How to Handle Rogue Tenants and Long-Term Guests

Written on June 21, 2014 by , updated on July 21, 2020

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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924 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • James Alex

    DISPUTE BETWEEN TENANTS AND LANDLORDS/LANDLADIES
    Tenancy is a stage that is exercised by almost everyone, especially when we are obliged to shift from one place to another. However, this aspect has several challenges as long as we realize relationship between tenants and landlords. Now, I have my remarks on it. Please, allow me to entertain you while explaining chaos I witnessed in some tenancies.
    THE TENANT’S WRATH(previously published as Outrageous Humans on Exoplanet) is a novel that has been written according to author’s experience in living as a tenant.
    You may be interested in this book!
    Amazon kindle books link: https://www.amazon.com/TENANTS-WRATH-GABRIEL-NOMBO-ebook/dp/B084DT3FQP/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+tenant%27s

    • Jim

      What is your point, sir? And where is your explanation of the chaos you witnessed in some tenancies?

      I find no connection whatsoever with Mr. Nombo’s novel of tenant/landlord relationships in the 34th century with current tenant/landlord relationships on earth. ?????

      “The report on how landlords and tenants live together, is assumed to be written in 34th Century, one century after the first signal indicating aliens’ presence is detected. A fictional reporter from earth, writes it after voyaging to aliens ‘exoplanet. This exoplanet has aliens who are very angry by nature.”

  • Donna

    My son had an employee/worker that became homeless and he let him move into his home that he was flipping just long enough to get himself a place, after all, the worker was making between $750-$1,000 a week. Then the worker stopped working for him (stopped working for anyone). The worker is now using meth and trafficking meth out of the house, moved in other meth addicts to make money. It’s a complete mess. He also hocked or sold all tools and new appliances ready to be installed. The kicker here is, my son tried to evict him but the rouge tenant appealed the decision to vacate and asked for a JURY trial which isn’t scheduled until the middle of June!

  • Christopher Geddes

    If I’m not on the lease but been here for a couple of months and are being evicted am I allowed to have a guest stay the night?

  • Linda McCane

    I’m suffering with rogue tenants

  • Linda McCane

    I’m suffering with rogue tenants . I rented a large room to one man. Soon his 2 daughters and 2 grandchildren moved in. My cesspool is overflowing, no hot water, no parking…he’s a nice man but I don’t know how this happened or how to get out of it

    • Lori Anne

      I understand. I had no idea. I was just trying to help someone and now they are taking advantage. I think they new this law and I lad no idea. Please help, how do I get rid of them. we are in Virginia

      • Pat

        My sister called me in February and begged me to let her stay as she had just left the hospital and needed a place to stay as she was sick. She is homeless so I let her stay in my home with me. She ultimately brought a boyfriend of hers and he is here too.
        She gave me $20. And I told her that I’d take care of it for her. When the pandemic began I told her that I wanted her to stay until the quarantine is over.
        There have been several incidents of things of mine missing and I have mentioned it but let it pass, but I’m really tired of this happening.
        I would like to know if they qualify as guests or tenants? I have never received any money from them for rent.

  • Donald James Holston

    What steps can you take aside from court, if any, for when the tenant moves out but their family member stayed for a few months and now wont leave after a 30 day eviction notice in the state of michigan?

  • Rachel

    I am a tenant and just have a question. My landlord wants to increase our rent because of liability and extra wear and tear for an additional person. Does adding one extra person to an apartment really increase how much the landlord is having to pay for our apartment? Do they have to pay extra for their insurance? I understand wanting a little extra for the wear and tear, but the liability part doesn’t make sense to me. It seems to me that they are just trying to make some extra cash off of us.

  • Lyllian K Rose

    I have a tenant who was supposedly a single mom and now has her husband/boyfriend/whomever occupying the apartment who would of clearly not passed our criteria and I wouldn’t of rented to them – so now what do I do? How can I even prove he’s living there (the neighbors have verified he’s been there since day one) as she says he’s not? I have clear language about rogue tenants and who can reside in the house. To boot, they are both smoking which is also clearly not allowed in the lease. I am generally excellent at vetting, but I have made a big mistake here – what can I do? TIA

    • Jim

      I don’t know the eviction situation where you live but it’s very difficult here in OR. That aside, I would send her a notice of violation of the rental agreement with the intent to terminate the tenancy if the violations are not cleared. Or, if you live where you can still exercise your right to a ‘no cause’ eviction, send that. You will most likely get a phone call asking ‘WHY’? Tell her why and then you decide whether you want to negotiate your eviction notice. You definitely have an undesirable tenant.
      Good Luck

