How to Handle Rogue Tenants and Long-Term Guests

Written on June 21, 2014 by , updated on April 13, 2015

Rogue Tenants

Anyone living in my rental property, who is legally an adult, must be listed on and sign the lease.

It’s a simple rule that I always follow, and it has never steered me wrong.

Rogue Tenants

This is going to sound harsh, but I don’t really care if it’s just a college kid, home for the summer, or an elderly woman who’s moving back in with her daughter. I’ve heard all the excuses in the book, but it all comes downs to liability and my ability to collect rent.

I refer to long-term guests as “rogue tenants.”

Rogue tenants are individuals who have taken up residence in my property without approval or permission, and perhaps even changed their mailing address to receive mail at my rental property.

Liability and Accountability

If they are not on the lease, then they are not subject to the terms and conditions therein, and I cannot hold them accountable for rent. That’s a big problem.

Most of the time, they move-in under the assumption that they are only going to be visiting for a week or two. Before you know it, they have been living there for five months, never having received prior approval. They think of themselves as “long-term guests”.

Unfortunately, the words “long-term” and “guest” are contradictory.

Rogue tenants are not necessarily bad, they just need to be documented and accountable to the terms of the lease. After all, I do want my tenants to be happy. (tweetable?)

Whenever this situation arises, my answer is always the same:

If you are an adult, living in my property, I need to know who you are – which is why you need to fill out an application – and that you will be jointly and severally liable for rent and damages – which is why you sign a lease.

I believe that if I treat my tenants like adults, they will behave as such.

Use of Premises

To accomplish this, I use a rock-solid lease, and stick to it. The moment I deviate from enforcing any part of the lease, I set a precedent that I will waive other lease terms, such as late fees or eviction.

In my lease, I use a clause entitled “Use of Premises” to limit the number of people allowed to occupy the dwelling and to explain the difference between a tenant and a guest.

As you can imagine, some tenants want to hide their guests simply because they don’t want me to raise the rent.

In fact, I rarely ever raise the rent when a college kid comes home, but I want to option to do so, just in case my individual tenant suddenly decides to move in seven extended family members.

Refusal to Sign

If a rogue tenant or long-term guests refuse to sign the lease, I have the option to terminate the lease, based the original tenants violation of the provision listed above.

The main purpose is not to raise the rent, but rather to have everyone accounted for and liable for the rent in case the original tenants abandon the lease.

Most tenants (rogue or otherwise) usually comply with signing the lease, especially if there is no extra expense.

Common Examples of Rogue Tenants

College Kids

  • SITUATION: Empty-nesters often want to downsize, so they sell their house and move into my rental. Then, their youngest either drops out of school and moves back in, or simply comes home for the summer.
  • MY RESPONSE: As long as this does not violate any county occupancy ordinances, or increase utility usage that I pay for, I simply create a lease addendum that adds the additional occupant to the lease, by name, and then I have everyone sign it.

Sick or Elderly Parents

  • SITUATION: An elderly parent takes a bad fall and now needs regular assistance. The children (my tenants) quickly volunteer to take mom in, without considering either the landlord or the lease.
  • MY RESPONSE: Because mom is at higher risk of accidents and injury, I especially want to make sure she signs the lease, not so much for the rent collection aspect, but just so she acknowledges her responsibility to obtain her own renter’s liability and medical insurance. The sad truth is that landlords can be held responsible for the personal injuries of tenants, but some of that risk is mitigated if they sign a lease. Again, as long as this doesn’t violate any county occupancy ordinances, I think family should help each other and stick together.

Single-Income Couple

  • SITUATION: Sometimes a couple will want to rent my unit together, but only one of them has an income. They assume that only the person who is qualifying for the lease needs to be listed.
  • MY RESPONSE: I’m all for true love, but I’m not stupid. Even though the couple might qualify based solely on one income, I still need both individuals to fill out separate applications and sign the lease, because they are both occupants. This protects my rental income if the couple breaks up or gets divorced.

