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LANDLORD SPECIAL REPORT: Unauthorized Tenants

What Do I Do If...
My Tenant Has Unauthorized Occupants?

Have you ever gone to your rental property only to have a stranger you donít recognize answer the door and ask you who you are as if you donít belong there? Well, itís happened to me and lots of other landlords.
It kind of goes like this:

The landlord rings doorbell: Ding Dong.
Unauthorized Tenant in smelly dirty T-shirt with a beer in his hand opens door: Yeah, what do you want?
Landlord: I just dropped by to talk to Mrs. Jones (tenant).
Unauthorized tenant: Sheís not here. Who are you?
Landlord: Iím the landlord. Who are you?
Unauthorized tenant: I live here. Call back later. Sheíll be home later.

How do you feel knowing you have someone in your rental property that you didnít even agree to let live there?

It is not as uncommon as one might think, and it may not always be noticeable, but you must be on the lookout for unauthorized occupants. Many leases provide a clause to prohibit the tenant from allowing unauthorized residents, the way mine does:

Occupancy by guests staying over _7_ days will be a violation of this provision. In the event any other people occupy and live in this rental, in any capacity, without Owner's written consent, it will constitute a breach of this lease and it is agreed that the rent will be increased $500.00 per person per month, and the Owner at his sole option may terminate this lease.

But the lease isnít always enough to deter it from happening. But it can help give you the means to solve the problem, because with the clause protecting you in the lease, you have the legal right to enforce the lease.

You can enforce the lease in 3 ways:

  1. You can allow the unauthorized occupant to become an authorized resident if he is cooperative. You can do this by:
    • Giving him a rental application so you can screen him like any other tenant
    • If you approve him, have him sign the lease that the original tenants signed, making them all 100% responsible for the agreement.
  2. Lease Violation Notice. You can notify the tenant(s) of their lease violation, giving them the required notice period to cure their default. I make sure I remind the tenants of the penalty fee for unauthorized occupants that they agreed to in the lease agreement. That alone gives you some bargaining power. I also include a Tenant's Notice of Intention to Vacate Form along with the Violation Notice, just to show the tenants that Iím not afraid to lose them.
  3. In the event your lease does not provide for an unauthorized tenant situation, you may want to use a Lease Update Ė Change of Terms Notice form to modify your lease agreement

    It is important to be able to take a tough written stance in these situations. The tenant has to believe you will stop at nothing to rectify the problem by legal eviction or to make them conform to the rules. Never tell the tenant or hint to the tenant that you are afraid or donít want to go to court. If they suspect you are afraid, they will take the upper hand and use it to their advantage. Pretend you love to go to court. That you love to watch your attorney in action. I do love to watch my attorney in action. I love to call the tenantís bluff and take the upper hand. I love to evict a bad tenant FAST! It doesnít happen often, but there are times when we must take fast decisive action.

    By the way, always be sure to have a clause in your lease that covers your attorneyís fee and court costs at the tenantís expense.

    In many cases, tenants who bring in unauthorized tenants are the type of people who donít always go by the rules. That is why you should always be prepared to begin an eviction at any time.

    I always say, ďThe best way to avoid tenant problems is to avoid problem tenants.Ē
    - John Nuzzolese


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