I think my tenant may have moved in a “guest”. What is the best way to handle this?

You should first understand the issue before taking an action. Can you verify by independent means or firsthand observation that the tenant has moved in a permanent guest? As example, has the guest conducted himself as a tenant, i.e., receiving mail at the rental address, moved personal property into the unit, or keep a regular schedule of daily activity at the property? Do the neighboring tenants consider the guest a tenant?

A landlord has an obligation to protect the safety and privacy of all tenants. A guest policy helps to protect the rights of the other tenants and prevent unwelcome or unwanted stays by guests. Accordingly, a landlord has the right to set rules on guest visits to the rental property and set limits on overnight stays.

Tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment of the rental property including the right to have guests stay overnight or for short periods of time. However, a landlord should require a tenant to obtain prior approval of an extended stay by a guest as part of lease terms and conditions.

By asking the tenant for his explanation of the current situation, and reviewing information obtained from the investigation, you can determine the appropriate action to take. It is possible that the tenant misunderstood the terms and conditions of the lease agreement regarding guest stay.

Your discussion with the tenant should include a restatement of lease terms and conditions for occupancy use and limits, guest stay policy, and the legal remedies to cure a lease violation. As appropriate to the circumstances, your discussion of the issue could serve as a warning to the tenant to correct the situation. Follow-up will be necessary to confirm that the tenant has complied with warning/request to remove the guest from permanent stay at the rental unit.

You could require the guest who has exceeded guest policy stay to submit an application for tenancy if the tenant and guest both want to continue occupancy of the unit. You will follow your standard rental policies for tenant screenings to qualify the guest for approval for tenancy.

With the current declared public health emergency, it is also possible the guest is there temporarily to provide help to the tenant for health and safety reasons. If there are extenuating circumstances, the tenant may request a reasonable accommodation of your policy for extended guest stay. You must comply with applicable fair housing laws regarding reasonable accommodation requests.

Alternatively, and as appropriate to the situation, you could serve the tenant with a notice to cure or quit. If the problem is not cured by compliance with the lease agreement (i.e., removing unauthorized occupants) or vacating within the number of days specified in the notice, you could terminate the lease agreement and file an unlawful detainer action. If the tenancy is a month-to-month agreement, you could serve the tenant with the appropriate written notice for termination of tenancy.

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