I suspect tenant has moved two other people in

24 Replies

It was just supposed to be her and her two kids, and she said she was single, had no time to date, works 70 hours a week, two jobs, hardly home, etc.

As I like to do, I drove by the unit recently, as I have the past 3.5 months since she has lived there, to check on the area. So, yesterday, I saw two vehicles, construction type vehicles with ladders, gutters, etc. in addition to her vehicle. It wasn't dinner time or anything, and it's possible they were just hanging out there, but what's the best way to handle this?

I suspect I should go there at NIGHT when it's bed time to see if the cars are parked there. Over a span of three weeks? The lease allows a guest to stay there for 14 days, so I figure if I see them there over that, then they are in violation.

I'm not extremely alarmed, as she had mentioned she had a friend that does gutter work, when I had mentioned that I was going to replace the gutters soon. I think one of the vehicles belongs to him. Could be a romantic friend, who knows.

Anyways, if it turns out other people have moved in, I will just approach it in a friendly manner citing that it is OK, but that they need to be background checked, pay the fee, and sign a lease. If I get push back, I will then serve her the 10 day notice to comply or vacate.

Thoughts? Should I even keep driving by at night? It's a 2 hour drive round trip for me, at night, so perhaps I could just send her a friendly email reminding her of the policy because I had another tenant that recently violated, etc. so I'm sending notices to everyone.

It is not uncommon for unmarried adults to have romantic friends stay the night. The key is, does the boyfriend have a permanent address elsewhere? What does his driver's license and vehicle registration show?

Nix the idea of driving out of your way to check up on her and nix the idea of sending a reminder of the rental agreement terms under the guise that you are sending it to all tenants. Best to be open and honest with her. If you notice the other vehicles are regularly parked outside her unit and want to know what's up....ask her about it. If there is a problem, address it. If she and the kids are gone, but you think someone else is in the unit (daytime), knock on the door and see who answers.

Also, do periodic maintenance inspections. Give proper notice. When you are in the unit check out functionality of HVAC, electrical, plumbing, appliances and smoke/CO detectors. Use your scoping skills. If you see mail addressed to other people, personal belongings (ie: clothing & toiletries that are not hers or her kids') then you might have reason to ask her about it. Young kids will often spill the beans, so if you have a chance casually ask them.

If your rental agreement does not allow others to move-in without your approval, then don't tell her it is "OK" after the fact. We attach a $50 fee for unauthorized occupants and that is a great deterrent. We have a means to add a person (or remove a person) from the rental agreement because it is not uncommon for the make up of households to change over time, but we do not tolerate unauthorized occupants just moving in.

Hi @Jack B. ,

Just from what I see (could of course be a lot more) I wouldn't worry about it. She is allowed to have a person spend the night, spend a few nights here and there, have 1 person for Mondays, a different one for Tuesdays a different for Wednesdays all the way up to resting on Sundays. She could even have people have a toothbrush there and extra clothes because they stop over a couple times a week and get changed and showered before relaxing and watching Jeopardy together. She is allowed to enjoy the property and that includes with friends.

Personally I wouldn't go out of my way to find out. I would during the course of the next inspection take a gander for any overt signs of more than an on occasional tenant and if I saw enough (More than some clothes and a toothbrush) I would simply inquire as to if she has added a tenant and inform her of what is required if that person takes up residency. Now if this person became a problem (Cops called, neighbor complains) then I would get a little more aggressive but in general I'd let her live her life.

Originally posted by @Mike Cumbie :

Hi @Jack B.,

Just from what I see (could of course be a lot more) I wouldn't worry about it. She is allowed to have a person spend the night, spend a few nights here and there, have 1 person for Mondays, a different one for Tuesdays a different for Wednesdays all the way up to resting on Sundays. She could even have people have a toothbrush there and extra clothes because they stop over a couple times a week and get changed and showered before relaxing and watching Jeopardy together. She is allowed to enjoy the property and that includes with friends.

Personally I wouldn't go out of my way to find out. I would during the course of the next inspection take a gander for any overt signs of more than an on occasional tenant and if I saw enough (More than some clothes and a toothbrush) I would simply inquire as to if she has added a tenant and inform her of what is required if that person takes up residency. Now if this person became a problem (Cops called, neighbor complains) then I would get a little more aggressive but in general I'd let her live her life.

