Adding Temporary Guest to Lease? (Massachusetts)

13 Replies

Hello everyone.  We have tenants who moved from another part of the country to live in our 3 family building.  They mentioned having a daughter that was moving up here too, and would be staying for a few weeks when she arrived here.  I wasn't present for the lease signing (my ex-GF and co-owner/landlord) was present, and they said it was for a couple months, and "we told him all about it".  I wasn't happy they exaggerated about it, but whatever.  We had them write a note saying she would stay with them until February 28th, and we took her ID and other information.

Today, we receive a text message from one of the tenants saying that "we need to add daughter to lease as she's unable to find permanent housing, let us know how to do this as soon as possible".  We are not interested in having her move in permanently, especially at the current rate.  Only the two tenants are on the lease, their daughter is not mentioned in it.

What to do?  My ex GF still lives in one of the units, and might not feel comfortable to tell the tenants what I would like to tell them (please go find some sand and pound it), but we surely don't want them to assume they can move in another adult into the unit without any changes.  Has anyone encountered a situation like this?  Thanks much!

You could tell them no. They may opt to leave or may move her in without telling you. In that case you can evict. To me those are all bad options.

If they are on a 1 yr lease you could amend the lease and add the daughter, along with a rent increase. In doing so you could also make the lease term end in a month that will be easy for you to find tenants. When that time comes around you could choose to not renew their lease.

@Christopher Reynolds

I'd get a new lease with the new rent to them ASAP.

Ever talk to the mediators in your area of Massachusetts Housing Court?

What are your occupancy standards? Ours is a maximum of 2 people per bedroom. HUD allows for 2 people per bedroom plus 1. If it is a two bedroom unit, I would have no problem adding a third person and keeping the rent the same, as long as the new person qualifies.

To do so, meet with all parties in the household. Require the adult daughter to complete a rental application and do a full background check. If you typically charge an application fee, charge it. If the daughter qualifies, according to your rental criteria, then accept her as a tenant on the lease. All parties on the new agreement will be jointly and severally liable. If you want to make other adjustments to the lease at this time, and all parties agree, then do so.

Consider whether your lease is comprehensive enough to cover situations that may arise. The situation of a tenant wanting to change the make up of the household is fairly common. Be flexible and reasonable. Also, if you want more flexibility and don't want to be locked in, make the rental agreement month to month. If your expenses increase (for example, if you are paying more for utilities) because of a third person living there, then raise the rent if you must.

In most jurisdictions if a person occupies a place for a certain amount of time and establishes residency, they become your tenant whether you agreed to it in advance or not. In our state, if the daughter has lived there for 30 days and receives mail at the residence, she could claim tenancy.

Open and honest communication from the start is key. Matters of importance need to be in writing. Verbal agreements should be avoided. Sounds like the problem originated with how you and your ex-GF handled the move in. Your expectations, her expectations, and the tenants' expectations obviously were not in synch. It is good that your tenants are letting you know about the change in their circumstances and are asking you in advance of Feb 28 for help in accommodating their need. That shows a spirit of cooperation.

Do your tenants know who to contact for maintenance needs and other matters? Set up a primary contact person and secondary contact person. Establish reliable means for them to contact you.... telephone, text, email, postal mail. Let them know how and when you prefer they contact you. We want our tenants to be able to reach us for urgent matters without delay. Written communication is necessary for some matters. Verbal communication is okay for others.

Also, determine how you and your ex-GF will manage the property. As co-owners and business partners, you would do well to have a clear operating agreement. A qualified attorney can help you draw up one. Anticipate that one or both of you may want to sell the property someday, or one of you might die before the other. We established LLCs with the help of an attorney and it was well worth it. We file partnership tax returns. There are many things to consider when you own residential rental property with another party. How will decisions be made? Who will be the property manager? Who will be the tax matters partner? Think through all possible scenarios and prepare in advance.

Good luck!

I think what @Mike Hurney  is alluding to is the fact that telling them to find sand and pound it will really, really not go over well if you end up in court.  To be honest, simply by giving you notice that their daughter was staying a few weeks and signing that note, they went above and beyond what the court would require of them.  

Why the resistance to modifying the lease?  You haven't really said.  Your best play here is almost certainly to agree to add her to the lease for a slightly higher rent.

