Illegal Roommates

by Andrea West


Posted on 2017-09-07 10:11:55


We’re not talking pets, though our animal friends may count as illegal roommates when we haven’t gotten permission from the landlord to house them. Instead, we’re talking about roommates we bring in to share rent, unbeknownst to the property owner.

What is the difference between a legal resident and an illegal roommate? One has signed a rental lease agreement with the property, the other hasn’t. One has been screened and their background approved for the safety of all others living on the property and the other has not. We as residents may not think it’s a big deal to let a friend of ours move in on a whim because we want to save money on rent, but really it puts the property owner in a potentially dangerous legal situation.


This is why it’s important for the property owner and/or the office workers to always be aware of what is going on in and around their properties. I’ve read several landlord blogs where the landlord mentioned that they noticed a girlfriend or boyfriend was around all the time, so they talked with their resident to let them know that if they were now living together, the SO would need to go through the rental application process.

What if the resident tries to tell the landlord that the person is only a guest? This is where the tenancy contract comes into play. The definition of a ‘guest’ is different depending on the property, but some sort of definition should always be included in the lease. Here are some examples from sample leases-

  • Guest(s) staying over 15 days without the written consent of OWNER shall be considered a breach of this agreement. ONLY the following individuals and/or animals, AND NO OTHERS shall occupy the subject residence for more than 15 days unless the expressed written consent of OWNER obtained in advance.
  • Guests are anyone who stays over sixty days without written consent.
  • No guests of the Tenants may occupy the Property for longer than one week without the prior written consent of the Landlord.
  • The Tenant shall not permit the dwelling to be occupied for longer than a temporary visit by anyone except the individuals listed below...

That last one has a lot of potential problems loaded into it. What is a temporary visit? How long is a temporary visit? It would be much easier for a resident to get away with an illegal roommate with this type of wording than the more straightforward ‘fifteen days’ or ‘one week’ listed in the other examples.

Another aspect that property managers need to be wary of is from whom they are accepting money. Once a check is cashed or money is accepted from a non-resident living on the property, this is to their favor since it can be viewed legally as the landlord ‘accepting’ their tenancy. If the landlord wants to avoid this type of situation, make sure money is only received from residents who have signed a lease.