How to Prevent Tagalong Boyfriends & Other Pesky Freeloaders in Your Rentals

by | dolinsksite.ru

It happens all the time.

Your sweet 24 year-old renter (let’s call her Wanda) is the perfect tenant. She pays her rent on time, doesn’t treat the property badly, and she doesn’t even have any pets!

Then Wanda meets Tony (cue the horror soundtrack). Tony’s a classic good-fer-nuthin’ bum—he never saw a bill he wanted to pay on time, he limps between dead-end jobs, he drives a ‘70s muscle car and has a pit bull with a spiked collar (unoriginally named Spike).

Tony gets himself evicted from his ratty apartment because that’s the kind of person he is. Wanda, being a sweetheart, can’t let poor Tony sleep on the street! So she lets him crash for a few days while he “gets on his feet.”

We all know how this story ends. Tony’s still there six months later, and your property has suffered accordingly. Spike has made it his personal mission to urinate in every corner of your unit, Tony smokes suspicious substances inside, there’s trash everywhere, and the cockroaches have started sniffing around. In uglier scenarios, maybe he’s even dragged Wanda down to his level. Maybe she’s picked up that crack pipe too and has started taking liberties with her rent payments.

That’s actually not even the most nightmarish scenario. What if Tony is a violent sociopath with a history of assaults? What if Tony’s a pedophile? Maybe Tony cooks meth, and decided your property is the perfect place to set up his cooking lab?

The point is, you don’t know Tony, or Spike for that matter, because they were never screened and they aren’t on the lease. So how can you avoid Tony, Spike, and all the other deadbeat tagalongs who’d love to set up camp in your rental unit?



Related: 5 Legitimate Reasons to Allow a Tenant to Break Their Lease

It Starts With Tenant Screening

Some states prohibit landlords from just coming out and asking applicants directly if they’re in a relationship. So rather than open that can of worms, start by simply setting expectations: “Anyone who spends more than five nights/month in the rental unit must be included on the lease. Is there anyone else who will be staying over sometimes at the property?”

If they waffle, with answers like “Well, sometimes…” or “Uh, I don’t know, maybe some months?” ask them to please have this person fill out a rental application too. Should they object, politely explain that anyone who spends five or more nights/month at the property must be screened and sign a lease like everyone else. Property policy. It’s out of your hands.

Be especially wary if a couple shows up together to view your vacant property, but only one person says they’ll be living there. Dig deeper, and ask plenty of probing questions. It is your business—knowing who is living in your investment properties is the literal definition of your business.

Lastly, if everything checks out when you verify their income, housing history, credit history, criminal history, etc., drop by their current home. If two people live there and you don’t feel 100 percent rock solid about their story, decline the application. (Read up about more advanced tenant screening techniques here.)

It Continues With the Lease

Your lease agreement should be a solid shield, protecting both you and your property from harm. You can’t anticipate every possible way that renters can cause financial damage to you and your property—but you can anticipate the most common 99.9% ways you can be burnt and use lease clauses to protect yourself.

Case in point: squatting boyfriends. Your lease should have an occupancy clause saying (in appropriately dry legalese) that no one but the listed tenants and occupants may spend more than five nights/month at the property. If any non-listed persons do spend more than five nights/month at the property without written permission from you, the renter is in breach of lease and is subject to additional screening fees, higher rents, and/or eviction.

Related: The True Cost of a Bad Tenant: Why You CAN’T Afford Not to Screen [With Pics!]

Five is not a magic number, and no one’s proposing that if your renter’s boyfriend spends a sixth night there one month that you should rally the townsfolk to grab their pitchforks. But you need to draw a line somewhere, and you need make it crystal clear that unauthorized occupants constitute a breach of lease that will be punished. Severely.

BRRRR-strategy-deal

One More Reason to Make Inspections

You should be inspecting the rental unit at least every six months. Do you?

If not, then start. Beyond an occupancy clause, your lease should also include an inspections clause, informing the tenant that a manager will be coming by the rental unit at least twice each year to check on the property’s condition and tenant’s compliance with the terms of the lease agreement. Make sure to check your state’s laws on performing inspections and any notice requirements before entry.

How would you know that the renters aren’t cooking meth otherwise? Or running a puppy mill? Or just dirty people, who you don’t want to renew the lease with?

Coming by the property with proper legal notice not only reassures you that the tenants are treating the property well, but it also sends a loud message. You do not tolerate breaches of your lease. You are not an absentee landlord. It also lets them know you care about the property and want to keep it in good condition.

What Happens if Your Renter Is Shacking Up?