The Perpetual Overnight Boyfriend of Girlfriend

  • SITUATION: Three days after your new tenant moves in, the neighbors call and say “I thought you only had one new tenant?!?” When you approach your tenant, she says, “Oh, that’s just my boyfriend. He was fired from DQ, and doesn’t have any money, so he’s staying with me until he can get on his feet.
  • MY RESPONSE: In response, I simply point to the lease and say, “That’s fine, but if it’s more than two weeks, I’ll need him to fill out an application and sign the lease.

The Forbidden Sublet

  • SITUATION: If subletting is prohibited in the lease, or if there is an extra fee involved, sometimes tenants will try to hide their subletter. Sometimes jobs change, or they need to leave, but they don’t want to pay the early termination fee or the subletting fee.
  • MY RESPONSE: If I learn that a subletter has moved in without my approval, I usually just require them to pay the one-time subletting fee (mentioned in the lease), under threat of a lease violation and subsequent termination. However, if the subletter wants to live there for a while, I might try to release the old tenant, and sign a new lease with the subletter (who then becomes the leasee). Therefore, I sign a longer tenancy, the original tenant is released, the new tenant doesn’t have to hide from me. Everyone is happy.

Share Your Story!

I’d love to hear your stories about long-term guests and rogue tenants. How did you handle them?

Please share in the comments below!

photo credit: Yevy Photography via cc
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824 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Gena

    5 Year’s ago I rented a suite, paid SD . Owner sold house and says SD went with bill of sale to next people. The next people owned property tried to renovate and ended up selling to third person. Third person allowed me to stay on property which I paid rent regularly and when I asked for my SD he told me he never got it so he’s no paying. By the way I am a victim of renoviction. Where do I go from here.

    • Jim

      I’m pretty sure that the purchaser takes possession with all the encumbrances which would include the SD. All purchasers along the line had to legally receive a copy of the rental agreement which should have had the SD listed or with a separate copy of SD receipt which LL must give to tenant. If you have the lease listing the SD or a separate receipt for SD just show it to the new owner and that should settle the question. If Oregon property, new LL/Owner has 31 days from your date of vacating the property to give you the SD. If he doesn’t go to SC court. You will win much more than your SD. Go to Oregon Revised Statute where you’ll find all you need to know.

  • Ashley

    So I’m stuck! I currently live in a 3 bedroom house with my older sister, her husband, my 2 younger nephews & my younger niece (their children). We’re renting this house from a landlord who owns the property. I myself pay $900 in rent for my room. My sister & brother in law pay the remaining rent ($2,600). I do have a boyfriend who I work with which means we carpool. He only spends the night no more than 2 nights in a row & every now & then. He doesn’t shower or eat here. We’re never at the house during the day and hardly ever home on the weekends. My brother in law has stated to me, he feels my bf is over too much (sister just goes along with it) & that if he needs to he will contact the landlord & have him remove me from out year lease.

    • Jim

      Sounds like your brother-in-law really dislikes your BF for if he were to get you evicted he would have to pick up your share of the rent. You are definitely not in a very tenable situation but I can understand your BinL’s position. If I were raising a young family of children I don’t think I would want my sister-in-law bringing her boyfriend into the house for a booty call. Why don’t you go to your BF’s instead and solve the problem? Or the two of you get your own one BR apartment? Having a sleep over BF should have been one of the discussions you had with your sister and her husband before entering into the communal rental agreement. Your BnL wants his privacy and sounds like your sister does too.
      Good luck

  • John

    I live in a 3 bedroom apartment in Santa Monica, CA. The last person to join the apartment has invited his girlfriend to live with him in his room (he covers the rent for both). We’ve been living in this apartment the 4 of us for almost 2 years now and I’m sick of the lack of space (this apartment is small enough for 3 people). Our lease clearly states that only 3 people shall be living in this apartment, therefore, what am I legally allowed to do in this circumstance? Can I ask the landlord to evict them or are they allowed to changed the lease to allow for 4 people?