I get where you are coming from, but having someone who is potentially living there full time in violation of the lease terms with her, is a risk to me. I have a person on the property that is not bound by my lease agreement, and the legal protections I'm provided therein. 

Merely wanting to find out who is living in a house I paid for and getting them on the lease isn't denying her of her right to life. She can have anyone who fills out an application passes the background and signs the lease stay. I just want to take measures to protect myself. I do not want a violent felon living in my house. She doesn't have a magical right to break my rules. I DO have a right to set the rules of the screening process of her and anyone else who lives there.  Doing so isn't unreasonable. Letting just anyone move in there after the fact negates the purpose of a screening process and a lease. I might as well not do any screening at all using that logic.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :

It is not uncommon for unmarried adults to have romantic friends stay the night. The key is, does the boyfriend have a permanent address elsewhere? What does his driver's license and vehicle registration show?

Nix the idea of driving out of your way to check up on her and nix the idea of sending a reminder of the rental agreement terms under the guise that you are sending it to all tenants. Best to be open and honest with her. If you notice the other vehicles are regularly parked outside her unit and want to know what's up....ask her about it. If there is a problem, address it. If she and the kids are gone, but you think someone else is in the unit (daytime), knock on the door and see who answers.

Also, do periodic maintenance inspections. Give proper notice. When you are in the unit check out functionality of HVAC, electrical, plumbing, appliances and smoke/CO detectors. Use your scoping skills. If you see mail addressed to other people, personal belongings (ie: clothing & toiletries that are not hers or her kids') then you might have reason to ask her about it. Young kids will often spill the beans, so if you have a chance casually ask them.

If your rental agreement does not allow others to move-in without your approval, then don't tell her it is "OK" after the fact. We attach a $50 fee for unauthorized occupants and that is a great deterrent. We have a means to add a person (or remove a person) from the rental agreement because it is not uncommon for the make up of households to change over time, but we do not tolerate unauthorized occupants just moving in.

 I have a clause for a $10.00 day fine per unauthorized occupant. I get 20's somethings have dates. I had dates spend the night when I lived there. Heck, I'm not sure that he is or isn't a romantic interest. I don't really care. The issue is getting him screened and on the lease if he is going to be living there. I just want to find out how to go about it, sooner rather than later. I suppose I could do a six month inspection. Only 2.5 months to go. 

With my C Class properties I think I need to check twice a year to see what is going on. My last tenant at this house had her sister and her kids move in. Luckily in that situation, they were moving out in two months anyways, so there wasn't any reason to get her on the lease at that point, she had already been living there for a few months apparently. There was def. something off about her sister. She seemed out of it all the time. 

@Jack B. It is not in your best interest or that of the tenant to be a helicopter landlord. If you have sufficient evidence another person has moved in, then address it. But don't hover around looking for it. From what you posted, you are basing your assumption that two other people have moved in because you saw two vehicles parked outside her home yesterday? @Mike Cumbie provided some good advice. Remember to allow tenants the ability to enjoy their home, in peace, and entertain friends from time to time.

It sounds as though you are a bit gun shy based on your experience with previous tenants moving in additional tenants. Know what to keep an eye out for, but realize it is a preponderance of evidence that points to unauthorized occupants, not any one thing. Even so, it can be difficult to prove. If you have done good tenant screening and have been clear about the terms of the rental agreement, there is nothing to worry about at this juncture.

Originally posted by @Marcia Maynard :

@Jack B. It is not in your best interest or that of the tenant to be a helicopter landlord. If you have sufficient evidence another person has moved in, then address it. But don't hover around looking for it. From what you posted, you are basing your assumption that two other people have moved in because you saw two vehicles parked outside her home yesterday? @Mike Cumbie provided some good advice. Remember to allow tenants the ability to enjoy their home, in peace, and entertain friends from time to time.

It sounds as though you are a bit gun shy based on your experience with previous tenants moving in additional tenants. Know what to keep an eye out for, but realize it is a preponderance of evidence that points to unauthorized occupants, not any one thing. Even so, it can be difficult to prove. If you have done good tenant screening and have been clear about the terms of the rental agreement, there is nothing to worry about at this juncture.