Life happens, right? Maybe Wanda only dated Tony briefly before realizing what a bum he was, then met her soulmate William. William’s a sweetheart himself, works a good job, and (yay!) they just got engaged.

The proper protocol for renters who want to move a roommate or boyfriend into the property is to call their landlord and discuss it with them (you) first. Yes, it’s that simple.

For landlords, the proper protocol is to thank the renter for being forthright about it and emailing them a blank rental application for the proposed new tenant to fill out. Or if you caught them being sneaky, sending a breach of lease notice. You’ll have to use your own judgment about whether it’s worth letting the new occupant apply—or whether you want to evict them both over it.

Regardless, you can then screen the new addition like any other tenant. If they look good, require both tenants to sign a new lease agreement (for a full new lease term). Consider charging higher rent, especially if the new tenant is bringing a pet with them or they were sneaky about moving in the boyfriend.

If they don’t pass muster, reject them. That may mean your renter moves out, but it’s better to lose one good tenant to avoid a walking liability. The world is full of great renters; lease to honest, responsible people, and you’ll find that being a landlord is the easiest job in the world.

Lease to deadbeats like Tony, and you’ll discover that being a landlord is not only the most aggravating job in the world, but also the most expensive.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer readers.]

Ever had a tenant pull a fast one on you? Maybe you’ve dealt with a “Tony” of your own? How did you handle it?

Don’t leave us in the dark!

About Author

Brian Davis

Brian is a landlord and long-time rental industry expert, who teaches a free mini-course on passive income from rentals at SnapLandlord.com. He's also preparing to launch a revolutionary rent deduction from payroll service. Swing by his website, SparkRental.com, for free resources and education for landlords, rental investors, and property managers.

40 Comments

  1. Stephen S.

    That does sound nice but enforcement is not likely to be like that.

    Rent to a single person. You notice someone else is there: clothes, bathroom supplies, makeup, etc.

    Hey dude – why are there tampons in the bathroom and thongs in the wash?

    Oh; my girlfriend stayed for the weekend.

    Is that her yellow car?

    Yeah, why?

    It’s been here every day this month.

    Oh yeah; she left it here – I was just fixing it for her.

    Every time I come here she’s here – the closet is filled with her clothes – she’s obviously living here.

    No; I swear – you just happen to come by when she’s here. She’s really hardly Ever here – really.

    And on and on and on it goes – what am I? The house detective? I have to drive by six days a week to establish what the tenant, and the ‘friend’ will both swear is something else?

    I do like your presumptive-close: as soon as you suspect something – send over an application to be filled out. I am stealing that one.

    Stephen
    —————-

    • Brian Davis

      Haha, well all we can do is our best, when enforcing the lease terms. Every once in a while a jerk tenant comes along who will fight you tooth and nail every step of the way, but if they really are a problem, you can always just non-renew their lease.
      I personally like to go by twice a year, and just get a sense of what’s going on at the property. Otherwise anything could be going on in your property, and you’d never know until it’s too late.

      • Vitaliy Volpov

        Hey Brian,

        Great article, but Stephen S. is right. New York State is very landlord unfriendly when it comes to this issue. Case in point, New York Real Property Law § 235-f, in relevant part:

        “2. It shall be unlawful for a landlord to restrict occupancy of residential premises, by express lease terms or otherwise, to a tenant or tenants or to such tenants and immediate family. Any such restriction in a lease or rental agreement entered into or renewed before or after the effective date of this section shall be unenforceable as against public policy.

        3. Any lease or rental agreement for residential premises entered into by one tenant shall be construed to permit occupancy by the tenant, immediate family of the tenant, one additional occupant, and dependent children of the occupant provided that the tenant or the tenant’s spouse occupies the premises as his primary residence.

        . . .

        7. Any provision of a lease or rental agreement purporting to waive a provision of this section is null and void.”

        • Vitaliy Volpov

          Correction – I meant to comment on your reply to Michael Wolffs comment about NYC below, but was too quick on the trigger and clicked on the wrong reply!

        • David Andrews

          That clause does not stop you from raising rent for each additional person occupying the unit nor does it set a ceiling for the increase. Spelling out such added costs in the lease is permitted.

        • Joseph M.

          New York’s ridiculously pro tenant laws aren’t indicative of the US at large, though. It all goes back to knowing the landscape in your area and not trying to write your own lease. Use your local bar association or realtor association’s form lease, and run modifications past qualified legal counsel.