      • L K Rose

        Thanks Jim – it’s what I figured. eviction is difficult, timely and costly in PA. And with this pandemic it’s going to be nearly impossible. We won’t be renewing the lease when that time comes for sure…

  • Donna

    I hope you can help direct me. I’m beside myself!
    First, how would this person be classified, tenant, guest, etc. and what kind of eviction? My mother let this relative move in with her from out of state along with her family until they found a house. In the meantime divorce ensued, and she has stayed over ten years never paying anything. The electric bill was put in her name because she personally used abhorrent amounts of electricity, of course she has mail at this address. So at least ten years later, sadly, my mother has passed and after eighteen months the house is in my name. Now I would like her out because of her battling behavior. Harassing another back house tenant until he moved, changing house and gate locks, rendering house security cameras useless, fraudulently putting internet in her name,and taking over the whole house instead of just her room. And of course she says she has no money and nowhere to go.
    Way to much info I’m sure, but looking for direction. Where do you find eviction lawyers.

  • Will g

    Hi, I hope you can help me in this mess.

    I have lived in a town home with my ex girlfriend for 5 years. We broke up but remained good enough friends to stay roommates.
    Untill recently, she moved out without much communication with me, as far as move out date ect. I was never on the lease, I met the land lady several times without any problems. I have paid half since I’ve been here .
    No with her gone they are calling me a squatter and say they are changing locks on Monday and whatever is left in the home on Monday is lost.

    I am in northern California . What can I do? Because of this virus the 5th wheel I was going to move into, is no longer being offered to me because they don’t want to chance bringing the virus out to them. Thank you

  • Judy Newton

    Landlord rents home to son/tenant, son allows 70+yr old mother to stay temporarily because she had no money or place to go. Mother brings in several dogs and cats. Son wants animals gone. Animals go to the bathroom in the house and cat tracks litter all over. son is very clean. Does landlord have any recourse? Is it up to tenant to remedy situation? While tenant was out of town working, mother called authorities and falsely reported abuse.

  • Judy Newton

    Landlord rents home to son/tenant, son allows 70+yr old mother to stay temporarily because she had no money or place to go. Mother brings in several dogs and cats. Son wants animals gone. Animals go to the bathroom in the house and cat tracks litter all over. son is very clean. Does landlord have any recourse? Is it up to tenant to remedy situation? While tenant was out of town working, mother called authorities and falsely reported abuse. TEXAS

    • Jim

      Waste no time. Evict! Unless you’re willing to tolerate such abuse to your property. Unless you’re really up on what it takes to evict, hire an attorney that does evictions. It will be cheaper in the long run paying the attorney and getting rid of the nasty people damaging your property.

  • Patti Hornung

    I own and live in a home in which a woman has been also living on month-to-month Tenancy. Last year she met a guy and had him stay over 3-4 days few times a month while she went to work. I told her back then that since all my possessions are there, I did not want a new and hardly known person staying at the house unattended. Numerous times she dishonored that.She broke up with him, met someone new and is repeating the guest stay.I gave her new rules about “guests” that went into effect this month. She states she is not accepting all of them,and instead is telling me how it is going to be. Monday I gave her 60day notice to Terminate her Tenancy. Since we live under the same roof, what clout do I have to not have the boyfriend”guests” stay?

    • Jim

      Wow. Do not envy your position. If you have a written rental agreement and it lays down rules of guests, I would enforce them. If your tenants’ guest is there in violation of your rules, I would suggest you ask that person to leave immediately or you’re calling the police and have him arrested for trespassing. More often than not the police will say that it’s a civil problem and they can do nothing. Don’t let it fester. I would also tell your tenant that YOU are the boss and give her her notice of eviction and GET RID OF HER. She’s trouble that you don’t need. I would NEVER allow her guest to remain in YOUR home without her present. Your home is NOT a flophouse !!!

  • Laura Keels

    My tenant moved in February and has his 2 daughters part time.
    However, he often has his girlfriend stay over with her 2 kids and often times there have been his kids and her kids downstairs and it is loud. I work from home 2 days per week and she is there with her 2 kids and it is hard for me to work. I had stated he could have guest (not family) 4 nights per month but it is so loud my kids cannot go to sleep at night at times. I am not sure what to do.