Not outside the house. In the driveway, with her car blocking them in, as if they were there before she got home (it's a long slim driveway).

I don't see how it's "gun shy" to expect people to be screened and be on the lease, abiding by the terms of the lease they agreed to, that they may be in violation of. Judging by the number of people messaging and voting me up as result of my last post, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks my stance is reasonable. And just yesterday I read another thread on here where this "good advice" was also corrected by others.

Again, you have not really presented a cogent argument about the screening and liability issue, and why even bother to do any screening if I just look the other way to something like this. The "live and let live" argument, while simple and feel good, really doesn't address the issue. What if he is living there and can't pass a BGC and that's why he is under the radar? What if he has a history criminal history involving meth labs and he starts one in there? Are you saying I should just blindly look the other way on a piece of real estate that I have nearly 200K of my money into, when my tenant could be in violation of the lease agreement, which could put me at legal and financial risk? You consider that reasonable but simply even sending an inquiry to the tenant about it offering to put them on the lease once they pass the BGC is somehow unreasonable? Risking everything to overlook it is reasonable, but inquiring about it and enforcing it as laid out in the lease is going to lose me what exactly? Likely nothing, but at worst, a violator of a lease, that has already broken other rules and been warned and is potentially violating another one and will likely violate more?

 I get not wanting to be a hover landlord, but merely noticing things and wanting to investigate before they become a problem isn't being a hover landlord. It's called managing. I have a vested interest in that property as I have a lot of money in it. Again, wanting to screen people, and get them on the lease, which specifically has clauses about this, isn't unreasonable. These are terms the tenant agreed to. Why even have them in there if they will not be enforced? I find it odd that you think looking the other way is somehow good advice and wanting to enforce an important clause in my lease that may be in violation is being a hover landlord. I don't share your sentiment that it's good advice to look the other way, thanks for your opinion though. I'm going to pursue it by asking the neighbors who I have contact info for about what's going on there. This will save me the trip and is one of the reasons I build relationships with neighbors where I own property. They are my eyes and ears when I'm away.

Good post here by @Nathan Gesner 

https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/251...

does she pay the rent on time? Does she take good care of the property? Are her guests disrupting other tenants? These are important to consider before you make a big deal out of this. 

When you rent to a single mom you have to assume there will be boyfriends either living there or staying over frequently. It's sort of just how it goes in most cases. 

Hi @Jack B. ,

It's your property do what you would like. You asked for advice and we were happy to give it.

Your question was "Hey I saw a truck at my rental house 2 hours away, she is single, said she doesn't have time to date but there was a truck there. It wasn't dinner time I have no idea why she would have someone in my house not at dinner time, I think I should drive by and check things out under cover of darkness and spy on what she is doing. Do you think it is a good idea?"

I felt it wasn't (as did @Marcia Maynard ) but it's your house and your tenant. You said she has 2 kids, if she is working 70 hours a week she may very well have someone watching them at times. If you don't want other people even in the house that is your choice, you gave away part of your bundle of sticks with the lease. You are welcome to start questioning her if you feel it is right. You can launch a full investigation into what she is doing and when she has someone over if you choose, it's your tenant and house. 

If you want start tracking stuff

1:15PM she returned home

1:26PM far light in right bedroom came on

1:46PM Bathroom light came on

1:53PM bathroom windows began steaming up

5:10PM other car pulled up

car remained, I snuck in house at 1:19 AM and they were sleepng in same bed I left without incident

Next morning after she left I used my key to enter the house and I noticed there was men's underwear on bedroom floor. She did not mention what she wears at the time of interview. 

Keep it all well documented and give it to the judge at the hearing for her breaking the lease, he may see it as you have a vested interest in the property and side with you!

Legal disclaimer: Not legal advice in any manner I am not a lawyer and not familiar with laws in your area anyway.

Other disclaimer: Seriously though I am just a guy on the internet, do what you feel is right and I couldn't resist the opportunity to take it to another level in Jest :)

Good luck with your investing

  1. @Mike Cumbie I think you may be going to the extreme here. I have a feeling Jack isn't planning a full on interrogation. He will politely find out who the person is who owns the truck. He has a vested interest in verifying whether the person is living in his unit because the person could be a criminal for all he knows, which is a scenario you are ignoring. If anything, the way I see it is add'l occupants cause more wear and tear on a unit and therefore the rent should increase if the person is an add'l permanent resident.

