When Does A Guest Become a Tenant in Your Apartment?

A former college roommate is looking to establish himself in a new city—your city. Being a nice person, you agree to give him a place to crash temporarily, but just until she gets set up at his new job and finds an apartment of his own.

But “temporarily” has become six weeks, even though you always set clear expectations for house guests. What does this mean for you? Should you notify your landlord? More importantly: When does an apartment guest become a tenant?

The answer can have implications not only for you, but also for your guests, your landlord, and even your official roommates. That’s because there may be different answers to that one question.

Answer #1: An apartment guest may be considered a tenant when any of the following happen.

  • There’s a verbal agreement to become roommates
  • The guest begins helping out with rent
  • The guest spends consecutive weeks there with only a night or two away
  • The guest starts receiving mail at your address

In other words, a variety of factors may contribute to an extended guest’s claim of residence should a problem—and potential eviction—arise.

Consult with a local real estate attorney to help determine your state’s laws on the matter. If you suspect your guest has earned enough legal standing to make a departure complicated, here are some helpful suggestions on how to evict a roommate.

If you want to formalize your guest’s presence as a signed-on-the-dotted-line tenant, schedule a conversation with your landlord or property management company. Processes such as background and finance checks may come into play, but there shouldn’t be complications unless the space is too small to accommodate multiple parties.

Answer #2: An apartment guest becomes a tenant when the applicable laws in your state say so.

While it would be nice to argue that a person not named on the lease has no legal claim over the address at which they’re residing, issues such as adverse possession—which you may know of as “squatter’s rights”—may come into play. When that happens, it becomes more difficult to compel your guest-who-is-now-a-roommate to leave if they don’t want to.

A few years ago, Michigan amended its squatters laws to protect landlords in such situations. California’s squatter laws, meanwhile, seem to favor such unwelcome visitors.

Answer #3: An apartment guest becomes a tenant when the landlord adds her or his name to the lease agreement.

To be clear, though: the absence of the guest’s name on a contract does not necessarily provide a speedy legal remedy when guests become pests.

Local laws—not what you or the landlord want—may very well dictate just how fast an unwanted guest can be legally required to vacate the premises. Municipalities are hesitant to throw anyone “out on the street,” so to speak. As a result, they often try to move slowly and methodically on such matters.

So, how do I handle friends that overstay their welcome?

Love having guests in your apartment but would prefer it if they got their own space? Steer them in that direction. Send them to ApartmentSearch.com to find apartments for rent near you (or far away, too)!

If you absolutely must host a friend or relative for a short time, here are some tips on getting your apartment ready to welcome visitors.