What Makes a Guest Into a Tenant? [How-to Guide]

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Being a tenant allows you to have people over at the place you are residing in. It can be your friend, significant other, or a family member, and as long as they’re staying for a reasonable amount of time, it shouldn’t be a problem for the landlord. But some guests tend to overstay their welcome which raises the question: when does a guest become a tenant? If you want to find out the answer to this particular question, along with some tips on how to avoid a potential problem, keep reading.

What Is the Difference Between a Tenant and a Guest?

Generally speaking, the main difference between guest and tenant is that the tenant has signed a lease agreement with the landlord.

Tenants are responsible for maintaining the property, keeping it damage-free, paying rent on time- basically everything that has been stated in the leasing agreement. They reside at the rental unit for a longer period of time, have their mail sent to the address, receive packages, and so on.

Tenants are usually being carefully screened by their landlords, who check their rental and eviction history, as well as criminal background using services for tenant screening.

Guests, on the other hand, have no legal responsibilities for any of these. They are allowed to visit and occasionally stay over for a reasonable amount of time. How long can a tenant have a guest is usually determined by the owner and is stated in the lease agreement. That means that the renter is allowed to have guests at the apartment he is staying in, but just for a limited amount of time.

It is very important for both guests and tenants to have a clear notion of what their roles and responsibilities are. Since guests are supposed to hang in the rental unit occasionally, their names don’t appear on the lease contract, meaning that landlords cannot hold them responsible for anything a tenant is usually responsible for.

You can see the potential issue if a guest has started establishing residency in someone else’s home, so it’s very important that the landlord has every occupant on the lease in order to handle any complication that may arise.

DID YOU KNOW: Even though landlords have a legal right to be strict in terms of your guests’ frequency and length of stay, extreme behavior on their part- such as keeping tabs on your guests -can be considered as invasion of privacy, against which you can take legal action.

When Does a Guest Become a Tenant?

Trying to understand the situation when an occasional, short-term visitor starts acting like a tenant at a place certainly raises the question: how long do you have to live somewhere to be considered a tenant?

In most leasing agreements, it’s stated that a guest is allowed to stay for 10- 14 days in a six-month period, or approximately 5 days to a week at a time. Any more than that is a warning sign that a guest might be turning into a tenant.

Even though the length of their stay is not the predominant factor, it is advisable that landlords pay attention to the amount of time someone, other than their legal tenant, is staying at their rental unit.

It is also important that the landlord makes it clear, from the very beginning, how long can a tenant have guests stay. Here is a table that shows when a person is considered a guest, and when do they cross the line and start acting like tenants:

Guests Tenants
Friends Stay over occasionally, not more than two weeks in a six-month period Reside at the property for a long amount of time
Romantic partner/spouse Sleep in for a few nights, or visit during the day Spend every/almost every night, move-in personal stuff
Parents/ Siblings Visit during the weekends Are not able to take care of themselves and move in with their children
Students Pay visit occasionally (during weekends or summer school breaks) Return home after graduating or taking a year off
Nanny Stays at the property only during working hours Practically lives with the family, spends most of the nights at the property

Alternatively, the owner can offer the guest to sign a temporary house guest agreement, which allows the guest to stay more than the usual 14-day-period stated in the tenant’s lease. He would still be considered a guest but will be held accountable for things such as property damages that might occur.

There is also one other alternative for guests who need to stay in their host’s accommodation for a longer period of time. They have an option of signing a contract with the property’s landlord which states that not only this person can legally stay at the rental unit, but is also responsible for paying charges and maintaining it.

This is known as a long-term guest agreement, which allows the person to use that address for legal purposes, but does not make him a tenant of the place. When the other resident decides to move out, the long-term guest is obliged to leave the premises, too.

How to Recognize a Guest Turning Tenant?

Sometimes, it may be difficult for the landlord or the property manager to determine whether someone has abused their guest position and started becoming a resident. The difference between tenant vs resident is that tenant is a term that describes someone that has signed an agreement that gives them rights to occupy a particular premise, but also makes them responsible for being consistent in paying rent and care for its proper maintenance.

A resident, on the other hand, is a term given to someone who just lives in the unit, without legal consent. As we already mentioned, guests are not expected to pay rent, but that’s not the only criteria for deciding whether someone is just an occasional visitor or not.

Here are some of the most common warning signs that a guest is establishing residency in a home:

They Started Paying Rent

When someone you consider a guest starts paying rent, it means that they’re turning into tenants. Landlords are often advised not to accept payments from anyone other than the tenants they have on the lease. Why’s that? Because despite the fact that the guest’s name doesn’t appear on the leasing agreement, once the owner receives a payment, they are instantly considered tenants and need to be put on a lease ASAP!

They Constantly Spend the Night at the Property

If friends have turned from tenant overnight guests to people who started sleeping at the place on a regular basis, it means they’ve become an occupant themselves. That certainly breaks the tenant guest policy, which allows a person who is not a tenant to stay at the property just for a limited amount of time.