@Jack B. Okay, so helicopter landlord may have not been the best choice of words. I felt you were overreacting to seeing the trucks parked at the property on one occasion and jumping to the conclusion the friend had moved in. Why not take the advice I gave in my first response and just ask your tenant about it? You can spend a lot of energy on "what if's". We keep an eye on our properties, do periodic inspections, and enforce the terms of our rental agreement, including our unauthorized occupant clause. It is important to do so for the reasons you mention. That's a given. It is also important to respect your tenant's privacy and also to not overreact. From your posts it appears you strongly suspect she is breaking your rules and that others have moved in. There are many ways you can verify it. If that is the case, address it appropriately. But I said that already and you seem to have missed it. :-)

@Jack B. sounds like you are more than curious or concerned about whats going on at your rental property. Though the majority of my business comes from assigning contracts, I still have rental property which accounts for the most exciting times of my real estate ventures. I have grown to understand that people are people and that some are going to do things that break rules but not all of them. This morning at 9am I will go to the municipal court building and help a fellow investor file their first eviction. They have been doing this for quite some time now and it shocks me that things have come this far and the eviction was not already done long ago. The very reason it usually gets this far is because of a lack of communication. @Marcia Maynard offered a great suggestion for this situation and future dealings with tenants "just ask them." @Mike Cumbie was basically telling us that people are going to live and we are going to drive ourselves crazy if we try to watch everything that they do. @Michael Noto was asking the basic fundamentals of whether or not this would be a serious issue. All seem to have great advice and sound experience so really it comes down to one question. What do your own policy and procedures for this situation say to do? If you don't have P&P then start writing your own, that way its systematic. I wish you the very best with your business my friend, have a great one!

It sounds like you already knew the answer to your own question, but more are just looking for supporting opinion.

From how you wrote your post, it seems like you're over-reacting a bit....driving by the property multiple times to see what cars are there. Don't you have better ways to spend your time? 

How is this tenant otherwise? In the 3+ months she's been there, has she paid rent on time? Have you seen the inside since then and it's well taken care of?

Also, as has been mentioned, if you plan to evict or charge money over this and end up in court, it'll be difficult to prove without doubt. And when you tell her that you're watching her and noticing the cars--and she's an otherwise great tenant--you're going to lose that great tenant over silliness.

Originally posted by @Brandon McCombs :
  1. @Mike Cumbie I think you may be going to the extreme here. I have a feeling Jack isn't planning a full on interrogation. He will politely find out who the person is who owns the truck. He has a vested interest in verifying whether the person is living in his unit because the person could be a criminal for all he knows, which is a scenario you are ignoring. If anything, the way I see it is add'l occupants cause more wear and tear on a unit and therefore the rent should increase if the person is an add'l permanent resident.

Straw man argument is what he posts. But I'm a bad guy for wanting to find out if someone else has moved in against the terms of the lease and wanting to get them checked out and get them on the lease. Instead I should burry my head in the sand and not do any checks on anyone at all, live and let live. Because inquiring as to a serious violation and offering to get anyone living there on the lease is denying her of her right to life. Thanks Mike, I've really learned a lot today...

You seem a little hot-headed? You asked for opinions. We gave opinions. Sorry not all of them supported yours.

Originally posted by @Nicole W.:

It sounds like you already knew the answer to your own question, but more are just looking for supporting opinion.

From how you wrote your post, it seems like you're over-reacting a bit....driving by the property multiple times to see what cars are there. Don't you have better ways to spend your time? 

How is this tenant otherwise? In the 3+ months she's been there, has she paid rent on time? Have you seen the inside since then and it's well taken care of?

Also, as has been mentioned, if you plan to evict or charge money over this and end up in court, it'll be difficult to prove without doubt. And when you tell her that you're watching her and noticing the cars--and she's an otherwise great tenant--you're going to lose that great tenant over silliness.

