It’s such a common occurrence that it’s practically a cliché. So many landlords have to deal with the problem of unwanted occupants—usually a deadbeat boyfriend or shut-in girlfriend—staying in their rental units. If only they had thought to ask a real estate lawyer before drafting their leases.
Often it’s the most unassuming tenants who seem to think they can take liberties and invite guests to stay for extended periods. I once had a client who had to deal with this exact issue, and to put it simply, it didn’t end quietly.
My client, a landlord here in Miami, had a great tenant—let’s call the tenant Jen. Jen was your average young woman. She had a steady job and paid rent on time. My client never got any complaints about her from other tenants in the surrounding apartments. She seemed to lead a pretty quiet life. She was the perfect tenant.
Then everything changed in the blink of an eye. One night my client got a text from one of her other tenants that the police had entered the building looking for someone at Jen’s. Apparently, when asked by the police whether they had seen a man coming and going from the building, some of the other tenants had confirmed that they had, pointing to Jen’s unit. The man—by now, obviously he’s Jen’s boyfriend—had a warrant out for his arrest in New York. When the police knocked on her door and spoke with her, she denied that he was there. Because there was no evidence of a crime, the police couldn’t enter her unit to check.
Unfortunately, my client had to evict Jen in order to get rid of the boyfriend. If nothing else, though, the episode prompted her to put a clause in her leases that limits the amount of time that guests can stay. If she had thought to ask a real estate lawyer before drafting her lease, she might have avoided the whole thing.
Put It in the Lease
If you want to deter and possibly prevent what happened to my client from happening to you, it’s important to revisit your lease agreement. One critical component of any lease is a clause that limits visits from non-paying guests to a certain amount of consecutive days per year. Doing this will protect you and give you legal ammunition if the lease is breached. Inform your tenants that if they plan to have someone move in with them that they need to let you know so you can screen the new tenant.
Screen Your Tenants
Screening your tenants is what lets you weed out the good from the bad. As a landlord, you have the right to choose who you will rent to as long as your decision is within the law (i.e. you’re not discriminating based on race, religion, ethnicity, etc.). If your tenant does not inform you of a new roommate, you have the right to terminate the lease.
Will You Ask a Real Estate Lawyer?
It’s not an easy job being a landlord, but with the right legal advice at your disposal, you can be sure that you are not being taken advantage of. Don’t let your tenants determine how you run your business. Ask a real estate lawyer at HLF Real Estate Law by calling 305-760-4425. Se Habla Español.