How to respond to people living in home who are not on the lease?

9 Replies

I've got tenants at 3 separate locations who appear to have other people living in the homes who are not on the leases. But the homes are well kept (inspections passed), no problems have been caused, and rent is paid on-time... So why should I care about the other person(s)? Should I inquire about this and push the issue, thereby risking a conflict with these otherwise perfectly fine tenants?

All 3 of these tenants have Section 8 Vouchers, so it is likely they cannot list the additional persons for that reason. In one case it appears to be a boyfriend who is present more often than not and the lease is coming up for renewal. In another case also up for renewal it is a brother, whom I've meet. Without having run a background check on him, he would likely be an acceptable resident. The 3rd case is for a new tenant (2nd month) and it appears to be the tenant's parents, who may be living in the home with or in place of the leasing tenant.

I've heard that should an eviction be needed, having person's living in the home who are not on the lease makes that more complicated - but not sure why or how exactly. And I'm aware that this situation could allow a person to be present who I would not have otherwise rented to... But is there some other reason(s) to rock this boat and risk creating vacancies out of tenants who appear happy to stay for years? And if so, do I send a notice to the tenants or just inform my Section 8 rep and see how they respond?

My landlord experience began in 2015 and thankfully I've yet to evict a tenant or have any serious dispute. I've even been able to return near full security deposits to those tenants who have left, as my homes have all been treated with care!

This situation can be complicated for several reasons, the first of which you've already mentioned. 

1. Eviction - It can be exceptionally difficult to evict someone if you have no direct contact with them nor know their name or who they really are. We didn't necessarily need to evict someone, but even trying to tell someone that we will not be renewing the lease because we plan on remodeling the property is difficult. 

2. Displacement of tenants - Let's say for instance that your tenant who's boyfriend has appeared to move in, does actually live there and you are inadvertently accepting funds from the boyfriend. If for whatever reason the two have a falling out and your tenant decides to move, you technically do not have an existing financial contract with the boyfriend. 

3. Last and most potentially risky are legal issues - This is true for friends visiting the property as well, but there are sometimes greater legal risks with more wear and tear on the property. Let me unpack that. What I mean is along the lines of you will more than likely finish a puzzle faster with more eyes on the puzzle. More time, more bodies, more everything on a property opens more possibilities for risk/exposure. For example, we have a tenant who moved her boyfriend in without telling anyone and works from home and washes down the stairs every day after taking her dog for a walk. I have heard more from this single tenant than every other tenant combined. She has issues with bird poop outside, stairs chipping due to water and impact, puddle in the garage from sprinklers (it's the size of my cell phone and not always there). Don't get me wrong. This tenant is unique that way, but if you can eliminate the risk, it's nice to sleep well at night. 

I think it is several minor "gray" issues that could lead to far more significant black or white concerns. I typically have a clause in the lease indicating that if someone has been staying/living in the property for more than 3 weeks, I need to know otherwise there is a financial hit to the rent totaling roughly a late fee. To me, land lording is all about hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. The next tenant will always bear your burdens of your last tenant because of the lesson you learned the hard way. Up to you and how you choose to handle it.

I would add the names to the lease with a signed lease addendum if you can, especially for the brother who seems to be a good tenant. But if section 8 will not allow that, then you have a situation. I am sorry, but I don't really understand section 8 which is one reason we don't offer it. We have had to evict and it would have been much much worse if there were extraneous people in the unit. One time we had a problem with extraneous people (parents) that we didn't realize were living there. It wasn't so much the potential need to evict-- they were great tenants-- but our elderly sewer system couldn't hack it.

My biggest concern (and this is coming from the husband of a large loss attorney) is the criminal aspect! If the boyfriend gets into it with another tenant and it comes back that he has a history of violence then that could come back on you as you didn't do the proper back ground check that I am sure is required for your other tenants.

Simple,,if they aren't on lease they are stealing from you.. they have no right to live there and you need to enforce the lease either they sign on or the move on out.

