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When Does a Guest Become a Tenant?

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when does a guest become a tenant

When managing a rental unit on your own, you’re bound to encounter unique situations. One of these is learning a guest has turned into a tenant. It might start off seeing a familiar face that’s a frequent visitor. Later on, you’d realize they’ve actually moved in informally.

This can be a sensitive issue since you don’t want to cast blame on anyone. However, as a landlord, it’s also your duty to increase your awareness when it comes to tenant protection. Should dangerous situations occur, it can be hard to release information about someone in your rental property who hasn’t passed your tenant screening.

How do you differentiate a tenant from a guest?

To start with, let’s define how a tenant differs from a guest in your rental unit. A tenant is the person who signed a leasing agreement with you. Tenants agree to perform the duties written in the lease, pay the rent on time and maintain your property reasonably. Tenants are people you have properly screened in terms of rental history, credit score, criminal background and eviction history.

A guest, by comparison, is a person who visits the rental unit. Guests can stay over at times but on a limited period. They’re not obligated to pay the rent nor are they required to shoulder the responsibilities of a tenant, as outlined in the lease. Their names do not appear on the contract. They can also be people you haven’t met or checked for background history.

are they a tenant or guest

What’s the behavior of tenants vs. the behavior of guests?

Identifying a guest versus a tenant can require careful assessment. You want to avoid embarrassing anyone living in your premises. Here are examples of how a tenant acts vs. how a guest acts:

  • The tenant resides in the property and sleeps the majority of the time in the rental
  • The nanny staying and sleeping in the rental with the family is also considered a tenant
  • Returning home college students who recently graduated or are taking a semester off are labeled as tenants
  • Parents who have stayed over a month in the rental can count as tenants
  • Romantic partners who are frequently staying in the rental for the majority of the mornings and evenings, or even sleeping over, can also be categorized as tenants
  • A guest is a person who visits during the daytime and seldom sleeps over
  • A nanny is only taken as a guest when they stay for a short period of time during the day or evening
  • Students who are staying in the rental during weekends and school breaks are considered guests only
  • Visiting parents and relatives who don’t stay for over a month are rightfully termed as guests

How to spot signs of a guest turned tenant?

Some signs to watch out for when it comes to evaluating whether a guest has converted to a tenant status is if:

  • The guest is staying for an indefinite period of time. They are no longer visiting for a short break from school
  • The guest is staying overnight for several weeks already
signs a guest is a tenant
  • The guest can no longer take care of themselves and has moved in with the family renting in your unit
  • The guest has been apartment hunting and has been staying for weeks on end
  • The guest is a lived-in helper or nanny

How do guests establish residency?

  1. A guest is using the rental unit as an official address for mail and packages
  2. A guest is parking their car most of the time in the parking lot of your rental property
  3. A guest is sleeping over 90% of the time in the rental unit
  4. A guest is transferring furniture and personal possessions into your rental space
  5. A guest is keeping their pet in your rental property
  6. A guest is offering to pay rent for staying in your property
  7. A guest has a copy of the key to the rental home

How to handle guests turned tenants?

So, what should you do when a guest has taken up residency in your rental space? Here are steps you can take to protect yourself from these situations:

Include their names in the leasing agreement.

If you’ve noticed the signs that a guest has a prolonged stay in your tenant’s unit, it’s reasonable to add them as tenants to the lease agreement. This protects you by identifying the guest and checking their background. It also gives the guest responsibilities a tenant must perform while in your rental space. Lastly, the guest will also be liable to pay the rent dues.

Talk to the tenant.

tenant communication

Communicating to the tenants is the best recourse. You can politely remind them that they signed the lease and overstaying guests cannot act like tenants. Otherwise, they’re violating the terms of the lease. When talking to the tenants, it’s essential to avoid a blaming tone and objectively point out the ways their guests have crossed over to acting like tenants.

Check-in with the guest and monitor the development.

You can also talk to the long-term guest who has the makings of a tenant absent of the obligations. Ask the guest if they prefer to be included in the lease as tenants or if they plan to move out. If they choose the latter then make sure that they follow through with the action. 

How do you safeguard your rental unit from guests turned tenants?

Be proactive and establish clear policies early on. Build a solid leasing agreement that outlines rules on what types of guests are allowed. It’s also best to be specific about the acceptable visiting period. You can state, for example, that guests are only allowed to stay for a maximum of 3 weeks. Otherwise, it’s considered a violation. The lease can mention the consequence such as paying a fine or being a ground for eviction. 

Bottom line

As a landlord, it’s your duty to properly identify the people living in your property. The reason for this is you’ll avoid the associated risks when it comes to dealing with a possible squatter issue.