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When Does a Guest Become a Tenant?

Tenants will have people coming and going from their place at many different times throughout their lease. However, determining whether a new face on your property is a short-term guest or one who is overstaying their welcome can be a tricky situation.

Tenants are absolutely allowed to have guests, whether it’s friends from home visiting, a sibling or even a significant other – there are tenant rights regarding guests according to the covenant of quiet enjoyment. Yet, this doesn’t mean guests are allowed to stay for an indefinite amount of time – crashing on the couch can turn to a full-time roommate pretty quickly. So when does a guest become a tenant? Here is everything you need to break it down:

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Guests Vs. Tenants

This definition should seem pretty obvious to most people, but an actual tenant is someone who is on the lease – they pay rent every month to live in the specific rental property. Therefore, a guest means someone who is not on the lease but is just visiting for a few days or so – there is no binding contract for guests, just tenants.

Examples of Guests Vs. Tenants

dos and donts when does a guest become a tenant

  • Nannies – If they are full-time nannies who live at the property, then they would be considered a tenant. If they only come to stay at the property during business hours and don’t actually “live” there, then they can be considered a guest.
  • Romantic partners – If partners tend to only visit and stay over occasionally, they would be considered just a guest. If partners tend to stay over most nights, park at the property frequently, and even have furniture or personal belongings in the property, they are tenants.
  • Visiting family – If a family member only stays for a few days, they are obviously just guests. However, if elderly parents or a sibling decided to move-in for various reasons, then they will be a tenant on the property as well.
  • College students – If college students are coming back to stay with their parents or family over breaks or on weekends, then they are just guests. If students move back in for a period of time longer than a couple of weeks, such as summer break, then they can be considered a tenant.

How Many Days Can a Tenant Have a Guest Visiting in the Home?

illustration of couple holding hands showing how many days

This can and should be laid out in the lease and specified to the tenant. Depending on how lenient you want to be as a landlord, anywhere from 10-14 days is usually acceptable. Having your tenant sign their initials next to this detail in your lease will ensure there was proper communication beforehand.

Signs That a Guest is Establishing Residency in Someone Else’s Home

chart that shows how to know if you have a guest that is turning into a tenant

Usually, you will be able to tell if someone other than your actual tenant is living on the rental property as more than just a guest – here are some tell-tale signs:

  • The guest stays over every night
  • The guest parks their car in the property lot every day
  • The guest is getting mail delivered to the property
  • The guest is seen moving in furniture

What Should I Do if a Tenant has a Long-Term Guest?

#1: Consider Adding them to the Lease

questions to help you figure out how easy it'll be to add a guest to your lease

If there are obvious signs your tenant has a permanent long-term guest, adding them to the lease will help protect you as the landlord since they will be obligated to the lease and, therefore, all the rental property rules and stipulations. If you are debating between adding the tenant guest to the lease versus asking them to clear out, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do they have a key to the property?
  • Are they there more than 50% of the time?
  • Have they already made arrangements to receive bills at the address?
  • Do you think they have another lease?

#2: Have a Conversation with the Tenant

Having to be confrontational as a landlord can be awkward and uncomfortable for both parties, but it is sometimes necessary. While it can be difficult to have the conversation, make sure to bring a copy of the lease to show them the outlined length of time you both agreed to in regards to guests. You should be understanding and courteous while also explaining policies in the lease are non-negotiable.

#3: Follow Through

After you are able to talk to your tenant, it’s a good idea to confirm the long-term guest isn’t still secretly slumming. Follow through to make sure the guest either moves out or is officially added to the lease – if not, you can remind the tenant a lease violation could lead to eviction.

When Does a Guest Become a Tenant FAQ

Why is it important to identify long-term guests?

This is important for legal accountability – if there is a tenant living at the rental who isn’t on the lease, the landlord could be at risk, especially if an accident or something else were to happen.

Should I accept rent from a guest?

No – do not accept rent from guests because, again, this puts the landlord at risk for legal issues. Only accept rent from people on the lease.

Can I evict a tenant if they refuse to add their guest to the lease?

Yes, if you’ve given all the options multiple times to your tenant and they refuse to add their guest to lease or have them move out, eviction is an option as a last resort.
Overall, it is important to identify long-term guests as a landlord because they can be a liability to you and your rental property. Furthermore, if tenants are allowing long-term guests, it means they are violating their lease. Adding the guest to the lease or having them move out are the best options to ensure you are protected – make sure that each potential resident is filling out a rental application and that you are still screening them for possible red flags.

DISCLAIMER: TurboTenant, Inc does not provide legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only. All users are advised to check all applicable local, state and federal laws and consult legal counsel should questions arise.

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