  • Alicia

    I’m renting a 4 bedroom house with my sister. After a couple months of living in the home together my sister reached out to me about friends needing a temporary place to stay. After talking with each friend about their time frame and our conditions, we are now over 30 days in and some friends have exceeded their agreed upon date, and have not respected the conditions of our home. What notice or action should we take to have these friends removed from our living situation?

    • Jim

      Tough spot, Alicia. First off, I would tell your sister that her friends have exactly 14 days to vacate and that she has to inform her friends TODAY and you witness the discussion and give her whatever reinforcement she needs to accomplish a NO CONDITION notice. Education has a high tuition. Lesson to learn: NO FRIENDS, NO FREEBIES. I’m sure you work to earn an income so you can afford to pay the rent. Everyone needs to pull their own weight.

      Depending on the language of your lease, you may be in violation of ‘subletting’. You may need to discuss with your LL any help she/he might be able to afford if the freeloaders are not out in 14 days. They may have already established legal tenancy rights.

      Good luck

  • Mary

    Hello, I’m currently renting a unit to a tenant with all utilities included. The lease states that the unit is for one person only but the tenant has two or more friends stay every night. My lease does not address overnight guest so the tenant is taking advantage. The tenants guests are increasing my utility cost. How do I stop overnight guest every night?

    • Jim

      If you are on a MM lease, you draft a new lease and inform the tenant that they must sign the new lease or leave. Of course, the new lease will address guests. Read the ‘guest’ clause above. Modify it to your desire. Our lease states that no one guest can sleep over for more than seven nights in a 12 month period without qualifying and becoming a signature to the lease. We are extremely stringent. If you have a fixed term lease you are behind the 8 ball. You will have to find other good ’cause’ reasons to terminate. You might also attempt to sternly remind the tenant that the rental amount is for ONE occupant and that you cannot allow so many overnight guests at the current rent.

      Good luck

  • anouk

    i gave a 60 day notice to leave to my aggressive hoarder tenant . this month rent and utilities are not paid so i gave him a 3 day notice, looks like i may have to evict him. my question, he has a permanent guest for the last 4 months, may i give that guest a 3 day to pay or quit as well. shes been living here not on the rental agreement tho

    • Jim

      We always use ‘And All Other Occupants’ with such a notice. You will most definitely have to either name all other occupants or use the ‘other occupants’ with the eviction notice. That guest has established ‘tenant rights’ due to the length of occupancy. You should consider a clause in your rental agreement regarding guests. See suggested guest clauses at the beginning of this page. We do not allow any one guest more than a total 7 stay-over nights in any 12 month period without filling out an application and being added to the lease. With this clause should the tenant allow such stay-over, they have breached their lease agreement and are served with an intent to terminate the lease if the guest is not immediately removed.

      good luck

  • Nathan Michael

    I live in a college house and have 3 other college roommates. We all have a set rent of $285 a month (utilities not included) One of my roommates has had a guest since October and its quite annoying. Is this even allowed? What legal action can I take to get their guest out? Their guest is not even from here and is only here for school but they dropped out this semester and do not even have a job, but they do where they’re from which is 1.5 hours away.

  • C.Von

    Stop giving bad advice. And most certainly take down the picture of the Guy Fawkes mask…
    Now when it comes to adding adults to your property as a renter..You don’t need to add them to the lease,mitigating that there is a reasonable amount of occupants…This way you don’t give your landlord a chance to go out to you in the price of rent. I mean let’s face it we’re all tired of buying other people their house and assess for them, enough with the residual income’s being in real estate. I do have a strong feeling that the market will crash here regardless of everyone who’s trying to keep it afloat. And when that happens I’ll do a little dance. Rogue teants HA. More like situation has changed and I’m not going to allow you to capitalize mor

    • Jim

      Excuse me? What law school did you graduate from? FYI, Oregon is undergoing the worst shortage of rental properties in over 30 years. There is no crash foreseeable in the near future. The current average vacancy factor is under 2% which is why rents are skyrocketing. As for what a landlord can include in their lease agreement, there is no restriction so long as the clause does not conflict with a state statute or local lawful ordinance which allows the landlord wide discretion as to restrictions and requirements. I would suggest you spend some time familiarizing yourself with ORS Chptr 90.