You make a lot of assumptions and evidently didn't read the thread completely. I asked if I should drive by there during a specific time frame to see if that was the best way to go about identifying unauthorized occupants so I can get them checked out if they are in fact living there. I later posted after the onslaught of poorly thought out advice that I have the neighbors contact info and can just find out from them, without having to go down there.

And you assume she is a great tenant, even though I've noted that I've had problems with her already, even on the day of the move in and that she is on a MTM lease, no eviction necessary, only 20 days notice to vacate. 

The only silliness (thanks for the insult) here is people like you with a clear lack of reading comprehension, poor understanding of the legal risks, and low critical thinking skills giving advice, and your only argument to the obvious risks I pointed out is straw man attacks accusing me of sitting outside the house and keeping a record of all comings and goings and that I'm some how going to lose a tenant over enforcing a lease term that is a big risk to me financially. So I shouldn't enforce anything at all, because people auto magically move out when you do? lol

Again, wanting to find out who is living in MY house that she is RENTING under the terms of the LEASE AGREEMENT isn't depriving her of her right to enjoy the house. Not that hard to understand.

Again, if I don't check out other occupants living there, why bother having checks and leases at all?

Again, how does enforcing an important term of my lease and offering to get the occupants on the lease deprive her of her right to enjoy the property? Perhaps try to answer those things instead of hurling insults for things you clearly don't understand.

The opinions only considered part of the equation though. They disregarded the legitimate reasons for needing to inquire about the mystery truck.

I see 3 reasons for needing to ensure the mystery person is or is not using that unit as his/her permanent residence alongside the signed tenant:

  • Criminal -> eviction
  • Add'l wear and tear -> rent must go up
  • If the signed tenant leaves and the other person stays behind they aren't on the lease -> no legal recourse.
Originally posted by @Michael Noto :

does she pay the rent on time? Does she take good care of the property? Are her guests disrupting other tenants? These are important to consider before you make a big deal out of this. 

When you rent to a single mom you have to assume there will be boyfriends either living there or staying over frequently. It's sort of just how it goes in most cases. 

Dude, again, why is it wrong to put him on the lease after a background check? Do you not understand the difference? I'm not saying she can't have a live in boyfriend. I am saying I want to find out if that is the case and get him to fill out an app, pass a bgc, and get on the lease, you know, like how she agreed to do so if it ever came up, on the lease that she signed. Not that difficult to understand. Sweet Jesus if this is the level of advice that comes out of BP, thanks but no thanks...

Originally posted by @Brandon McCombs :

The opinions only considered part of the equation though. They disregarded the legitimate reasons for needing to inquire about the mystery truck.

I see 3 reasons for needing to ensure the mystery person is or is not using that unit as his/her permanent residence alongside the signed tenant:

  • Criminal -> eviction
  • Add'l wear and tear -> rent must go up
  • If the signed tenant leaves and the other person stays behind they aren't on the lease -> no legal recourse.

Yeah, they seem to be caught up on some liberal argument of "live and let live in her house" and "she has a right to enjoy the property and have live there other than her" and "you're going to lose a great tenant due to enforcing rules they agreed to abide by and are a big financial risk to you if not enforced".

No, she doesn't have a right to move other people in there without going through the agreed through process, it is a violation of the lease terms that are set forth in the WA State Attorney General recommended lease agreement, and the legal risks are what concern me. I have no problem with her having someone live there as long as they meet MY standards on the BGC, and sign the lease.

That's it. Something so simple, yet so difficult for many "investors" to understand. You seem to mistakenly think I'm somehow depriving her of her right to have someone live there folks. I'm not as I've explained over and over again. Instead I'm met with ridiculous comments about how I should just post up outside and track their every move. I was merely looking for advice on how to best determine what's going on, and I've since realized that I can just ask the neighbors who I have contact info for. Sheesh...

Look at this post by @Rhett Tullis

This is the kind of stuff I worry about having some unknown person living there. But according to the logic of some, I shouldn't do a check on him and get him on the lease. Doing so is depriving him of his "rights". Wow...

https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/52/topics/133962-tenants-bf-has-apparently-moved-in-unannounced

@Jack B. My use of the word, "silliness" wasn't meant to be an insult. My apologies that you took it that way. I was simply trying to say that it seems you're taking this too seriously.

