especially if the parents alone qualify financially and the children are considered part-time occupants, such as college students returning home for breaks.

Can I Sublet A Room Without Adding The Person To The Lease?

Subletting without adding someone to the lease can violate the lease terms unless the existing tenant has explicit permission from the landlord. Subletting often requires a separate subletting agreement, and the original tenant typically remains responsible for the rent and condition of the property.

What If My New Roommate Does Not Pass The Landlord’s Application Process?

If the new roommate does not meet the landlord’s criteria, they may not be allowed to move in. In some cases, landlords may be willing to reconsider if additional conditions are met, such as a higher security deposit or prepaid rent.

Are There Limits To How Many People Can Live In A Rental Unit?

Yes, there can be limits based on the rental agreement and local housing codes. These codes may specify a maximum occupancy to ensure safety and comfort.

Always Update Your Lease Agreements When Adding Tenants

All adult occupants of a rental property should be officially listed on the lease agreement. This reduces risks as all occupants are legally responsible for paying rent and maintaining the property in good condition.

If an occupant is not on the lease, they have no written obligation to follow your rules, and it can be difficult to pursue legal action against them if necessary. Adding them to the agreement also allows you to screen the new tenant and ensure they meet your requirements.

Learn more about the tenant screening process by reading our guide today!

Please Note: RentPrep does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice. You should consult your tax, legal, or accounting advisors.