  • Jess

    I currently live with my boyfriend now ex boyfriend he is the only person on the lease we rent a small studio. The apartment /lease was made for one person but the landlord made the exception For us. Now that we are exes he tries to kick me out because my name isn’t on the lease when I pay half the rent . What can be done ? I have no where no to I want to be secure that he is not able to kick me out .

  • No Name

    After reading this article from a landlord, it’s no wonder many owners who seek to rent homes they own have such a high turnover rate with their tenants. At some point you have to ask yourself as a LANDLORD…”AM I OVERBEARING, ARE THESE TENANTS MY CHILDREN WHO’S LIVES I CAN CONTROL”

    …what I mean is, as long as you the landlord are receiving your rent ON TIME as per the lease agreement or the amount agreed upon by whomever sign the lease, why do you feel the need to tell GROWN ASS adults how to live or who can live with them? In fact how do you even know they have someone living with them of you’re not downright spying on them? At some point as a landlord you need to simply collect your rent and mind your business. YOU’RE NOT GOD!

    • Jim

      WOW– You’re the perfect example of someone I would NEVER rent to. Obnoxious, overbearing, twit. I have certain legal rights as to what obligations I can demand from a tenant that lives in MY PROPERTY, that I have paid for with my money. But then I would not expect you to understand. You as a tenant have certain legal rights and that is all the rights you have that are not given by the OWNER/LANDLORD. Along with the legal rights, you have LEGAL OBLIGATIONS. If you live in Oregon, I suggest you spend some of your time reading Oregon Revised Statutes. Specifically Chapter 90 and 91. You just may learn something. Dolt.

    • Mary Alvarez


      I have tenants (Husband and wife). Their adult daughter, husband and son, and two sons are part of the OG lease. A total of 6 adults and 1 child. All listed on the lease.

      You made a good point. And I realize I was never notified when one by one the adult children moved out, and then moved back in. Furthermore, the parents ( the elderly sick) “visit”. I was very transparent about no one other than those on the lease can reside and or use the dwelling.
      I know the Elderly live there 6 months out of the year. To make things worse, the grand children (who don’t reside on dwelling) come over and spend the night. All Holidays and Birthdays of anyone tied to this family is celebrated in MY property.
      How stop it?

  • shelby

    Hi I’m from CA I lived with my husband and out little girl with his grandma in which we paid no rent cuz we helped her and kept her home up as in cleaning the yard bought the groceries etc. She has kicked me out after I was in the hospital with chronic sepsis on life suppor. Her and his mother packed my things for me and changed the locks before I had my stuff. When I go visit my husband and child she says mean awful things to me. No eviction was given and I’ve lived there for almost 8 years. Is this legal? I don’t know what to do I have no where to go I’ve been sleeping in my car.I’m suppose to be on home health but I’m to embarrassed to say I don’t have a home. Help I feel like I’m being treated like a stray dog. I can’t believe her

  • donna Boswell

    My brother n law passed away feb 22. Him and his fiancee were living in my mother n laws home. Charlie ( her son) was paying 600 a month to help pay the mortgage before he died, to pay the house off. His fiancee didn’t pay a single dime. No bills no rent nothing. Well since his death she has been partying in the house 3 days after he died so forth. She than moves in her cousin, two kids and her cousin boyfriend. My mother n law told her no body was allowed to live here but her per verbal agreement. She has not paid a single bill, doesn’t work nor has offered to pay rent until she found out she would possibly have to move. The bills are all in my mother n laws name. They were together 5 years and she thinks she is entitled to the house.