Section 8 has rules. no one but sect 8 approved that's on the lease is to live in the household. 

Notice Tenant,, and then notice Section 8 if the person does not leave.. immediately

Your either a landlord or you run a charity.. 

@Jonathan Smith I understand your concern. We too are community focused and strive to provide affordable housing for responsible renters.

You could do what is necessary to get the names of all adults on the rental agreement, jointly and severally liable. Good chance they would qualify. If the number of tenants doesn't exceed your occupancy limit, no problem there.

Eviction, if it should ever come to that, is the same process, whether or not the people living there are named on the agreement. Eviction notices always note the name of the person(s) on the rental agreement and "all other occupants".

The real problem here is that the tenants are violating the terms of their agreement with Section 8 and so are you. That is most likely why the tenants haven't approached you or their Section 8 case manager about the change in the make-up of their household. It would impact their benefits. This is tough, but you need to have a discussion with the tenants about your concern. What would it take to come clean?

As others said, run a background check for those people and add them to lease if possible.

Those are precaution for worse cases, when things go sound, you want to have lease to protect yourself. We have a tenant who moved her boyfriend, which abuses her and damaged the apartment, big human-shaped hole in dry wall, broken window blast, and she ran away. The boyfriend had the key, then she and her friend attempted to kick her apartment door open. 

It's a mess but we ended up paying for all the repairs, and still feel happy to get her out. 

Originally posted by @Jonathan Smith:

I've got tenants at 3 separate locations who appear to have other people living in the homes who are not on the leases. But the homes are well kept (inspections passed), no problems have been caused, and rent is paid on-time... So why should I care about the other person(s)? Should I inquire about this and push the issue, thereby risking a conflict with these otherwise perfectly fine tenants?

All 3 of these tenants have Section 8 Vouchers, so it is likely they cannot list the additional persons for that reason. In one case it appears to be a boyfriend who is present more often than not and the lease is coming up for renewal. In another case also up for renewal it is a brother, whom I've meet. Without having run a background check on him, he would likely be an acceptable resident. The 3rd case is for a new tenant (2nd month) and it appears to be the tenant's parents, who may be living in the home with or in place of the leasing tenant.

I've heard that should an eviction be needed, having person's living in the home who are not on the lease makes that more complicated - but not sure why or how exactly. And I'm aware that this situation could allow a person to be present who I would not have otherwise rented to... But is there some other reason(s) to rock this boat and risk creating vacancies out of tenants who appear happy to stay for years? And if so, do I send a notice to the tenants or just inform my Section 8 rep and see how they respond?

My landlord experience began in 2015 and thankfully I've yet to evict a tenant or have any serious dispute. I've even been able to return near full security deposits to those tenants who have left, as my homes have all been treated with care!

Thanks everyone! As is happens, the tenant who may have moved in her boyfriend will not be renewing after next month. The tenant who may have moved in her brother is going through the renewal process now, so I will inquire with her in this regard and suggest an addendum for him (if so) and run his background check. And the tenant who I think her parents are living in the home actually just moved in, so I will inquire with her about this and handle it the same (if so).

Good point @Karen S. in regard to "elderly sewer system" - so this will be one of my justifications as to why extra people create a problem, as these units are over 40 years old.

I've now created an email template used for all inquires about our vacant properties, and it highlights certain lease provisions, one of which is...

- NO ADULTS who are not signers on the Lease may live in the home. NO PERSONS (of any age) who are not listed as occupants on the Lease may live in the home. Violation of this policy WILL result in eviction filing.

@Jonathan Smith , having the email inquiry is fine, but you need to add it to your lease going forward.

You may be better off being specific and defining visitors too. No visitors > x days a month without written agreement. then say residency > x days a month is considered occupancy. All occupants must be on the lease. I have occasionaly allowed longer visitors (e.g.a chinese students parents) but I knew the temporary situation that the occupancy resulted from and agreed to it.

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