Say your new partner is sleeping over, or your brother lost his job and started crashing on your couch.
Most leases will consider these people guests until they sleep over a specific number of days.
Where do you draw the line between visitor and tenant? Can my landlord charge my guest rent?
Keep reading to learn more.
How Long Can Visitors Stay in Your Apartment?
Most apartments have a guest policy to keep landlords up to date, reduce damages to the building, and avoid violating rules.
Guest policies typically state how long visitors can stay. These do vary between leases, so check yours out to see how it looks.
Some things that might be clearly specified in your guest policies can include:
- Number of overall nights a guest can stay
- Number of consecutive nights a visitor may spend
- Maximum occupancy of the apartment
- If long-term visitors will be added to the lease
- The types of visitors allowed
Usually, guests may stay 14 overall nights every six months. Consecutively speaking, they can spend 10-14 nights at your place.
If your visitor lives for more than two weeks in the house, they start bouncing between being a visitor and a resident of this apartment.
Some landlords will add that you can extend the guest’s stay with written approval. However, they will likely limit this extension and force the visitor to become a tenant at some point.
Regardless, the exact period depends on your lease. If you are unsure of your landlord’s policy, ask them directly to avoid confusion.
Visitor or Tenant – What’s the Difference?
A visitor is someone who stays in your apartment for a brief period. They are not on the lease and do not pay rent, but they may occasionally sleep there overnight.
Visitors have no obligations to the landlord or apartment building. Most leases allow non-paying guests to stay for around two weeks before being considered a tenant.
A tenant lives full-time in an apartment. They pay rent and usually sign the lease, giving them legal responsibilities to the landlord.
Furthermore, they respect the obligations outlined by the landlord. A tenant may pay utilities, complete repairs, avoid smoking, not own pets, or anything else mentioned on the lease.
Keep in mind that not all tenants sign the lease. If your city has limits on how many people can sign the lease, you may pay rent to the landlord without having an official tie to the property.
Sometimes, long-term guests blur the lines between visitor and tenant. If they stay past their grace period or move in without permission, you may have a rogue tenant on your hands.
Here are some examples of visitors:
- A family member visiting for a couple of weeks
- A friend hanging out in your place throughout the day
- A significant other who spends the night occasionally
- Hired help that stays in your apartment when working and leaves after
- Someone who stays for a few days as they find a new apartment
Some instances of tenants include:
- A family member moving in full-time
- A friend who sleeps in your apartment most nights for weeks at a time
- A significant other who spends most days and nights in your apartment
- Hired help that lives on your property
- Someone who stays for a few months and gives up on finding a new apartment
Did Your Visitor Become a Tenant?
As a landlord, you may feel suspicious that one of your tenant’s long-term guests has overstayed their welcome.
Some warning signs that a visitor has become a tenant include:
- Sleeping over most nights
- Helping to pay the rent
- Keeping a pet at the apartment
- Getting mail delivered there
- Moving in furniture
- Requesting maintenance
- Having keys to the building
If you did not approve of them establishing residency, you may need to put them on the lease.
As a renter, you can use the same criteria to determine if your guest behaves like a tenant. By figuring out if they are unofficial roommates, you can make future processes easier.
You may need to approach the landlord to ask them to add your visitor’s name to the lease. From there, you can negotiate rent, utility, and amendments to the previous lease.
If your apartment has no room for another person on the lease, the landlord may terminate the original agreement.
Should You Add a Visitor to Your Lease?
You may want to add a visitor to your lease if you find them becoming an obligation.
Visitors may become financial obligations if they damage your place without paying for repairs, eat your groceries, and use excess water and electricity.
Landlords that pay for utilities will notice the spike in use and ask about the situation. They will likely force you to either add the visitor to the lease or send them packing.
Also, ask your current roommates for their opinions. If they feel like your guest is a freeloader and want them to chip in, you should do something.
They may want you to pay for the extra utilities used by this visitor. Some might not feel comfortable living with your guest and want them to leave.
Some won’t care at all, but others will want you to add them to the lease.
Early on in your living arrangement, try to form a roommate agreement. Base it on the lease and come up with your guest policies. Figure out everyone’s comfort levels with visitors.
By writing these terms upfront, you can save yourself and your visitors from trouble and confrontation. You will know the expectations and have a better time complying.
Pros and Cons of Turning a Guest into a Tenant
Let’s weigh the advantages and disadvantages of turning a visitor into a tenant.
- Could lower the cost of rent
- You won’t have to pay for your guest’s mistakes
- May take some stress off of you
- Might pay more in utilities
- Could violate the landlord’s trust and policies
If you have room for another person on your lease, you should probably ask your long-term guest to sign.
For the most part, your rent should decrease if you have more people paying for it. However, rent prices that include utilities will probably go up with an added guest.
