I have a 4plex and I rented one of the small upstairs apartments to a single person. I recently learned that a girlfriend and toddler have been living there too, or at least there quite a bit at all hours. I really don't want to lose my downstairs tenants who pay more for a bigger/nicer space. It is an old building, so sound between floors carries easily. Month to month rental agreement states that anyone that is there more that 10 days in a 6 month period needs to have written prior approval, or breach of agreement.
So, downstairs folks haven't mentioned leaving yet, but have noticed increased noise and I get the impression they aren't super happy. Upstairs tenant hasn't checked in about additional people. Haven't spoken to him about situation yet.
So, any thoughts on how I should proceed? Experienced landlords out there, what would you do?
This kind of situation is usually unavoidable. You can talk to the tenant and see if they will rectify the situation. If they don't, you can pursue possession. If everyone is paying rent then I probably wouldn't care too much.
@Jassem A. Thanks for your feedback. Yeah, on the one hand I'm happy to have everything occupied with rents coming in, but the downstairs renters are my best renters, so I'd really hate to lose them because of the little upstairs unit.
Not sure how hard I should be with upstairs guy. Meanwhile I think I'll check in further with downstairs folks to get a better read on how content they are.
Any additional pointers from folks would be great.
Orion, you may also want to check your occupancy laws there in California. I know in Texas there are laws that you have to have x number of rooms for y number of people, based on age.
They are breaking the terms of your rental agreement. You have no information about the background of the unauthorized occupant(s). If they stay long enough to establish tenancy, as defined by the laws in your jurisdiction, they will automatically become your tenant whether you like it or not.
That said, this is what we do when we suspect someone has moved in unauthorized.
1. Stop by during a time when you think the unauthorized person is there and your tenant is not. Ring the door bell... knock. If they open the door, look surprised and ask "Oh! Do you live here?" Nine times out of ten the person will say yes if they have moved in, because they haven't met you and don't know who you are.... and you are knocking on their door. If they say they are just visiting or something else, take the time to listen to all they are likely to tell you. Then tell them you are the property owner and wish to speak with the tenant.
2. If they tell you they are staying temporarily as a guest, introduce yourself as the property owner and inquire as to when they arrived and how long they plan to stay. Ask them where their home is. Tell them about your guest policy and ask them to have the tenant call you.
3. Talk with your tenant. Find out what the tenant has to say. If you have a guest policy or "use" policy that covers unauthorized occupants, follow it. If you haven't already addressed this scenario in your rental agreement, do so, because it is not an uncommon scenario. Our rental agreement states we will charge a $50 fee for each unauthorized occupant. We have a similar fee for unauthorized pets too.
4. Serve a Notice to Comply with any terms of your rental agreement that you find the tenant has violated. Talk with the tenant about the next step: either to go through a qualifying process for the extra person(s) to become a tenant, jointly and severally liable on the agreement, or see to it that the person(s) moves out as soon as possible.
Documentation and enforcement are key to this issue. If you ignore it the next thing you know you will have a hard time evicting someone you know nothing of other than the fact that they are occupying your property.
I would send a letter out to them something like this:
Dear Tenant on Lease,
It has come to my attention that you have an unauthorized resident living within your apartment. This is a violation of your lease. These occupants must vacate no later than Noon on Monday, September 1st 2014.
If these occupants wish to apply and to be added to the lease they may contact me to submit an application. Application fees may apply. If these occupants do not vacate on or before the above time and date your lease may be terminated.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.
Your Awesome Landlord who likely has to pay for the added utility costs and liability of your "guests"
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