    • Jim

      Seriously, you need a lawyer NOW.. Don’t dilly dally.

      • donna Boswell

        yes seriously she is also denying us possessions of Charlies stuff as well. She told my mother n law she wasn’t aloud to have anything in the house that belonged to my deceased brother n law. The family isn’t aloud to have his child hood things! We are going to court tomorrow, went over there today to try to tell her she needed to leave. She called the cops pulled out a check book, and tried to say she paid the bills. All she did was write in numbers and dates on checks and her balancing book as well as Fake Rent payment. The bills are in my mother n laws name. This Woman has no once came by our mother n laws house since charlie died. Can we get an expedited eviction

  • Lisa

    my name is on the lease and my roommates is not, she paid this months rent so I am allowing her until April 3rd to move out, she stated she wanted to get out of the apartment, we both want her out due to tension in the apartment. However I am worried that she is not leaving, none of her things have yet to be packed. Or any effort in communicating with me has taken place, if she is not out by April 3rd am I able to change the lock on my front door and accommodate with her on when to get her things? I have not slept in my apartment except i have gone to grab belongings because I feel uncomfortable in my home, and when I go there she has yet to pack her things, I know she still has time, but if she doesnt move I want to know what I can do

    • Jim

      SHE IS A TENANT AND YOU ARE HER LANDLORD. You LEGALLY give her an eviction notice. If you are in Oregon, you must abide by the new law with regard to terminating her tenancy if she does not voluntarily vacate. YOU CAN NOT LOCK HER OUT. You could get in very deep legal and financial trouble if you do. If you’re in Oregon, please read up on the new law just passed under OSB 608. If she has lived there less than one year, you can give her a no cause 30 day notice. If more than a year, if more than a year YOU CANNOT EVICT WITHOUT GOOD CAUSE. READ THE NEW LAW.


  • vette

    I’m the landlord and this is the clause for GUESTS: There shall be no other persons living on the Premises other than the Tenant(s) and any Occupant(s). Guests of the Tenant(s) are allowed for periods not lasting for more than forty-eight hours unless otherwise approved by the Landlord.

    my tenant has a girlfriend come to my house one day per week and overnight, does he break the first rule: no other persons living on the Premises other than the Tenant(s) and any Occupant(s). ? and what does periods not lasting for more than forty-eight hours means? so his girlfriend can come to my house as many times as she wants as long as not exceed 48 hours? or this means total 48 hours during lease period.

    • Jim

      First off, I’m not offering any legal advice. You need a licensed attorney for legal advice. That said, I would say you have 2 problems of ambiguity.
      “no other persons living on the Premises other than the Tenant(s) and any Occupant(s)”. I think a judge might find “any occupants” meaning anyone.

      “periods not lasting for more than forty-eight hours”. Again, I think a judge might easily find that 48 hours, gone for 24, and the 48 hours starts over again.

      Personally, I think you need to clean up the language in your rental agreement so it is NOT ambiguous.

      Look at the “Use Of Premises” clause at the beginning of this page and fashion your language accordingly.
      Good Luck

      • Vette

        Well. For occupants , I have this clause: OCCUPANT(S): The Premises is to be occupied strictly as a residential dwelling with only the Tenant(s) mentioned above as the Occupant(s).
        This is my first time being a landlord and have no experience about it. So I downloaded this agreement from online, it’s common use in Florida I guess. Ouch! Pretty headache

  • Ari

    I currently am part owner of a piece of property including my sister, two aunts, and 2 uncles. One Uncle lives in one of the houses on the property and now we have just found out after trying to sell the property that my uncle has been charging rent to his “friends” and claiming my uncle has been stealing his possessions then selling them, the guy is saying he is going to sue the owners of the property. Am I totally screwed? I have no clue what to do…