If your visitor damages the property or violates one of the rules on the lease, they will pay for their mistakes. You will no longer face the same financial obligations to make up for them.
They can support themselves by paying for their living expenses. You won’t have to worry about them as much as they will have the same rental responsibilities as you.
However, not all places will allow more tenants to sign. Your landlord may lose trust in you if you go behind their back and break the guest policy.
By having an honest conversation with your guest and landlord, you can determine the best path of action. You might gain a new roommate or lose a long-term visitor.
Either way, you will avoid violating guest policies and save yourself from a world of trouble.
How to Keep Out Long-Term Visitors
If you have a friend who you suspect will establish residency, you need to take action.
For those who want to prevent long-term visitors, consult your lease. Clearly state the guest policy to your visitor and hold your ground if they try to break it.
If your lease does not have a guest policy, ask your landlord to implement one. You can work with them to write a clause including things like:
- Can visitors have keys?
- Should a non-resident receive mail at the apartment?
- How many overall or consecutive nights can someone stay?
- Where should a guest park on the property?
- When will a long-term guest be added to the lease?
If the visitor wants to live in your place but fears a long-term lease, ask about subletting. Sublets let guests stay rightfully in an apartment without a full commitment.
They will pay rent, utilities, and damages for the duration of their stay. Once they decide to move on, your temporary roommate can leave scot-free.
However, not all landlords allow you to sublet. You can ask if they’ll amend the agreement to allow for that. Subletting helps you and your landlord if you have a long-term guest.
What Do You Do If the Visitor Wants to Become a Tenant?
If your visitor decides to become a tenant, the best thing to do is to sign a tenant’s lease.
Nevertheless, remember that it is not your position to decide whether they can become a tenant.
Instead, first, inform your landlord about this visitor who would love to sign a lease. In some cases, this may be impossible since the apartment cannot hold any more tenants.
Otherwise, the landlord may be comfortable adding the tenant to the lease. In this case, your visitor will go through a similar process as a new tenant.
This will include a credit check, a background check, proof of income, and the first month’s deposit, among other recommendations that the landlord may have for new tenants.
The tenant-to-be must meet these qualifications even if they have already lived in the apartment for a while.
Issues When Visitors Extends Stay Without Signing Lease
As hospitable as you may be, having a visitor living permanently in your house ends up causing more harm than good.
Landlords that discourage this do so for reasons such as:
- The Guest is Not in The Insurance Policy
When moving in, you sign an insurance policy that covers you as the tenant.
Since the visitor does not have insurance cover, it may be tough for them in an accident.
For instance, if the visitor left a heater on and caused a fire, they will need to independently cover these costs.
- The Guest May Not Follow Basic Rules in The Apartment
In some cases, you may have an unruly visitor who has no regard for the rules that govern the apartment where you welcomed them.
The visitor may be too loud or disrespect other tenants in the building.
In this case, your landlord may not be in a position to threaten or warn them since they are not the ones on their lease.
As a result, the landlord will approach you, which could negatively affect your relationship.
- Overuse of Apartment Utilities
There are specific utilities in the house, such as water which may be limited only to those using the apartment.
While sharing such utilities with a visitor for a day or two may not be a problem, it may become an issue if they extend their stay.
Therefore, the landlord will discourage having visitors since some of these costs may fall on their end.
- Space Could Be Too Small
Capacity limitations are a common thing in most rentals.
For this reason, a guest who becomes a tenant without informing the landlord may force them to go against their capacity limitations.
Additionally, space could become a safety hazard if it is too small to house the people living there. For instance, a one-bedroom apartment is too small to house four tenants.
How Can You Prevent Long-Term Guests in Your Apartment?
It is inconvenient to have a visitor overstay in your apartment and eventually become a tenant without your consent.
You can prevent this by asking your landlord for a guest policy before your visitor comes to live with you.
Inform a guest who intends to visit you for several days on this policy before they come in so that they do not extend their stay.
You can also ask your roommate to request the visitor to leave if the place is too small to hold another tenant.
Landlords have the right to limit the amount of time a guest can stay overnight in your apartment. However, they cannot place restrictions on how much daytime someone spends.
Remember, tenants have rights too. Check your state’s rules on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.
You may also find them on local government sources.
If you have a friend, partner, or family member that you invite to stay overnight, ensure you are within your lease’s rulings.
Violating the guest policies can create problems between you and your landlord. Plus, it affects your visitor.
You can create the best environment for your visitor, roommates, and landlord by discussing the details prior to their stay.
Come to an agreement with each of these individuals regarding guest policies and you won’t have to worry about them spending too much time at your place.
Defining when a visitor becomes a tenant will keep entertaining guests a stress-free experience.
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