One applicant qualifies on their own - let other one live there as "occupant"?

8 Replies

Curious what other landlords do in this situation. Someone applies for a unit you have for rent, and meets all your qualifications (income, credit, rental history, etc.), but wants their friend/significant other to live with them. How do you handle that extra person, typically? Just make sure they're not a felon, then list them as an "occupant" and you don't have them sign the lease? Or do you run the same credit/income checks on them even though you don't need to count their income, then only accept them if they meet all the same standards (credit score, etc.) and list them as a "tenant" and you have them sign the lease?

If the friend doesn't meet, say, your credit cut-off, would you be ok listing them as an occupant only, and they don't sign the lease?

The reason I ask is that I've been told that if they're listed as an occupant and the "tenant" (the one you approved via income, credit, etc.) wants to move out, then the occupant doesn't have any tenancy rights to the unit and must also move out.

I've heard of all of the above options from different landlords, curious what the BP community has to say!

I've had a husband and wife that one had really bad credit, so I ran background checks on both, but financially I was only worried about the one, and made sure they qualified on just that one income.

I listed the spouse as occupant,,,so the one spouse is on the hook, the good one,,but still keep to whatever rules you use as far as felonies, etc

When I've seen this it is usually the husband with the credit problems, and normally they are the one that have the income needed to qualify,,in this particular situation the other spouse qualified on their own.

I have all adults who will live there fill out an application and run the screening process on all them. I am looking at joint income and combined rental history aspects, etc. If they jointly make the threshold the weaker would only be disqualified if they have criminal or something that pulls the primary down.

We try to avoid having additional occupants, we want everyone to be tenants. You cannot go after occupants for monetary damages, so even a weak person is better than no person to chase. Just because they are weak today doesn't mean they will be until the statute of limitations runs out.

We get around your concern by naming a primary tenant and disucssing expectations at move in. Our language reads:

In the event that Tenants decide they no longer want to live together, ___________ will be considered the primary Tenant to make decisions about modifying or terminating tenancy. Deposits will not be returned (full or partial) until all tenants move out.

Thanks Andy and Michele, both good options! Have you had any issues with these methods in the past?

Andy, could the "occupant" try to stay if the tenant leaves, and pose a problem, be difficult to evict? Would there be any legal issues you know of with trying to evict someone listed as an occupant if the tenant moves out?

Michele, I agree about being able to go after more people financially, definitely the "pro" of listing everyone as a tenant. With that wording you listed, could you have the secondary attempt to stay if the primary moves out? Would you have legal recourse to make the secondary move out?

@Kimberly T.

Consider this... all people who reside in the dwelling are occupants. Some will be authorized by the rental agreement to reside there (those named in the rental agreement as your tenants and minors associated with them) and those who may be short-term guests of your tenant. Others fall into the category of unauthorized occupants. Avoid allowing unauthorized occupants to stay.

During the application process: Require all adults who intend to reside in the unit to fill out an application and do background checks to make sure they meet your minimum criteria to rent. You decide if you want your minimum income to rent to be required by each applicant or as a combined household. We choose the latter. Have a clear policy in place that states the guest policy and also have rules about unauthorized occupancy.

Upon lease signing: Require all adults who will be living in the unit to sign the rental agreement and to become jointly and severally liable. At this time we review all of the terms of the rental agreement and emphasize the rules about guests and unauthorized occupants. We charge a $50 fee to the tenant for every unauthorized occupant. We also let our new tenant know that if they wish to change the make up of the household in the future, by removing or adding a person to the household, they need to contact us before doing such, so we can make adjustments to the rental agreement. We let them know we have a process in place for such an event. We do not allow people to move-in without prior written approval. If the change affects the amount of household income required to continue to rent the unit, we have the option to terminate the rental agreement or ask for an additional security deposit to cover our risk.

After tenancy has commenced: If someone moves in later without prior written approval or a guest overstays, they become an unauthorized occupant. They could become your tenant by default if you take no action, so check the landlord-tenant laws for your jurisdiction. If you want them to stay, make them an authorized tenant by requiring them to go through the application and qualification process. If you want them to go, hold your tenant accountable to make sure their invitee leaves the premises. If they don't do so, then it is best to clear out the whole unit (all authorized and unauthorized occupants) with a formal legal eviction process. Even if we convert an unauthorized occupant into an authorized tenant, we still charge the $50 unauthorized occupant fee to the initial tenant for violating our rental agreement.

Hope this helps!

Originally posted by @Kimberly T. :
Thanks Andy and Michele, both good options! Have you had any issues with these methods in the past?

Andy, could the "occupant" try to stay if the tenant leaves, and pose a problem, be difficult to evict? Would there be any legal issues you know of with trying to evict someone listed as an occupant if the tenant moves out?

Michele, I agree about being able to go after more people financially, definitely the "pro" of listing everyone as a tenant. With that wording you listed, could you have the secondary attempt to stay if the primary moves out? Would you have legal recourse to make the secondary move out?

Kimberly, I deal with month to month rental agreements vs. leases, so I always have the option of issuing a 20 day notice if I don't like how things are going. But regardless, think that communication is the key. Talk about it at move in - "neither of you will be released from obligation until the end of the lease period, but if something comes up, let's discuss options, and XX is considered the primary, since only they qualify." If you get wind that things are unraveling, talk some more. Lay out options for them that are legal and you can live with. And watch the property like a hawk at that point. We have always had our less desirable tenant willingly move out with no issues; may not always be that lucky.

Thanks for all the perspectives!

Yes Michele, I agree that communication is vital!

My experience has been this happens because the "occupant" can't find anywhere else to live because they are unemployed or have a sketchy background.

I stipulate that they must must not have any previous evictions, criminal background, or any type of pattern of behavior that would suggest they might cause problems such as disturbing the peace, disorderly house, etc. In other words, a spotless background.

You do not want able bodied people without jobs hanging around all day long.

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