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Creating an Apartment Guest Policy: 4 Signs a Guest has Overstayed

Determining whether a guest has overstayed or not can be tricky. After all, your tenants can have visitors, like family, friends, or significant others, come and visit whenever they want. However, what do you do when a short visit becomes a lengthy stay? If you notice that your tenants have unauthorized occupants living with them, taking action is essential. Creating an apartment guest policy can help limit the chances of unauthorized tenants. Keep reading to learn how to tell when a guest has stayed too long. 


Guests vs. Tenants–What’s the Difference?

It’s not hard to tell the difference between a guest and a tenant. Tenants are named on the lease agreement, making them legally responsible for the rental property. They are the ones who pay rent and follow the lease terms. On the other hand, guests visiting a tenant living at a rental property aren’t listed on the lease and don’t have legal obligations regarding the rental. 

That said, if a guest causes property damage, tenants are legally responsible. Generally, it’s not an issue when you have guests over for a short period of time. However, when a guest slowly becomes an unauthorized tenant, there’s a major issue. Unfortunately, some tenants try to hide that they have another person living in the rental. 

Still, if you suspect that there are more than just your tenants living in a rental, consider making an apartment guest policy that outlines rules and expectations for guests. If you don’t know what to look for in an unauthorized occupant, here are some common signs a guest has overstayed their welcome.


4 Common Signs a Guest Has Stayed Too Long

Since tenants are allowed to have guests whenever they choose, it may be challenging to sort out who’s a new guest and who’s stayed too long. That said, there could be several reasons why a short-term guest becomes an unspoked tenant. For instance, long-term guests could be romantic partners, elderly parents, or friends that need a place to live. 

If you suspect your tenant has additional occupants living with them, here are some surefire signs to watch for. 

  1. They’re Moving Items In
  2. They Spend Most Nights There
  3. Mail Is Delivered for Them
  4. They Start Paying Rent

They’re Moving Items In

If you notice that anyone besides your tenant is moving their items into the rental property, it could be a major red flag. Although your tenant could be just storing some items for a friend, it’s best to look into the situation to ensure they’re not inviting a guest to live with them. 

Of course, if someone brings a change of clothes and a toothbrush to keep at a friend’s house, that does not cause concern. However, if they’re moving large items like furniture or several personal items, they’re likely living in the apartment. 

They Spend Most Nights There

Another sign a guest has become a tenant is if they spend most nights there. When they spend most of the time at the apartment and have most of their items there, they’re most likely living there. 


When someone spends the night most days of the week, they’re no longer a guest. One way to spot an unauthorized or non-paying tenant is by looking at security cameras on the property. Likewise, if a guest is consistently parking in the apartment lot overnight, they’re overstaying. 

Mail Is Delivered for Them

Typically, a visiting guest isn’t associated with the property or the address. So, if someone else is getting mail or packages sent to your tenant’s address, it’s a major red flag for landlords and property managers in Washington DC. After all, mailing addresses are generally used as residency identification. 

Receiving mail at the rental location could be a sign of occupancy. Even if they technically live elsewhere, getting mail at another location signifies a long-term guest. 

They Start Paying Rent

If a frequent guest starts paying a portion or all of the rent, they’re no longer just guests–they’re informal tenants. That said, even if you only have a verbal agreement with them, they have tenant rights, making it hard to evict them. 

The next step in this situation is to get them on a written lease agreement. When you add them to the lease, they’re an authorized occupant who must continue paying rent to live on the property. Again, communication is critical during this time, so keep in frequent contact with your tenants and anyone you suspect to be a long-term guest. 

Importance of an Apartment Guest Policy


An apartment guest policy is a written agreement that states when a guest becomes a tenant. Within an apartment guest policy, it’s important to outline the rental occupancy limits, how many guests are allowed to stay the night, how long a guest may stay in the rental, and more. Here are some main points to consider while creating an apartment guest policy. 

  • Maximum number of occupants allowed to live on the property
  • What type of guests do you allow (for instance, friends vs. AirBnB guests)
  • How many guests are allowed in the apartment at once
  • How many nights a guest may stay consecutively within a period of time
  • Consequences for tenants who allow guests to occupy the rental

When you have an apartment guest policy, your tenant is responsible for following the rules. You can decide how to proceed if they fail to follow the lease terms. Here are some ways to handle guests that overstay in your rental property. 

How to Handle Guests That Overstay in Your Rental

It can be uncomfortable to find out that you have undocumented guests in your rental properties. However, there are a few ways to combat this adverse situation. Here’s how you can handle guests that overstay in your rental property

  • Write an Apartment Guest Policy In Your Lease- To avoid an unauthorized occupant in the first place, it’s essential to write an apartment guest policy that outlines your rules and expectations. 
  • Communicate with Your Tenant and Guest- If you suspect a guest is turning into a tenant, communicate your concerns with your current tenant. Ask them about the situation and come up with a solution to the issue. If this doesn’t work, issue warnings or a notice to fix or quit. 
  • Add the Guest to the Lease as a Tenant- One way to take care of the issue is by adding the guest to the lease agreement as a tenant. That way, they are legally responsible for paying rent and caring for property damages. 
  • Resort to Eviction, if Necessary- If your tenant refuses to acknowledge an unauthorized guest, it may call for eviction. Ideally, talking to your tenant will resolve the issue, but it’s time to take action if your warnings are ignored. 

Protect Your Rental With Management Professionals

Keeping track of all your tenants and their guests can be challenging if you own several rental properties. Additionally, if you don’t live near your rental properties, staying out of touch with what’s happening is easy. However, when you have a top-notch management team, you can feel confident about the status of your rental properties. 

Bay Property Management Group offers comprehensive rental management services, like tenant screening, maintenance, rent collection, and more. We make sure your rental business is running smoothly, so you don’t have to stress about each property. If you’re looking for rental management services in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, or Washington DC, contact BMG today.