They Started Receiving Mail at the Property

If the person in question changed their mailing address and started receiving letters, packages, or magazine subscriptions at the apartment, it is clear they have established residence at the place.

They Moved-in Personal Belongings

If the owner starts seeing unfamiliar furniture pieces, new pets, or other personal stuff, the person they had considered a guest has updated their position into a tenant.

The Guest and the Tenant Have Made an Oral Agreement

If the guest offered to split rent with the existing tenants, they had indeed become a tenant, even though they haven’t signed a written agreement with the owner. Even though legal residents tend to not see this as an issue, the property owner definitely does see it as such. The main reason is that the more people live at the rental unit, the higher the utility costs are.

DID YOU KNOW: If a landlord suspects that a guest is acting as a tenant, he has every right to visit the property for inspection. If his doubts turn out to be true, he can either request adding the guest to the lease agreement, or evict both him and the tenant.

What Should You Do if a Guest Becomes a Tenant?

How many days can a tenant have a guest visiting in the home, should be stated in the leasing agreement. That provides a clear picture and understanding of the rules the owner has set- from the very beginning of the agreement-that concern the apartment’s guest.

Even though landlords are generally observant and careful in order to prevent such problematic situations from happening, they don’t always have the power to spot the process at its very beginning and act upon it appropriately. In such cases, there are several things you can do to improve the situation.

Talking to the tenants and discussing the issue with them is a good first step, at which point you could suggest including a guest clause in the lease-if there isn’t one.

Then, you can talk to the occupant and offer the previous solution or suggest adding them on the lease– see if they are happy to be converted into a rightful tenant.

In practice, the majority of people are happy to sign a lease agreement, as they’ve already decided they want to live at the place. This is really important for the owner because by signing the contract, the guest is obliged to respect it, and is therefore legally responsible for paying rent on time, keeping the property damage-free, etc.

It also gives the landlord the right to increase the rental cost in order to cover the higher expenses caused by more people living at the property.

Key Takeaways

What has considered a tenant is someone that has signed a binding contract and is legally responsible for respecting it.
A guest only visits the property occasionally and doesn’t overstay.
It is important to recognize the signs of a guest turning unto a tenant, such as receiving mail or parking their car at the property.
Talk to the tenant and the guest in question to resolve any arising issues.
It is important to have every adult person living at the unit on a lease agreement.

Can You Evict a Guest?

As a landlord, you have every right to evict a guest the minute you realize they have abused their guest rights. The rules are set by the owner, which means he is the one who decides when a guest has overstayed their welcome, and the details are included in the lease.

But it is better to first discuss the problematic situation by reminding them both about the differences between a guest vs tenant before you seek legal recourse.

Reminding the tenant that their guest has violated the lease is the first step to resolving the problem. It is important to not talk in a blaming tone and try to reach a mutual agreement.

The second step is to offer to add the overstaying guest on the lease and discuss the eventual changes in the agreement and rent costs.

You should only consider eviction if you’ve exhausted all your “mild” options. If you warned the residents several times about the possible consequences and they still haven’t agreed on signing an agreement or leaving the rental unit, then you should get informed on how to properly evict a tenant.

DID YOU KNOW: A guest who has violated his long-term guest rights is a legitimate cause for eviction as-is property damage, not paying rent, or any kind of illegal activity.

Conclusion

As a landlord, dealing with guests who overstay at your property and eventually turn into tenants is not an easy task. It is important to prevent the situation from escalating and take the right actions when dealing with the issue. As most residents are willing to cooperate, you should make a proposition to add them to a lease.

Ultimately, if you cannot reach a mutual agreement, you should proceed with the eviction of the tenants due to lease violation.

FAQ

What is an occupant on a lease?

The difference between an occupant and a tenant is that the tenant has signed a lease agreement, while the occupant is, most often, a guest that stays at the property without being listed in the agreement. The occupant can be added on the lease when they stay at the property for too long, after which he is considered a tenant and is expected to respect the rules and to pay rent month-to-month.

Can a landlord say no to overnight guests?

As the rental unit is the property of the owner and not the tenant- a question may be raised: can a landlord prohibit guests? The answer is no. The tenant has every right to have guest over, even if they occasionally spend the night. Still, the tenant should respect the lease agreement and not let their guest overstay at the apartment.

Can a landlord raise rent if girlfriend moved in?

Every person that lives at a certain property is considered a tenant, therefore, is obliged to pay rent and be put on a lease. The more people live at the property, the higher the utility costs are, which means that it is expected that the landlord will raise the rent, as well.

What should you be careful about as a tenant?

Being a tenant allows you to have guests who stay a night or two at your place, but it is important to respect your agreement and know when does a guest become a tenant, in order to avoid any legal troubles.

ABOUT AUTHOR

Alex is an IT wizz gone SEO gone fire-juggler. We’re not even joking. When he isn’t researching why one personal loan is better than the other and which piece of hardware you should buy next, he’s rollerblading or selling homes (because he does that, too, the smarty-pants).

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