Q: What is the definition of “guest” vs. “occupant”?

guest or occupant

Dan L. writes: How can I keep my tenants from having visitors who are more like unofficial occupants? I have one tenant who’s boyfriend stays with her 3-4 days a week on a consistent basis. I’m paying for utilities, and beyond that, there’s general wear-and-tear on the property—and let’s face it, nuisance—to consider. Several of his buddies often show up while he’s there, and I’ve gotten more than one weekend noise complaint from the neighbors.

RAG answers:┬áProfessional rental agents generally handle this by by incorporating specific language into their lease documents prohibiting over-staying “guests.” When it comes to preventing someone not on the lease from from becoming a semi-permanent resident, the less room for interpretation you leave, the better.

For example, some leases stipulate that visitors may not stay for longer than X number of days without the written permission of the landlord, but that likely wouldn’t help you in this situation. A better way to phrase the limitations is to spell out the number of overnight visits a tenant can host per month, or per lease term. Three to four nights per month, or 10 nights per six-month period is reasonable.

While language like this may not prevent the occasional overstaying guest, it should help eliminate situations like the one you describe above, where the tenant’s boyfriend has taken up part-time residence without your permission.

With regard to your current situation, if your lease agreement with the tenant in question has a clause stipulating that she may not sublease the apartment without your written consent, you have legal grounds to ask that her boyfriend either put his name on the lease, or limit his visits to a number of days and nights per month that you deem reasonable.

This likely won’t go over well, so you should consider whether you feel the boyfriend’s presence is just an annoyance—or whether it’s causing actual harm to your business. If it’s causing harm to your business, consider offering to let your tenant break her lease early in the event she doesn’t want to curtail her boyfriend’s visits.