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Unregistered/Unauthorized Occupants; what are they, and how do you get them to leave?

Unregistered/unauthorized occupants, what are they, and how do you get them to leave?  Unfortunately, even with the best screening procedures and detailed leases, situations arise where tenants bring in unregistered/unauthorized occupants. Although tenants are allowed to have guests and to request adding a roommate, some parameters that are important to define.

What are unregistered/unauthorized occupants?

Your tenant has surgery, and her mother comes to stay to help while she is recuperating. Is her mother an unregistered occupant?

How about a tenant who has his brother stay on occasional weekends while passing through town?

A tenant who has a friend stay with her for a couple of months until she finds a job and can afford a place –  is she an unregistered occupant?

Suppose you rent your basement suite to a father/daughter duo. One day you come home from work and see a fellow unloading his bed and suitcases. You ask him who he is and what he’s doing and he says,  “your tenant Bob told me I could live here until I find another place.” Is he an unauthorized occupant?

A visitor who stays for a day or two and leaves is not an unauthorized occupant. Different provinces, states, countries, and lease agreements define the allowable period for guests, but basically, two-week visitations are the norm.

An unauthorized occupant is any adult living on your property who has moved their belongings into your rental unit without your knowledge or consent.

Is this a problem? If so, why?

Unregistered tenants/unauthorized occupants can be an issue for several reasons.

Insurance

Property insurance policy providers have a set number of allowable unrelated people who can inhabit a rental premises and share a policy. Some policies only allow three unrelated tenants. Others allow more. If you don’t limit the number of registered/unregistered occupants on your property, your property is not covered by insurance. That’s a problem.

Damage

Unauthorized occupants can cause property damage and unlike tenants they are not accountable for their actions, and are not legally bound to follow the terms of the lease.

Safety

Unregistered occupants can pose a significant threat to the safety of vulnerable occupants. Landlords can be held liable if the tenant can show that the landlord’s action (or inaction) naturally and foreseeably caused the injury.

Following your rules

If your registered tenants don’t follow your rules, you can pretty much guarantee the unregistered occupants won’t be following them either. It’s your property, you’re paying the cost for being the boss and you need to be in control of your property and tenants. The tail shouldn’t be wagging the dog.

Options for unregistered occupants

What can you do if your tenant has brought in unregistered occupants?

Basically, you have two options; if the tenants are willing to comply, you can add them to the addendum or the lease, or if they don’t comply, evict them.

Start by talking to the tenant, remind them of the rules, provide a copy of the lease, and highlight the clause that specifies the rules for guests. Tenants may or may not realize that bringing in unregistered occupants is a violation of their tenancy agreement.

If the tenants are willing to comply, you can have the unregistered occupant fill out an application to rent and follow your tenant screening process. If they pass and you accept them, you can include them on an addendum as an “other” occupant. If they are listed as an “other” occupant, only the original tenant is responsible for paying the rent. What/how they pay the other tenant is not your responsibility.

The addendum grants the “other” occupant permission to live on your property with the original tenant. It’s good practice for the addendum to state that they must follow the same rules as outlined in the tenancy agreement and have them initial and date each page of the lease so that they know the rules.. If you and the unregistered tenant choose to be listed as a tenant on a lease, you can have them sign a new lease with the existing tenant or add them as a tenant to an addendum. As a tenant, they are equally and individually responsible for paying the total rent every month.

If they refuse to complete the application or complete it and they don’t meet your minimum tenant criteria, you can reject them. If rejected, they must leave.

But what if they refuse to leave or, worse, stay after the original tenant moves out?

Now you have an even bigger problem on your hands.

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Overholding unregistered occupants

If someone not listed on your tenancy agreement lives in your rental property and doesn’t leave after the tenancy ends you can move to evict them. According to the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), you can give the unauthorized occupant at least 48 hours’ notice to vacate if the tenant has moved out. If the unregistered occupant threatens to assault you or assaults you; or does signification damage to your rental property, you can issue a 24-hour eviction notice.

All notices must;

  • be in writing
  • be signed by the landlord or agent
  • state the reason for eviction, and
  • state the time and date the tenancy ends

If you don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to deal with an eviction yourself, eviction services can deal with it for you. Eviction services are not emotionally invested in your property or tenants (as you are) and can work through the issues calmly, professionally, efficiently, and legally.  The sooner the unregistered occupant is out, the sooner you have control of the property and can fill it with paying tenants.

How to protect yourself and your property from future unauthorized occupants?

Moving forward, it’s always good business to have crystal clear information on your lease about who is and isn’t a guest, when guests are allowed, and to specify the process for approving an additional roommate.

Don’t assume tenants read every line of the lease, though. When tenants sign the lease, have a conversation with them explaining the rules, and for extra measure, have them initial and date the page to document they have read/understood/and are willing to comply with the rules.

Be clear and consistent with your rules for guests/unregistered/unauthorized occupants. You stand a better chance of winning your case in court, if it takes that route,  or circumventing future issues with unregistered/unauthorized occupants.

Have you ever had issues with unregistered occupants?   If you’d like to connect with me, I’m at [email protected].

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