For Landlords

Guest or Tenant: When Does A Guest Become A Tenant?

People can come and go from a rental property at many different times throughout someone’s tenancy. 

However, knowing the difference between a temporary visitor and someone who has overstayed their welcome can present a challenge.

Tenants absolutely have the right to host guests. Whether it’s friends from out of town, a sibling, or even a romantic partner. As long as it aligns with the principles of peaceful enjoyment outlined in their lease agreement, there is no harm. Nonetheless, this doesn’t imply that guests can linger indefinitely. A casual visit can quickly turn into a permanent roommate situation. So, when does a guest transition into a tenant? Let’s break it down:

What’s the Difference between a Guest and Tenant?

Just who is considered a tenant might be very obvious to you. But for clarification, a tenant is someone who is officially listed in the tenancy agreement and they pay rent every month to stay in a specific rental property. So a guest here just means someone who isn’t on the contract and is just visiting. Unlike tenants, there are no binding contracts for guests.

  • Nannies – If a nanny is a full-time resident at the property, then they would be considered a tenant. If they only come to stay at the property during business hours and don’t actually “live” there, then they can be considered a guest.
  • Romantic partners – If partners only occasionally visit and stay over, they would be regarded as guests. But if partners frequently stay over, regularly park at the property, and even have furniture or personal belongings there, they are considered tenants.
  • Visiting family – When family members stay for a few days, they are clearly considered guests. However, if elderly parents or a sibling choose to permanently reside on the property, they would be considered tenants.
  • College students – If college students temporarily return to stay with their parents or family during breaks or weekends, they are considered guests. However, if students move back in for an extended period, such as the entire semester break, they can be classified as tenants.

How Many Days Can a Tenant Have a Guest Over to Visit?

The question is probably answered in your tenancy agreement and made clear to the tenant. Depending on how lenient you might be, usually anywhere between 10 to 14 days is accepted as a reasonable duration. You can talk to your tenant to establish expectations.

Signs a Guest is Living in Someone Else’s House

If you regularly keep tabs on your property, you can probably tell if someone besides your tenant is living there as more than just a guest. Here are the signs you might be looking out for:

  • The guest stays over every night, more than the agreed amount.
  • The guest parks their car in the property lot every day.
  • The guest is getting mail delivered to the property.
  • The guest is seen moving in furniture.

What Should You Do if the Guest Stays Long-Term?

#1: Consider Adding them to the Lease

If you notice obvious signs your tenant has a permanent long-term guest, adding them to the lease will help protect you as the landlord. This makes sure they will be bound by the tenancy agreement, along with all the rules and stipulations. When deciding whether to add the tenant’s guest to the contract or clear them out, consider asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do they already have a key to the property?
  • Are they at the property more than 50% of the time?
  • Do they have their bills addressed to the rental property?
  • Are they renting somewhere else and are committed to that agreement?

#2: Have a Conversation with the Tenant

It might be awkward and uncomfortable to confront your tenant about the issue, but it is sometimes necessary. Prepare to have a thorough conversation and bring a copy of the tenancy agreement to show them the existing rules that were agreed upon about visitors. It is important to approach the situation with understanding and courtesy, while firmly explaining that the policies stated in the lease are non-negotiable.

#3: Follow Through

After the talk with your tenant, it’s a good idea to check in with them about the status of the long-term guest. Make sure they aren’t secretly still crashing at the unit. Follow through to make sure the guest either moves out or is officially added to the agreement. If not, you can remind the tenant a breach in contract could lead to eviction.

If you’ve given all the options multiple times to your tenant and they refuse to add their guest to lease or have them move out, eviction is an option as a last resort.

Why is it important to identify long-term guests?

Overall, it is important for you to identify long-term guests as a landlord because they can be a risk to you and your rental property. This is someone you probably don’t trust, living in your property without any legal precautions. Adding them to the agreement holds them accountable.

If tenants are allowing long-term guests, it means they are violating their contract. Adding the guest to the agreement or having them move out are the best options to ensure you are protected. Make sure that each potential resident is filling out a rental application and that you are still screening them for possible red flags.

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