    • Jim

      Seems that there is a violation of the rental terms. If so, send a notice to cease and desist or suffer ‘for cause’ rental termination. DO NOT let it fester. It could negate your right to terminate for cause by failing to exercise your right. Waiver of a right may forever terminate that right. If the tenant fails to respond positively to your notice to cease and desist, terminate. You DO NOT need a recalcitrant tenant.

      Good luck

  • Tim Johnson

    In Michigan, I have a “Rouge Tenant” that developed as the perpetual boyfriend. When the relationship started I told the lessor that the boyfriend was not permitted to live there, nor could he stay there long-term. Up to recently the lessor has regularly lied telling me that the boyfriend only visits overnight and stays a couple nights a week sometimes. I recently learned that (by the boyfriends claim) that he has been staying there for several months now and he has also put the electric/gas in his name. He is claiming he has tenant rights. He was never given permission nor was permission sought for him to stay there; I want to have him removed ASAP. Does he qualify for tenant rights? I don’t even know his full name. Please advise.

    • Jim

      You ask? “Does he qualify for tenant rights?” I must qualify my remarks as NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Also, not familiar with MI landlord/tenant laws. Residing there for as long as he has and having the utilities in his name— 99% sure he is a legal tenant with all tenants’ rights. My recommendation would be to serve any legal eviction notice as soon as possible. If you are not rehearsed on the legal requirements for serving an eviction notice, get an attorney because one flaw in the notice could not only start you back at square 1 but you may find you having to pay their attorney fees and court costs. BTW, you are the ‘lessor’. Tenants are ‘lessees’.
      Good luck

  • Julie

    If my parents are having their house renovated and thus they need a place to stay during construction, are they required to be on my lease if I allow them to stay? I’m divorced as I’m afraid their names on my lease would affect my alimony as well. Would showing proof of a construction contract allow for them to remain as long-term guests? Would my lease need to have a Long Term Guest Addendum?

  • Juana

    I have a question wondering if anyone with landlord experience can help me I’m a new landlord I allowed my tenant to move in 15 days before the lease started. Tenant paid 15 days of rent and security deposit. I found out that she has her sister living in the apt she told me three days after she moved in. I feel deceived she was not honest. Initially she told me her sister is temporarily living there then she says sister will live there indefinably. Tenant told me her sister has no income and her sister is not on the lease or her 1yr old child. Told tenant that sister has to move out in 30 days but tenant says she won’t kick out her sister. Can I give her the security for her to leave since the lease hasn’t started yet? Im a landlord in NJ

  • Jim

    First. I am not giving you legal advice. My personal thoughts as a landlord. You have made so many ‘newbie landlord’ mistakes. NEVER LET SOMEONE MOVE IN WITHOUT A VALID EXECUTED LEASE AGREEMENT. YOU SET FORTH WITH THE GREATEST SPECIFICITY WHAT YOUR TENANT GUEST RESTRICTIONS ARE AND NEVER LET THEM BE VIOLATED.

    Under current circumstances with COVID-19, I do not know what restrictions you may have on evicting a tenant in NJ. But, if you can, I suggest you serve your recalcitrant tenant with an eviction notice if she does not correct the situation. OR, add the guests to the lease and add an increase to the rent.

    Good luck

  • Servanda M Campos

    Hello, I just try to buy the apparment where I live for 26 year? And I’m confuse because the old landlor tell the other tenant do not pay rent when I took over the building. Also the tenant desire to move people in to their apartment. Any advice I will appreciated.

  • Jim

    You said, “try to buy”. If escrow has not closed and you have not taken legal title to the property, then you have no right to collect rent. Also, in what state is the property located?

    If your escrow has closed and you have legal title to the property, then I would suggest you make a copy of the title, showing your name as owner, and send to each tenant advising them that all rents are to be paid to you. You should also tell the old seller that he/she has no right to tell the tenants otherwise.

    Good luck

  • Mary

    I had temp guardianship of a 16yr old that turned out to be not “court” legal docs. She lived with me off & on 6 mo. I’ve sent her back with her biological mother, written reversal on forms and packed all her belongings which her & her mother picked up. They are not satisfied with this. They are demanding a walk thru of my home stating bc she was a resident there, she has legal right to my home at any time. Being that these were not real court ordered forms, she was never on my lease and is a minor, is this the case?

    • Jim

      I’m afraid you’re asking for legal advice and only a lawyer licensed in your state can give that. I suggest you contact a lawyer to help you with your dilema.

      Good luck

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