add tenant existing lease agreement

Updated November 2021

A signed rental lease agreement is very specific about who’s allowed to live in the rental property. So, what happens when your tenant wants someone else to move in? In that case, you’ll need to add a tenant to the existing lease.

It’s key that you make sure to have every adult tenant listed on your rental agreement. The adults named on a lease are legally responsible for the property—from rent and utilities to security deposits and damages. The lease agreement is designed to protect the rights of both the landlord and the tenant, so if people are living in a rental property who aren’t on the lease, it can cause serious legal problems for both parties.

By illuminating how easy the process of adding someone to a lease is for tenants, you can reduce your risk of unscreened and unapproved “tenants” by letting your current renters know the proper procedure for adding someone to the lease.

Today, learn all about how to add a tenant to an existing lease agreement and why this process is vital to successful landlords.

A Table Of Contents On Adding Someone To A Lease

You already know how to create a strong lease agreement. Now, learn about when and how to adapt whenever you want to allow another tenant to be added to the lease. Get started here:

Why You Should Add A Tenant To The Existing Lease Agreement

When thinking about adding someone to a lease, you might consider just letting the person move in without changing the terms of your existing contract. That might seem easier in theory, but it’s never a good idea to allow any unofficial tenant guests to stay at your rental properties. This situation creates a lot of unnecessary risks and threatens your business.

Update Rent Terms

Why You Should Add A Tenant To The Existing Lease Agreement

One great reason to make sure that you sign a new lease agreement or get a lease addendum in place for a new tenant is to update the security deposit, monthly rent costs, and any other applicable fees. Sometimes, adding a tenant means that you will need to increase rent. This is particularly true if the rent includes utilities, as more tenants means more usage.

Regardless, you want to add a tenant to the lease to be sure they are aware of and agree to the terms of the lease. Otherwise, they should not be permitted to stay at the property.

Background Check

Another reason to go through the official process of screening a potential new tenant before adding them to the lease is so you can do a background check. Even if your current tenant trusts the person they want to move in, you want to be sure that all adults living at your properties meet your usual qualifications for tenants.

If they do not, you can reduce your risk by denying the application, explaining why, and continuing with your current lease agreement instead.

Rights And Responsibilities

Finally, it is always important that tenants and landlords fully know their rights and responsibilities. Having a new tenant sign the lease agreement ensures they have the opportunity to review and ask any questions. Additionally, you can reiterate important information and be sure they have received it.

Should any disagreements arise, you will always have the written lease agreement to confirm what is and is not permissible at the property. This can be essential if things escalate into a court situation, so you want to clarify all tenants on a written lease agreement.

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 about how to actually go about doing that. Sometimes, your tenant will approach you about wanting to add someone. Other times, you will need to ask your tenant to officially have a long-term occupant join the lease.

Either way, follow these 5 steps to either approve or deny the request the right way:

Step 1: Obtain A Written Request

Sometimes, tenants will ask you an interesting question: Can you add someone to your apartment lease after signing? They may want to move in with a long-term partner or have found a roommate to help them cover the rent. What do you do when this situation arises?

Invite the tenant to submit in writing the request to add another person to the lease. Whether it’s a student seeking a new roommate or a single person wanting a significant other to move in, a written request can start the process.

This request is essential to have written notice of what the tenant is hoping to do. Additionally, it gives you time to think before making a decision. Having a spoken conversation means that you will feel pressure 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, research the answer to one important question: Can you add someone to a lease in your area without breaking local occupancy limits?

You must make sure that 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 at 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 have determined that it would be legally permissible for another person to move in, send the tenant an official tenant application form for the potential roommate and ask for it to be returned by a certain date.  Each new person on a lease agreement must fill out a rental application so you can perform a tenant background check and reference check.

You can download our basic rental application template here.

You must 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 is no reason to lower the standard because they are 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 any privacy agreements between you and the applicant when letting the current tenant know. Additionally, make sure to let the applicant know why you are denying their request.

If the application is approved, invite the tenant and the prospective roommate to sign a new lease agreement or a legal 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 whole rent amount, even if one person does not pay their portion.

Go over the lease agreement with the new tenant so they have a detailed understanding of the rules and policies of the rental property. 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

Landlords thinking about adding a new tenant to an existing tenancy agreement may wonder if they should be using a new lease instead of the current lease agreement. Both approaches have pros and cons, but much of what is different about the two is simply paperwork.

Adding A New Tenant To An Existing Tenancy Agreement

When adding a tenant to an existing lease, you’ll want to use an occupancy addendum. In this addendum, you will list all of the things 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 together (i.e., are they accountable for the entire rent if the other moves out or stops paying?)

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

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

Using A New Lease

Adding A Tenant To An Existing Lease vs. Lease Addendums

In some cases, you might decide to use a new lease instead of writing a lease 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 will 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 major terms of the original lease agreement. All parties must still agree to the new terms, but it might be clearer to use a new lease rather than having a very long list of addendums to the original lease agreement.

As with any lease, make sure all parties sign and have a copy for their records after signing.

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 key. Either documentation method is acceptable, so it is up to you (and in some cases, your tenants) to determine which method will be best for your situation.