  2. Michael Wolffs

    While this article is generic, what is state here may not be legal in some jurisdictions, especially the more tenant friendly ones. I know in NYC, the LL would not be able to prevent a prime tenant from allowing another person to live in the apartment, either as an unpaid guest, or even a paying roommate. I bet many big cities are similar.

    As with pretty much everything with landlording, check your local laws.

    • Brian Davis

      Landlords definitely need to double check their local and state laws before assuming anything is enforceable, very true. I’ve never heard of occupancy clauses being unenforceable though – otherwise, what’s to stop one person signing a lease and then their seven axe murderer friends moving in? But I’m not an attorney, and the last thing I want to do is cross the line into legal advice or local or state legal nuances.
      Very good point, that every landlord is responsible for knowing their own state/local laws!

      • Joseph M.

        Michael’s right – this can vary a ton. Landlords need to be careful to check City level ordinances too, and not just State/county/federal. In my area for example, a rental in one half of the metro is going to be much more regulated than in the other half.

  3. Erik Whiting

    I agree with the above poster that enforcement is probably the most difficult part of “guest” clauses. Unless you are prepared to sit outside the rental for 12 hours at a stretch…how do you prove they “stayed” overnight? What defines “staying” overnight? What if they leave at 11 PM? 1 AM? etc.

    One trick I added to my lease… “If LANDLORD has reason to believe someone other than TENANT is occupying the premises, LANDLORD may require proof of alternate residency to include: a lease complete with land lord’s contact information or home mortgage in guest’s name, and also a bill within a past month mailed to that address.” How legal is this? Search me! But if you put it in the lease, it makes sneaky people think twice… “hey what if Tommy can’t show he lives somewhere else…I may get evicted!”

    The in-home inspection prior to leasing that you mentioned is excellent! I do this too. Your house will look and smell like their current house withing 2-3 months of them moving in. Be sure to hose down your socks with Deep Woods off to keep fleas at bay!

    • Jessica Murray on

      I had a problem with a roommate whose boyfriend moved in, and he did just that- had NO mail delivered to our apartment so that he could “prove” that he was not “technically” living with us (without my permission, and certainly not on the lease). He was “technically” living with his mom. He was so sneaky that he kept most of his clothing in his car, his overnight bag, or at his mom’s, but he spent the night 4-5 times a week and “borrowed” her key. I was working and in school full time, so couldn’t prove that she hadn’t “loaned” him “her” key or that she hadn’t made a copy for him.

      When I got together with the landlord to try to get him to move the heck out, I was the one who ended up leaving because it was just easier for me to get off the lease than to kick him out.

      At least he didn’t cook meth or have a scary dog… but getting into property management and real estate, tagalong boyfriends like him are sure to be challenging to deal with!

  4. Eric Johnson

    Brian, great article! I’m fascinated by your system and how you run your properties because I wish to achieve financial freedom and travel, exactly as you do. As they say, learn from the people who have what you want! Anyway I’d love to send you an e-mail as I have a question or two for you and would love your advice/guidance.

    Thank you for your time with your blog contributions too! I see you’re a good guy who definitely likes to help people out as much as possible.

    • Allison Leung

      Hi Anthony:

      I’m Do linsk site’ blog editor. First of all, thanks for reading! Secondly, we do not currently have that feature, but I’ll add it to our list of considerations for our blog redesign (stay tuned!). Thanks for your input!

  5. John C.

    Great reminder, Brian.

    Thankfully I’ve yet to encounter that no good boyfriend. I’m also in NYC. So the only thing for me to do is simply not renew/raise the rent by an intolerable amount once lease is due.

  6. brendon woirhaye

    My agreements define an additional occupant as one who stays 14 days or more cumulatively (not sequentially), so if they do it in 2 weeks or over the course of 9 months, its all the same to me – its another tenant. My agreement stipulates that rent will be increased by $100 per person IF the landlord consents (and this requires doing a full application including background check).

    Sometimes this has gone smoothly, like the individual who got married. Other times it is grounds to get the whole group of people out.

    I like your suggestions on just sending the application upon suspicion, I will start doing that.

  7. Jerome Kaidor

    Wee! I had the no-good boyfriend! Good tenant, boyfriend moved in, she moved out….to another state. Because she felt threatened. I commenced eviction proceedings. He knew what he was doing. Filed an answer on the last day. We duked it out in front of the judge, I won. The weekend before the lockout, he threatened the girl next door with a gun, she jumped out the (second floor) window. Police came, he hid the gun in the dumpster, they fished it out of the dumpster.