You haven't yet told us of any other problems this tenant has given you to make you believe that this is definitely going to become a problem. I'm assuming? I've asked you questions you've yet to answer.

No, it is not wrong to want to know who's living in your property. We are simply saying that you seem to be over-reacting. You drive by and notice a car there. Now you want to drive by at night and all times of day over a span of 3 weeks to see if it's still there. How does that prove anything? It's still an assumption. The judge might ask why you're practically stalking them.

Clearly by your angry responses to anyone who hasn't fully supported your point of view, it shows that you tend to be a hot-head and blow things out of proportion. So yes, if she is otherwise a good paying tenant who keeps the place nice, you will indeed lose money when you tell her how you drive by and keep tabs on her. If you're truly concerned, do an inspection. Have a conversation with her.

Wow.  I would think asking a neighbor if the truck(s) is /are there over night you would pretty much have your answer.  

Two years ago (finally) I added an "Additional persons" clause to my lease.  I was getting folks living in units periodically, usually during fruit harvest here.  Now they are charged for folks staying longer than 10 days, but my screening requirements aren't waived.  I still must be notified and they must 'apply' like anyone else.  More than once a female was glad I checked, as she had no idea who her new bf really was.

It came in handy recently as well.  A generous tenant allowed a friend to stay who was breaking up with her husband.  The friend over-stayed her welcome.  Ms Generous  pointed to her lease and blamed it.  Could she afford the additional person rent and screening requirements?  The friend moved out.   I would recommend adding an 'additional persons' clause to your lease in the future!

If the rent is paid and the property is in good shape, leave well enough alone. Speaking as someone who is a landlord now but has been a tenant in the past, landlords who are overbearing will drive good tenants away. As a tenant, I always paid my rent on time and I always kept the property in good shape. So I expected to be left alone as anyone would in their home. The more at home someone feels, the better they will care for the property and the longer they will stay.

@Jack B.  We sincerely hope the best for you and your tenant. Landlords helping landlords. I too am in Washington State and own/manage a residential rental portfolio there. In the spirit of offering you advice from which you can benefit, be aware there are state landlord-tenant laws and also laws established by local municipalities that also come into play. Where is this rental property located? If your property is in Seattle or Vancouver a 20-day Notice to Terminate for "no cause" will not be a viable option. I'm not as familiar with other municipalities, but it's something for you to look into in case you intend to use the 20-day Notice to Terminate that you mention. If a tenant holds over after being properly served legal notice, then filing in court for Unlawful Detainer and proceeding with eviction may indeed be necessary. Best practices however point to trying to save the tenancy or coming to a mutual agreement on a move-out plan if things go south.

Originally posted by @Brandon McCombs :

The opinions only considered part of the equation though. They disregarded the legitimate reasons for needing to inquire about the mystery truck.

I see 3 reasons for needing to ensure the mystery person is or is not using that unit as his/her permanent residence alongside the signed tenant:

  • Criminal -> eviction
  • Add'l wear and tear -> rent must go up
  • If the signed tenant leaves and the other person stays behind they aren't on the lease -> no legal recourse.

Actually, there is always legal recourse. Whether an occupant is authorized or unauthorized to be there, whether an occupant is named in the rental agreement or not, there are legal avenues to pursue when you want to terminate an agreement and vacate a unit.

Also, there may be additional wear and tear with more people using the premises, but it is not common practice to base rent on the number of occupants. Wear and tear should be factored into the rent based on maximum occupancy for the unit. If an additional occupant poses a higher risk, based on past performance, then asking for additional security deposit may be an option. Either way, landlord-tenant laws for the jurisdiction may dictate what can and can not be done in this regard.

The OP said he suspected the tenant moved two other people in and asked for opinions on his proposed next course of action. There are legitimate reasons to inquire about the truck; no one said otherwise. Those of us who've been successful in this business for some time understand the potential consequences from unauthorized occupants. We may simply have a different approach and aren't as quick to jump to the conclusion the OP did, based on the information he shared. If the OP had solid evidence that unauthorized people have moved in and asked for our thoughts on what to do at that juncture, our responses would have been different. This was also not a discussion on the pros and cons of allowing unauthorized people to move into a property. We get that.