How to Deal with Unauthorized Occupants Residing at Your Rental Unit

How to Deal with Unauthorized Occupants Residing at Your Rental Unit

This article discusses how to deal with individuals who are not a party to the lease agreement but are living your rental unit.  The issue is important since unauthorized occupants are not bound by the lease agreement and create an added layer of risk associated with owning a rental unit.  Below we discuss the ways to distinguish between guests and unauthorized occupants, the problems typically arising from unauthorized individuals living at the dwelling and how to handle the situation if and when it arises.

What is the Difference Between a Tenant and Unauthorized Occupant?

Tenants in a rental property are authorized occupants listed on a legally binding rental agreement. They pay rent and are bound by the lease terms and conditions.  Unauthorized occupants are individuals who are not a party to the rental agreement and stay for an extended period of time – usually two weeks or more in most jurisdictions.  For example, an unauthorized occupant includes an unapproved sublease arrangement, squatters on the property, and guests who are residing at the unit for an extended period of time.

Problems Arising from Unauthorized Occupants

If you haven’t dealt with a frustrating unauthorized occupant situation before, you might be wondering why it matters. If rent is paid on time, is it really your business who is living in the property?  The answer is “yes” when considering the following problems associated with unauthorized occupants.

A major concern is the potential that the unauthorized occupant will cause property damage to the unit.  They could also be responsible for disturbance complaints, parking violations and the like.  Should that happen, it could be difficult to hold an unauthorized occupant accountable for their actions. The terms of the lease do not bind them, and they have no legal obligation to follow the rules imposed on the tenant. 

How to Deal With Unauthorized Occupants

The first thing that you will want to try to do is to talk to the tenant. Find out who the occupant is, how long they are staying, and other relevant information.  The objective of this conversation is to ascertain whether the person is in fact an unauthorized occupant and, if so, how the tenant proposes to rectify the situation.   

If talking to the tenant does not solve the problem you can move to evict the tenant and the occupant. Before you do this, however, you need to be absolutely certain that your tenant’s actions violate your lease agreement or relevant law.   It can be very challenging to prove in court that an extra, unwanted resident lives there, so make sure that you have your evidence in order before instituting eviction proceedings.  Create an evidence file of any admissions, neighbor statements, and property inspection records indicating another person is living at the unit.  You need concrete evidence establishing the person is actually living in the unit.

Update Your Lease  

In order to avoid having to deal with this situation again in the future, it’s always a good idea to include very clear information about who qualifies as a guest, when guests are allowed, and the consequences of failing to abide by the lease agreement.  When writing the guest policy in your lease, you should consider the following points regarding visitors:

  • The maximum number of residents living in the space
  • What kinds of guests you allow (e.g. specifying that only friends or relatives of the existing tenants may occupy the space without your consent, meaning strangers—subletters or guests from Airbnb—are prohibited)
  • How many guests you will allow in the space at one time
  • How many nights a guest can stay on the property within a specified period
  • How many consecutive nights a person can spend
  • How you want to handle guests who stay longer than the allotted time (e.g. evicting the tenants who violate this portion of the lease or adding long-term guests to the lease as tenants)

Periodically check on your property as well. Use security cameras to monitor who’s coming and going. Most jurisdictions, including California,  allow a property owner to enter the unit after giving the residents a minimum of 24 hours’ written notice. 

Lynx has evicted thousands of unwanted occupants over the years, and can handle the process for you from start to finish.  We can be reached at 888-441-2355 or  Our experienced professionals are standing by to answer any questions or start your case.    

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