    • Wow, Jerome, that’s worse than mine! The boyfriend was recently out of jail, and they both promised he was only there during the day to watch the baby while she worked. Meanwhile, the other tenants reported screaming fights in the middle of the night and baby crying. After giving notice and he didn’t leave, we had the police come. Boyfriend showed the police mail he had delivered there, as he was trying to establish residency! We finally offered them $200 to move out within 3 days, and they took it.

      • Brian Davis

        It always sticks in my craw when I hear of landlords having to pay their bad tenants to move out. I know that it’s often the smartest and most effective thing to do, but it just shows how lopsided the legal system is in protecting “victimized tenants” against their “mean, greedy landlords.” What kind of legal system forces the injured party to have to bribe the guilty party just to get the fair outcome? All right, I’ll step down off my soap box. Thanks for sharing those stories though, very scary!

        • Laurel Devine

          My thoughts exactly! Unfortunately, I have had to pay off 3 tenants (one we gave $1,500 plus their security deposit of another $1,500 just to get them out of our hair!) over the past 28 years.

  8. Keith Knobloch

    Two horror stories:

    1. Second tenant ever, after evicting my first one after a week for non-payment (okay, I know, that was just dumb, but I was a complete rookie they were a sad story). Single guy, moves in and pays rent great for three years! Very little wear on the place, low utility usage, etc. Girlfriend moves into this 2br unit, brings four kids, and immediately the house begins to groan…after two more years (still paid rent every time), they finally moved out (after bringing in a fifth kid – teenager from previous relationship). Let’s just say the security deposit did not cover the dumpster and $7000 I spent remodeling almost everything in the house. In fact, most of the profits I made for the first five years went up in smoke on that one…

    2. Recent case: been doing this for about nine years by this time, so learned a few things, but was getting a little impatient and tired of showing the place. Got scammed by fake landlord and possibly even job references, believed the girl that her boyfriend was just driving her around while her car was in for repairs, and accepted cash for the rent and deposit. Soon after, the only car seen at the place was the boyfriend’s, and about four months into the six-month lease, he skips town…in a hurry. Hung a notice on the door, went in on the tenth, hauled out all the trash and cleaned up for another run at it…

    What have I learned from all this? Having a process and sticking to it is key…no wavering. Even when things look good on paper, or may sound good, trust the gut…if something seems wrong or unlikely, it probably is. I love the suggestions here on BP for leases and tenant screening, and I’m going to make myself a new renter packet that includes all this stuff so I don’t forget! Thanks Brian!

  9. Keith Knobloch

    Two horror stories:

    1. Second tenant ever, after evicting my first one after a week for non-payment (okay, I know, that was just dumb, but I was a complete rookie and they were a sad story). Single guy, moves in and pays rent great for three years! Very little wear on the place, low utility usage, etc. Girlfriend moves into this 2br unit, brings four kids, and immediately the house begins to groan…after two more years (still paid rent every time), they finally moved out (after bringing in a fifth kid – teenager from previous relationship). Let’s just say the security deposit did not cover the dumpster and $7000 I spent remodeling almost everything in the house. In fact, most of the profits I made for the first five years went up in smoke on that one…

    2. Recent case: been doing this for about nine years by this time, so learned a few things, but was getting a little impatient and tired of showing the place. Got scammed by fake landlord and possibly even job references, believed the girl that her boyfriend was just driving her around while her car was in for repairs, and accepted cash for the rent and deposit. Soon after, the only car seen at the place was the boyfriend’s, and about four months into the six-month lease, he skips town…in a hurry. Neither of them were answering the phone. Hung a notice on the door, went in on the tenth, hauled out all the trash and cleaned up for another run at it…

    What have I learned from all this? Having a process and sticking to it is key…no wavering. Even when things look good on paper, or may sound good, trust the gut…if something seems wrong or unlikely, it probably is. I love the suggestions here on BP for leases and tenant screening, and I’m going to make myself a new renter packet that includes all this stuff so I don’t forget! Thanks Brian!

  10. Whenever I saw that my tenants moved other(s) in, I used to think” Good, now they’ll have 2 incomes, so will pay on time. ” But usually, it really meant the tenant had more mouths to feed, and that they all would have to go.

    I ‘ve heard the law is that you have to allow 2 to a bedroom plus 1, so 5 to a 2 BR apartment. Unless, you have a reason to further limit. In my case, I can legitimately say that the septic tank will not handle that many in each half of a duplex. But right, I can require background checks on them all. True, it’s hard to prove how often guests stay.

    Also, when one half of duplex complains about other half having frequent loud large parties, they never have them when I drive by. Or just being loud on other side, beating on walls, etc. They don’t do it when I’m around. It’s hard to explain to the complainers that I can’t just kick someone out, based on what you say.

