Does Everyone Living in an Apartment Have to be on the Lease?

Life can change rapidly nowadays. Job transfers, new relationships, and exciting opportunities can have anyone looking for new housing — fast! What happens when such changes lead to friends and family asking if they can crash at your place? Do couchsurfers belong on the apartment lease?

The answer depends upon the circumstances. Here are three common situations that we get questions about.

Situation 1: What if it’s a child under 18?

You should be in the clear!

Anyone under the age of 18 is legally considered a minor. Since minors cannot legally sign leases — barring rare exceptions such as emancipation — there’s no concern about your younger sibling or cousin moving in with you. (Good luck getting them to help with rent, though!)

Working with Your Landlord

You may wish to inform the landlord that a minor is living with you in your apartment as a courtesy or to ensure they’re aware of the matter in the event of an apartment unit/building emergency. It might also be necessary if you need an extra key since many landlords mark apartment keys with “Do Not Copy,” which would prevent you from doing it yourself.

Situation 2: Just a couple of days (18+).

Enjoy their company! (briefly)

Does a friend from out of town need a place to stay for her intermittent business trips? No problem! You’re entitled to have people over… even when that means they’re spending several consecutive days there.

At this point, no landlord would worry about making such a person party to the lease. And by party, we don’t mean the “balloons and cake” kind, but the legally binding type. In case you’re wondering what that means, brush up on some apartment lease lingo!

Working with Your Landlord

If you’re going to have overnight visitors often, talk to your landlord to make accommodations for them such as reserving additional parking spaces. Remember, apartment communities are designed with laundry rooms, gyms, and courtyards to appeal to tenants and their guests.

Situation 3: Long-Term Stays for Adults

Time to check your lease.

In this case, you or the person who signed the lease need to pay the most attention. That’s because your lease might specifically prohibit another adult from living in your apartment unless he or she signs a lease agreement, too.

The language to look for lays out the conditions under which a person goes from “guest” to “someone who needs to sign a lease.” You should look for language similar to the example below.

“Any guest staying in a tenant’s rental unit for more than 14 days within a three-month period will be considered a tenant and must be added to the lease.”

Remember: that’s just sample language. Your lease might define guests and tenants differently.

Working with Your Landlord

Long-term visitors present legal and financial implications for landlords and tenants alike. Landlords are largely accountable for ensuring a safe and secure environment within their complex, so off-lease guests can present a liability.

Think about it: Visitors who are not on the lease can easily circumvent important steps such as background checks and financial responsibility — and no one wants that. Protect yourself and your community by checking in with your lease and your landlord before making big changes to your living arrangements.

Get a “move” on!

If your living situation is changing and your couchsurfing friend is starting to turn into a permanent roommate, you may want to look into different housing options.

We’ve got you covered in the search for an apartment that fits your (and your guests’) needs. Browse apartments by size on