As a landlord, you have the right to change tenancy conditions when adding a tenant as long as all parties agree to those terms. Security deposits, rent, and utilities are just a few things that you might change. Regardless of the changes, however, the lease agreement must be updated to reflect them.

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

FAQs About Adding Someone To A Lease

Can you add someone to a lease?

It is possible to add someone to a rental unit mid-lease, but it is up to the landlord’s discretion. If you do approve an additional tenant, you are not required to add someone mid-lease. If you decide to permit an additional tenant, be sure to work through all of these important steps to ensure you do not take on any unnecessary risk:

  1. Have the new tenant fill out a rental application and pay an application fee.
  2. Screen the potential tenant as you would any other rental applicant.
  3. If approved, draw up a new lease agreement or lease addendum for all parties to sign.
  4. If denied, send a letter saying this and explaining why the denial occurred.

Landlords need to stay organized throughout this process, but adding a tenant is generally a painless process that can lead to tenants staying longer and being more stable in their payments since they are under less financial pressure. Ultimately, however, it is your decision whether or not to allow a tenancy change mid-lease.

Can you add someone to your apartment lease after signing without telling the landlord?

If a tenant decides to allow an unauthorized occupant to stay in their rental unit long-term, this could lead to some issues between the landlord and the tenant. In many cases, this is not permitted due to the terms of the lease agreement.

As a landlord, you want to make sure that your rental lease agreement defines terms for long-term guests and unauthorized occupants so your tenant does not welcome a roommate without letting you know. Subletting or cotenanting without a landlord’s permission brings the landlord additional risk, so you should be sure to discourage this practice.

If you have a tenant allowing an unauthorized occupant to stay, invite them to have that person apply to be a tenant with you. This will allow you to have an official agreement in place that protects you from the risks of occupancy without a lease.

Does it cost more to add someone to a lease?

In some cases, there will be additional costs when adding someone to the lease, but this will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Most landlords will charge a new tenant an application fee; this cost is directly applied to the cost of tenant screening. Additionally, the new tenant will likely need to pay an additional security deposit as the risks of renting increase. So the deposit will increase to cover that additional risk.

In some cases, rent may increase as well. This is especially true if the utilities, for example, are included in the rent. An additional tenant would increase costs, so the rent may increase as well. While landlords cannot usually change the rent mid-lease, a change in tenancy terms will allow for this type of change unless rent control is in place.

In many cases, however, the rent will not change. Only the security deposit and application fee costs will go beyond what the current tenant has already paid. Before signing a new lease, tenants and landlords should discuss any financial changes that may occur.

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 the lease. Additionally, a landlord may be amenable to the idea of adding another tenant and then deny a tenant based on the results of their screening.

Landlords may not, however, deny any applicant for discriminatory or predatory reasons. If a landlord denies an applicant over a protected class issue, this is cause for dispute and potentially a large fine for the landlord.

Should all tenants be on the lease?

Yes. A landlord should be sure that all adult occupants become tenants through a lease agreement. Allowing anyone to live at the property without them being on the lease puts your property at risk, and this should be avoided when possible.

Always Update Your Lease Agreements When Adding Tenants

The key thing to remember is that when you add a tenant to an existing lease agreement, you need to update the terms through a new lease or a lease addendum. Without this update, you will have an occupant in your rental property who has no written legal obligation to follow your rules.

While an oral agreement would still be applicable, it is much easier to enforce and prove the terms of written agreements. Protect yourself by keeping these documents updated.

Additionally, if you’re adding an occupant to a lease agreement you want to screen that tenant first. The last thing you want is a new tenant who will be a headache for you and current tenants.

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

6 Comments

  1. You moving in could absolutely be reason for them to write a new lease. And they can increase the rent if a new lease is agreed upon.

  2. Most leases are written to not allow unauthorized occupants. Which means the new occupant would have to qualify and pass the screening criteria. I’ve never seen an open ended lease that states anyone can move into the unit whenever they wish. Soooo, no, she cannot refuse to sign a lease and expect to be allowed to stay. Or expect the boyfriend won’t be called out for violating the terms of the existing lease.

  3. Hi if a person moves into a department of housing unit as a 24 hr live in carer he is on the lease as an add on tenant does he pay rent as a carer or part rent
    Thanks mark a carer

  4. I have a question? I currently have a tenant.Her lease is now month to month and she wants her male friend to move (daughters father) in with her.I just want to know if I have start a new lease with her and him signing it together (provided if his screen passes)and do I raise the current rent that she is paying on her own higher because someone else will be leasing with her? ,also does he have to pay a deposit separated from her because she is still living there and he will be a new tenant for me? and if he does have to pay a deposit how much should I charge him ?and how much should I ask for rent now that the both of them are there together.

  5. Hello
    I hope that you can help me. I have requested that my name be added to the lease of the property that is currently only in my mother’s name. We’ve been here for four years and I have basically been approved BUT they will not send out the paperwork unless I pay a fee of $380.
    This seems a little unorthodox to me. I understand that there could be admin costs but $380 seems a little exorbitant?
    Is this legal?

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