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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743 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Danielle

    I have been living with my boyfriend since January 1st he in a rage is kicking me out and wants me out immediately myself and my disabled son live here I’m trying to figure out what rights I have and how long I have to leave I pay rent every month. We also work together and he’s refusing to pay me

    • Curtis

      Nasty boy friend. Better to live in your own room. Things will get better. I’m in Sacramento.

    • Gina C Mraz

      Why are you getting kicked out by him-you should have taken off a long time ago! Are you blind?dumb? or the disabled one?! GET THE HELL OUT! NO DOUBT HE’S GOT HIS NEXT DUMBY LINED UP AND WAITING TO MOVE IN AND PROBABLY HAS MORE $ THAN YOU! GO-O-O-O-D LU-U-U-UK!!!!!!!!!!

  • Trenell Peters

    I have a cousin staying in my home as a guest until he is finished having work done to his home so he said. It os now 16 months & I told him that I was placing the house on the market to be sold. I gave him plenty of time to move out, past 30 days. He keeps sayong he will be out by this & that date but the date comes & there is another excuse. Now the home is in the process of being sold & he needs to be out but he seems like he doesn’t want to leave. He is There is no lease & I am the owner. What are my rights pertaining to having the police make him leave?

  • K. M. Huser

    Who has the “burden of proof” in an over-ocupancy (presumably rogue tenant) situation ? and what is the “standard of proof” ?
    Too many college kids have apparently taken up residence next door — judging by the number of
    vehicles which are there overnight. Knowing that they’re being challenged, they have taken to parking some vehicles down the street, but we took photos of the vehicles and their license plates when they were parked at the residence.

  • norma

    I have a rental property. Long story short, Tenants lease expired 11/2017. Verbally let them live there without lease, since they were on time all time. Today 9/5/2018 I go to property find out they have about 7 more peeple living there, and they are charging those people for rent. Currently working on a lease, with very specific details. Before I am giving them a notice of things that bothered me, & also a check list of complaints-& no no’s-like a truck load of trash & chunk I cleaned off our property these last few days, (we are remodiling back porch, & they didnt expect us to arrive. Rent will be raised, people living there should move out, and a new contract should be signed if not a notice to move out will be given to them.

  • Desiree

    I need help. My grandmother and mother live together in a one bedroom apartment(commerce city), my grandfather passed away last year in their house. I go over to check on them both and help out where ever I can about 3-4 days out the week, at times I have spent the night if one of them have an early appointment so I can take them. They are both disabled. They don’t have a vehicle and I’m the only way to help them get groceries, get to appointments, etc. Well now my grandmother’s landlord has been saying that If I do happen to stay a night then she will get evicted.Can he evict her if I do end up staying overnight? I do not live there I live in aurora with my husband. He has said he has apt #18 watching house 24/7,it’s uncomfortable now.

  • Lauren Sullivan

    My current roommate and I are on a lease and it does not mention anything about defining tenants vs. guests. She currently has her daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend visiting from college 1 month, PLUS her ex-husband staying with us for 3 weeks concurrently. None of them are paying rent or utilities. In this case, because the lease does not mention guest restrictions, can it be said she is in violation of the lease, at all? I do not think it is fair that I have to share my living space with 3-4 people when I signed an agreement to share a living space with ONE (2 bedrooms only BTW). This is not the first time either. In Spring, she had her parents with us for 3 straight months, they never left the flat. I get to feel like a stranger here

    • Jim

      My first knee-jerk response. Tell your roommate that either they go or you go. No, it may not fair but fair doesn’t trump ‘legal’. There is some precedent on limiting no more than two persons per available bedroom but not a law. The language in the lease agreement is the controlling factor as long as it does not violate a statute. Sounds to me like you might be better off finding other accommodations because your roommate is not very considerate of your feelings about the added occupants.

      Good luck

  • Charles St John

    My brother and I entered into a lease agreement with our landlord. Since then both of his adult children, for one reason or the other, has needed to stay with us. We only moved in on 8/3/18. This has occurred on and off since 8/10/18. They have taken it upon themselves to move in personal belongings and one of them has received mail here unauthorized. We are approaching the 14-day period where they are no longer a guest. I want them out. My brother says it’s ok that they stay. I worked too hard and too long to secure this place for my brother and I and quite afinancial investment. Im not willing to be evicted and out on the street because of these ungrateful squatters. Please help!

  • kathy

    i have an issue.. evicted a tenant in june .. he has been to felony court( just sentenced 9/7/18). now my other 2 renters (friends of his) who were now evicted in Sept. had him over for dinner last night/drinking etc. and took a picture of my other renters bike tag and posted on snap chat.. that renter is NOT happy..
    What are my recourses to keep 1st one off property and 2nd 2 from allowing him on the property or in the house.. Can I move the eviction notice for the 2nd 2 from 30 days to be out by the 1st of Oct (15day from eviction notice given to them) …

  • Rebeka Halbert

    I have a family with a 21 year old kid who is going to be getting his own apartment in the near future. How do I write the lease so he can be removed once he moves out?

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