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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641 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Anita

    I’ve lived in CA in a 1bdrm, plus detached “office” on a month to month lease for going on 4 months. My now ex-boyfriend has been staying with me and made the office his “man cave”, but was never on the lease. I am moving and have given my landlord my 30 day notice. I have asked him to leave and even called the police but am being told this is a civil manner, as he has “renters rights”, and that I would need to file an eviction notice on him. Does he have rights to ANYTHING, being that he’s not paid a dime of rent?? Because my next move is to pack his s#!t and leave it in the driveway! I would think he’d be considered a squatter, not to mention an a$$#@le!

    • Karen Duncan

      If you haven’t already, you should notify your landlord immediately. When the police say, “It’s a civil matter” that means this is something that is usually dealt with in the courts. I’m NOT an expert. You should seek legal council. If your rental agreement makes you responsible for any damage caused by your “guests”, it will be really important to know your degree (if any) of liability.

    • Marlene

      My landlord rented to 2 women now they have adult son living with them in bedroom and collecting ontario works at the same time. Wat my landlord do

  • Joshua

    Hi – I am currently renting to a Lady Month to Month via verbal agreement & have been doing so since November 1st 2017 – However I have been having issues with damage , her friends drove through my yard doing quite a bit of damage, I have noticed several holes in my wall where she tried to install racks & also just last week she left my water freeze by ignoring what I told her ,I told her to keep the house warm in which I pay for the heat … told her to let the water trickle on the nights that were -15 below zero – sure enough the pipes froze outside . I give her a rental agreement to sign but it was ignored . What is the quickest way to get her out ? I am in Ohio & I read the law is a 30 day notice to end month to month . Thanks

    • Jim

      I think you’ve answered your own question. Serve her the 30-day notice. Most likely, in Ohio, the mere fact that your agreement is oral, does not remove your legal rights. So long as you have been collecting rent it would, in my personal opinion, constitute a bonafide landlord-tenant relationship. The one caveat is that if you serve the 30-day notice, you need to make sure you have covered all the legal requirements of ‘notice’. If you needed to take her to court and did not meet the legal requirements of an eviction notice, it could set you back to square one and cost you the tenants legal costs. You might want to consider using a LL/T attorney to serve the notice so it is done properly.

      Good luck

      • Joshua Engelhardt

        Thank you for the help – I plan on serving the notice tomorrow . I do have a signed month to month rental agreement that states I give her a 30 days notice which is the Ohio law for month to month . Can I give the notice any day of the month ? Today is the 1st but I would like to do it tomorrow since I will have a witness that can verify that I took it over . Thanks

        • Jim

          Yes. The clock begins either on the day served with the notice or the day following, depends on your state law. The last day ends at midnight on the 30th day.

          • Joshua

            Thank you Sir – Appreciate the help

            • Jim

              You can give more than a 30 day notice be setting forth the last day of your occupancy, so long as it is 30 or more days notice. This is sometimes a better method since you set the exact last day of possession. This method removes an ambiguity as to the last day.

              • Joshua

                Thank you for the suggestion , I went ahead & made it 32 days notice just so there was no dispute since it will be issued in the evening . That way they cant say I gave 30 days & I know for sure .

    • Karen Duncan

      In Calif., a tenant is “served” by both posting the 30-day notice on their door and by sending via US mail. Make sure the process server signs and dates the notice and keep a copy for yourself in case you have to go to court. Without a written rental agreement, this could turn into a real battle. Ex: You say, “I rented to her on a month-to-month basis”. She claims you promised her a 2 year lease. A tenant could be given the benefit of the doubt since, in many instances, a landlord is deemed to have (or supposed to have) a higher level of knowledge.

  • linda

    I am under California law, I have had a ‘guest’ for 18 months no rental agreement, she brought in her boyfriend and brother and they got busted, what can I legally do to get rid of this problem??

    • Jim

      The only sure way to handle your situation is to contact a LL/T lawyer. To try to do this yourself would be a waste of time, assuming you ask your guest to leave with her friends and she/they refuse. If it were me, I would get your ‘guest-friend’ aside and explain that you invited her, not her and two others. If she cannot or will not have her guests removed I would definitely get a LL/T attorney to handle it. Yes, it’s going to cost you some $$ but it will give you a lot of peace of mind. Next time you want to have a guest, make sure you have a written agreement as to the terms and make sure that there is a term of NO OVERNIGHT GUESTS….

      Good luck

    • Karen Duncan

      You might be able to get the “guests” out by paying them to move. I know this flies in the face of fairness but you can say, “I’ll help you with a couple a hundred bucks to move or I can give the money to an attorney to remove you”. This can be a lot cheaper than the courts.

  • shirley

    My sister has stayed here a month so far I tried to have her removed but the police said after 3 days she is a resident..I tried to have here sign a month form to move out no later than 30 days..she refused what can Ido she pays no rent and now she is tring to have her addressed changed to mine

  • Donna

    I have a tenant in CA who subletted in violation of the lease. I can try to convert the subletters to tenants but what if they don’t qualify? How do I get them out now that they are squatters? Do I have to evict them? Or do you just call the police?

