When you’re a landlord you have to deal with all kinds of unwanted visitors. From creatures of the insect variety to ones that are decidedly more…human. When guests become pests it can be frustrating all around.

Besides being annoying for your renters that actually pay to live there, long-term guests can be a liability if anything happens since they haven’t signed any legally-binding documents.

So how do you make sure roommates are being respectful of their home (and yours) without putting everyone in an awkward position?

First, you should assess the situation. This is easier if you live at the property or are there regularly, but there are still some tell-tale signs that an extra person has moved in.

How to tell:

Guests get mail sent to your address. Don’t rifle through the mail (obviously…that’s illegal), but if you see another name on the mailbox it will be pretty clear someone new is spending a lot of time there.

Water bills go way up. An easy way to ask your renters about extra tenants is to approach them about a spike in utility costs. It could be a plumbing issue, or it could be an additional person; either way you get an opportunity to discuss and fix the problem with your renters directly.

Parking spots are full. Whether you rent out a house with a driveway or have an apartment complex with spots reserved for guests, if you see the same car there 24/7 it’s a good indicator that someone might be living there full-time.

*Note: Some states have actual legal guidelines for what constitutes someone overstaying their welcome. We recommend reading up on it here and then following those rules when deciding if a visitor has become a tenant.

What to do:

Add a clause in the rental agreement. The easiest way to avoid guests that overstay their welcome is to add a clear definition of what being a guest means in your lease. If you live in a state that doesn’t have a clear definition for what that is, you can make your own rules as long as they fall within tenant rights. Most landlords say something like:

Any guest staying in the property more than 14 days in any 6 month period will be considered a tenant, rather than a guest, and must be added in the lease agreement.

or

A tenant is considered anyone who is staying on the premises more than 3 days per week and must be added into the lease agreement.

 

You should also specify how many people can live on the premises at one time. Look up the laws for your state and you’ll have one more option for preventing additional unwanted tenants from moving in.

Consider putting an extra person on the lease. While adding a clause to the rental agreement is great for preventing bad situations from arising, it doesn’t help if you’re already facing possible extra tenants. To avoid a lengthly and costly eviction, you may want to consider legally adding long-term guests to the lease.

Tip: You should always include an addendum in a lease that allows you to increase the rent if a new tenant is added to the rental agreement, that way you can legally add a new tenant and run a background check without any complications.

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Amanda has worked as a journalist, an SEO copywriter, and a social media specialist. Her aim as a Four Walls contributor is to provide something worth reading and create a community for people who lease and love it. She’s also a real person, not just a mysterious internet writer, who loves silversmithing, podcast-binging, and trying to figure out how to fix her rented apartment’s bad linoleum floor (see, just like you!)