  11. Jim Barry

    * A tip: Introduce yourself to and make friendly acquaintances with neighbors around your rental property. If the property is not close, the neighbors can be your eyes and ears if things get out of wack.

    Real world case. I rented to a 20-something year old woman who cleared all my background screening checks. On the day of lease signing, I met her at the property and did a walk through explaining different things to her. Turned over the keys and all seemed good to go.

    Several weeks later, I received a phone call from one of the property neighbors complaining about cars coming and going at all hours of the day and night. Long story short, my renter never moved in… instead, she let unemployed thugs move in who were allegedly dealing dope, hence all the vehicle traffic.

    Fortunately, I was able to move them out without the expense of filing an eviction action. I gave the neighbor an Amazon gift card as a token of my thanks. The moral of the story is always be alert for that a prospective renter with a good background may be renting on-behalf of another who does not have a clean background.

  12. James Barnhart

    I had rented to a mother, about 60 and a daughter, about 25 or so. I wrongly assumed that the mom would be the leader of the two. Wrong. They move in and daughter soon moves her boyfriend in, and then soon after that, his buddy moves in too.
    That guy hit on the neighbor’s daughter, and the neighbor told me that he was very pissed about it. The neighbor and I had become friends over the years, and he keeps an eye out for me. I told him that I am getting the tenants out.
    I ONLY rent month to month, so I told the tenants that the next month would be their last month. They moved out.

  13. Deanna Opgenort

    Month-to-month is great for being able to get rid of problems. I’ve found it better not to give a reason (they KNOW what they have done wrong, & in fact it’s usually more than YOU know).
    I haven’t had much problem with human tag-alongs, it’s the “magic pets”. One dog *poof* becomes 3, the German shepherd mix suddenly transforms into a pit-bull mix as soon as you set eyes on it…. now I require pictures of all pets (from the front showing the face clearly, and a side shot of the pet standing). This establishes breed, & IDs the pet in case additional animals appear.

  14. Colin Reid

    I was the William for a period, kinda. My fiancee at the time, was getting an apartment about 2 hours from me, since that’s where she found work. We had three properties by then, and I was a little surprised that we were honest with the management company, and they didn’t require me to be screened. I was there for the tour, there for the application, and told them, “We are engaged, but I work in (town 100mi away) and live there most of the time. She’s the one that will be living here.” They didn’t ask another thing. I even went to the office for complaints, maintenance requests, even to have my gate remote re-coded, and they never batted an eye.
    We own a home there now, and the neighbors notice I’m only there part time, and express concern for my wife and son. I’m thankful for that, and more alarmed at the apartment management.

  15. Wow, interesting topic with great posts! Thanks to all for sharing your battle experiences.

    Long ago I had who I thought was a wonderful tenant who after a week of taking occupancy she allowed her “cousin” ((Scary Tony)) to move in – “until he gets on his feet” He was big, ever-present in the home, noisy and mean. Unfortunately, that Scary Tony intimidated all of my good tenants in the 4-plex & me. I approached the woman and suspected he intimidated her as well. She Offered to pay more – I was fairly new to property management and I went for the extra dough. Boy was that a ‘wrong answer’ He stayed for more than 2 years and chased off at least 5 great tenants. Rather than dealing with the twisted landlord/tenant court system of NYC – I became a very motivated seller. Thankfully, the property was in a great area and I was able to sell it for at a discount but still made a decent profit. A lesson I learned the hard way…if forced to -choose peace of mind over money!

  16. Paul Noblin

    You offended me with your GODLESS and insipid use of the word “Psycho”. I have schizophrenia as also one in every one hundred people in the world. I have a degree in accounting. Most of your suggestions are illegal. I hope you spend several years in the woods due to a disability. You probably don’t know how to court a woman and got rejected many times because you are undesirable and stupid. You should retain a lawyer to handle appropriate actions and not rely on your own soggy experiences. If when you die and feel yourself falling, expect to pay for for your own trip. You will arrive C.O.D.

  17. Paul Noblin

    You offended me with your GODLESS and insipid use of the word “Psycho”. I have schizophrenia as also one in every one hundred people in the world. I have a degree in accounting. Most of your suggestions are illegal. I hope you spend several years in the woods due to a disability. You probably don’t know how to court a woman and got rejected many times because you are undesirable and stupid. You should retain a lawyer to handle appropriate actions and not rely on your own soggy experiences. If when you die and feel yourself falling, expect to pay for your own trip. You will arrive C.O.D.

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