    • Jim

      Police have no jurisdiction. It is a civil matter. Here is what I would do. Talk to the tenant and explain that they are in breach of their agreement and subject to termination of their lease if the sub-tenants are not removed or ‘QUALIFY’ to be added to the lease. I would have a ‘for cause’ termination notice and tenant applications with me when we have the talk. The attitude of the people during the talk would determine which of the documents I would leave.

      If this is your first time having to serve a notice of termination, I would suggest you see an attorney because if you ended up having to file in court and your notice was found defective, you could be made to pay their atty fee and court costs and start all over

      Good luck

      • Donna

        Thanks for the detailed answer. We believe now that they may have just taken on a roommate but are checking to see how long they are staying.

  • AJ

    We lease to a non-married couple (Tenant A and Tenant B), which both are on the lease…one pays the full amount of rent (Tenant A). Tenant A requested to add another tenant (Tenant C) to the lease.

    Our process includes an application, then background check, then proof of renters insurance when signing the lease. When processing Tenant C’s application we learned that she walked-out on her current lease, which had six months remaining.

    Providing an opportunity to explain her perspective, we reached out, but she’s been non-communicative. Even so, she has been staying at the property (aka “rogue tenant).

    We don’t want to evict the original tenants. How do we handle this delicately? Thoughts? Any help is appreciated!

  • Trish Casey

    A lodger that was paying on a weekly basis in my home has stopped paying and refuses to leave after i text her telling her that I need the space and am giving two weeks notice . It is going on a month now and she has become self righteous assuring me that she has rights . We have no written agreement however she has been here for six months and keeps promising prospective dates to leave. And now she insists that she get her mail delivered here after i told her that I did not want her to use this address for her mail. She disregarded and when a couple of pieces arrives I gave it to her and again told her not to use this address but she did it again and I told her that I am returning it to sender. I live in yonkers n.Y. is this legal

    • Jim

      Not being familiar with NY LL/T law I would suggest you consider talking with a LL/T lawyer. You having left her live there and accepting rent does give you ‘rights’. Without a written agreement your state statutes regarding tenant rights would apply. Suggestion: Get a GOOD rental agreement for any future use.

  • Keith

    Tenant “Mary” lives alone in a 2 bed/2bath unit of mine. She has excellent credit and makes good money. She has paid now for 3 consecutive months with no problem.

    She wants to add a roommate on the lease. She is trying to follow the contract:

    OCCUPANTS: Only the following individuals shall occupy the premises unless written consent of the LANDLORD is obtained: “Mary Doe”. A reasonable number of guests may occupy the premises without prior written consent if stay is limited to 72 hours.

    She’s known him 17 years. His credit score is 581 with some late payments. I would not rent to him.

    ME: I won’t add him as a co-renter.

    MARY: keep me as the leaseholder and list him as an occupant

    What should I do now? Is he bad as an occupant?

    • Jim

      Hi Keith. I would never allow another adult to reside without being on the lease. Remember, in most instances, both parties are independently liable for the rent and maintenance of the property. I have rented to a two-party tenancy many times with one having excellent credit and the other poor credit score. I always rely on the one with the good credit and good source of income. If the good credit tenant qualifies that is all I’m concerned with regarding their ability to pay the rent. I would not allow the friend to even stay there without doing a full up background check. If he comes up with something negative other than credit, that is what I would be concerned with. Have him fill out an online application with Cozy, which he has pay for

      • Jim

        … and make sure it is the full report with criminal and rental history background. If anything comes up that doesn’t meet your satisfaction, then the answer is simple. At least you will know if there is any dark side to this person.

        Good luck

        • Keith

          THANK YOU!

          His credit report has “9 derogatory comments” including 4 collection count, 1 historic negative account count, and 4 number of times historically late.

          His criminal / background check showed nothing.

          I have been advised just today (before I got your reply) that I should ask for double the security deposit.

          I just do not want any problems…..

          THANK YOU!
          Keith

  • Maria

    My daughter and her family moved into our home that we still live in till they get on their feet. Its been 6 months now and it doesn’t look like they’re leaving. They don’t pay rent, there isn’t a contract and my daughter and her spouse are not getting along as well as they were when they first moved in. With the circumstances getting grimmer, I am forced to evict them legally but this is a special situation since there isn’t a contract or rental agreement. I’m perusing legal advice because I still don’t know what to do but saw the opportunity to warn others to write a contract up REGARDLESS who they are.

    • Jim

      You really need to contact an attorney because only licensed attorneys in your state are allowed to give out legal advice. However, that said, any tenant without a written executed lease agreement comes under your local landlord/tenant statutes. The caveat is that even if you were to serve the eviction notice yourself, you would need to make sure that the service of notice met your local minimum requirements should you end up having to take the matter before the court or you could end up paying for all of their legal costs should your notice be found defective.

      • Maria

        Thank you Jim, I appreciate your time and wisdom! I am currently on the look out for a licensed legal adviser before I go any further. Thanks again!!

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