Thanks for all the replies.  They initially said (to me, before they had submitted an application) she would be staying a few weeks, and at lease signing, they said a few months to ex GF at lease signing.  I was unavailable to attend lease signing, and they brought this up to ex GF.  There was a lapse in communication between me and her, and I wish we had caught it.

@Marcia Maynard   Occupancy limits don't apply here.  They are extremely needy and sometimes pushy tenants, and we don't want to renew their lease when it ends.  They are also very nice people, and we'd like to keep everyone happy whilst being fair to everyone too.  The daughter is also nice, and we had no problems during her stay in the apartment so far. Also, you are correct in your statement of everyone's intentions not being in sync.  This is mostly my fault, and is not typical of our landlording skills.  Ex GF and I own the house jointly, and she actively manages it, although all the tenants know me well, as ex GF and I are still very close, and I spend a lot of time there.  A meeting of all parties is likely needed.

@Richard C.  We signed a lease with two occupants, and now they want to add someone.  How would this end up poorly for us in court?  Both parties agreed to a lease, we are honoring our side.  What kind of a rent increase would be appropriate? I'd consider adding her for a 10-15% increase in rent. I would never consider adding her with no increase.  

@Mike Hurney   Can you just talk to a mediator?  I've spoken with one in an eviction hearing, but I never thought to speak with one because I assumed you needed to file for a court hearing to access them.  

Thank you for your replies! 

Unless your goal is to get rid of them... Does it really matter?  Add her to the lease.  Maybe I missed something in your post, but unless it violates the maximum number of people it doesn't really matter IMO.

@Bryan N.  What if they had more adults they wanted to add?  The plan was for the daughter to be here temporarily, and now they want to have her move in permanently.  Are you suggesting we add her to an amended lease at no cost?  We'd consider doing it at a slight increase in rent.

There could be a lot of "what ifs" and I don't know the whole situation.  Its their daughter.  I'm assuming It's a famity who needs to live together so everyone can have stability.   It might make them better renters.  Everyone lies about stuff at the end of the day.  Now, if they are trying to move in Johnny, the hobo on the corner, that would be different.

@Christopher Reynolds  

Mike Hurney Can you just talk to a mediator? I've spoken with one in an eviction hearing, but I never thought to speak with one because I assumed you needed to file for a court hearing to access them. 

Of course. The Judge brought one to our 12/30/14 meeting and she was very insightful!

@Christopher Reynolds  

When this happens to us, we execute a change of lease, to add the new adult, which becomes an amendment to the existing lease.  We would also increase the rent to account for increased wear and tear on the unit and the additional consumption of utilities (i.e. water & sewer}

I don't see what the objection is. Apartments are usually priced per unit, not per tenant. Is there some reason you don't want her there?

Collect another app fee, add her to the lease and then you have another responsible party to collect from if they fail to pay rent. You can still choose not to renew the lease regardless of whether you add her or not. 

If your transcription of the text message is accurate, I would explain that I am not happy they would assume this was okay, but I am willing to make an accommodation.   If the tenant is a good payer, I'd write up a new lease with her on it and not lose any sleep over it.  They'll most likely move her in with or without a lease.  You know, a guest.  She doesn't stay here all the time.  Blah, blah, blah.  

If you charge for utilities, add another $20/month to it.  If you don't charge for utilities, but include them, have them pay an additional $25/month (with a written agreement, of course).  If they pay utilities, get her on a lease that will expire once she is gone.  One more person on the lease is one more person you can go after if things go bad. 

That's just my take on it.

And get an app and app fee.

Hi Christopher,

Greetings from Hopkinton! I just sold a house in Framingham last month.

Anyway, you mentioned: "They are extremely needy and sometimes pushy tenants, and we don't want to renew their lease when it ends." Sounds like they gotta go.

How much longer does the lease have to run? When I was a landlord, I would religiously put tenants in under a written Tenancy At Will for slightly easier handling of situations just like this one. You might consider doing that next time around.

Anyhow, it seems that there is a lease violation. If you did not agree in writing to a modification, it seems like you'd want to serve them with notice that they are in violation, and that you wish to terminate the tenancy. In Massachusetts, eviction is a nightmarish, Kafkaesque labyrinth for the landlord. So before proceeding one step further, I would strongly suggest contacting an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant law for advice and to help you avoid costly and time-consuming pitfalls. 

On the plus side, Middlesex County now has two specialized Housing Courts (so you don't have to go through the District Court system anymore). The one in Marlboro is probably the applicable one for you. 

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