    • Jim

      Well, to begin with, he has a right to sue any beneficial owner along with any tortfeasor. You can either go talk to an attorney NOW or you can wait until you’re served with the lawsuit. If you have insurance on the property, check with your insurance agent and see if you have coverage for defense against lawsuits.

      good luck

  • Lyssa

    I have a situation I need help with. I am what you would call a rogue tenant. Without going into too much detail because of a situation out of my control I had spent the night in jail. This friend showed up to court and I was released to her custody. So for 4 months I had been staying with her. I was not on her lease, she never asked me to pay her a dime. But she just threw me out and won’t let me retrieve my belongings or food and blocked me from calling. Won’t talk to me.. nothing. I still have a key but my belongings are locked up in her basement. I realise it’s probably a civil suit. But because the court and police know I was released to her and her address. Does she have any legal right to hold anything of mine.

  • Eric

    I and my wife are staying in a house belonging to the ex-husband of our friend, with his permission. We are 4 months in, and no rental agreement has been proposed, nor rent or condition of our stay put down on paper. Is he able to boot us with no notice given?

  • Yadira

    Actually have a situation for a property that I managed in Venice California which is under the rent stabilization ordinance I have a tenant that moved in in 1995 originally him wife 1 child at the time. I found out that the wife and child #3 moved out more than a year ago to a home inherited from employer in Westcher 2 adult children returned from college and are residing in the unit along with the boyfriend husband pretends or appears to remain in the home and brings minor child around to play in the yard make a mess and leave toys around I suspect he does not live there I have seen the house where they lived all of their cars are parked there every day and the home is lived in by a family now these college kids are not on the lease

  • Jamie

    I’m a single mom of 5 children. In November my mother and I decided to find a rental together. Mom, myself and my kids move into where we are now. We split the amount of rent. 2 utilities are in my name and 1 is in my mom’s name. April 15th she left without warning. My mother is the only one who signed the 1 yeast lease. The landlord and my mother accepted the contract without my signature. I’m listed as a tenet. The 3 day notice was only in my moms name. The landlord has shown up unannounced several times and agressive with knocking and doorbell. My mother is not returning any calls. I haven’t heard from her either. What are my options? I have no where to go.

    • Jim

      You did not mention in what state you live. Laws of landlord/tenant vary from state to state. It sounds to me like you would qualify for Legal Aid. I suggest you contact your Legal Aid office and ask for their assistance and legal counsel.

      Good luck

  • Ralph Collings

    A friend asked to stay with us for a couple of weeks it’s been two months I want them out what can I do?

    • jim

      Let no good Samaritan go unpunished!!!
      I would have a heart to heart talk with him/her and request a drop-dead date within xx days that they will be gone.
      Unfortunately, having let him stay for such a long time has bestowed certain legal rights under most landlord-tenant laws. If he/she is not out by that time, depending on your state law on eviction, you will have to serve him/her with a LEGAL eviction notice.

      Good luck
      PS You might be well advised to contact an attorney familiar with your state landlord-tenant laws.

  • Fred

    I don’t know how old any one is here, but these days it seems like every one ones to rule and control and know every facet of someone else’s life!
    This is simple – who ever signs the lease OWES THE RENT!
    It doesn’t matter WHO damages anything – YOU HAVE A DEPOSIT!!! AND ONE WHO IS REPSONSIBLE!!!! So, if the lessee’s daughter damages something – THE LESSEE IS HELD RESPONSIBLE! You do not need, nor should you require EVERYONE to sing the lease. Maybe the kid will be around for a month, maybe for three years, SO WHAT? You get your rent, the lessee is PAYING YOUR HOUSE PAYMENT WHICH IS A CAPITAL GAIN FOR YOU! You act like NAZI’S wanting to know who everybody is when this is the lessee’s HOME for their ‘private and exclusive use’!!!!!

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