Discovering that an unauthorized person is living in your Montgomery County rental property can be a very stressful situation.
It is your responsibility, as a rental property owner, to maintain the property that your tenants reside in. It is also your duty to ensure that whomever is living in your investment property is authorized to be living there.
Unfortunately, despite having a rock solid lease agreement in place, there will be times when your tenant’s guest(s) may overstay their welcome, a tenant may sublet your property illegally to other tenants, or you may simply find yourself dealing with a squatter that refuses to leave.
Today we will discuss which steps you should take upon finding out that an unauthorized person is living in your rental property. This way should you or your Maryland rental property management company face an unauthorized person, you will be well equipped to handle the situation efficiently, and most importantly, legally.
What Constitutes as Unauthorized Occupant in Your Rental Property?
Defining an unauthorized tenant can be a tricky thing. Some property owners do not care whether their tenants have guests that stay for long periods of time. More so, some property owners do not mind if their tenants take in additional people who pitch in for the monthly rent. The way these types of property owners see it, so long as the rent is paid that’s all that matters.
However, for those of you that do care whether an unauthorized person is staying in your Montgomery County rentals, you must first understand what constitutes someone as “unauthorized.”
Most lease agreements provide that only the tenants on the lease, and no one else, can occupy the rental home. This would mean that any other person residing in the rental for any length of time is technically considered “unauthorized” according to the lease terms.
Nonetheless, there are some more specific ways to label a person as unauthorized in your Montgomery County rental.
According to Maryland law, a guest can be a visitor or family member that has taken up residence in your rental home with the permission of your tenant. They may stay for long periods and share in some of the minor expenses, but they do not contribute to the monthly rent.
To add to that, some property owners will consider long-term guests as those who have taken up residence without their permission, even though their tenants invite them to stay. Some of these guests even going so far as to change their mailing address to match that of the property.
In the end, the point is that a long-term guest, often extending their stay past 30 days, is someone who from the outside may look to be an actual tenant.
If your tenant has allowed another person not on the original lease agreement to take up residence in your rental property and fulfill the responsibility of paying the rent each month, your rental home has officially become the casualty of a sublease.
Squatters, also referred to as trespassers, are people who enter your rental property without the permission of property owner. This typically occurs in one of two ways:
Your Rental Has Been Subleased
In this case, your rental home has been subleased to tenants other than the ones who signed the original lease agreement with you. Unfortunately, you might not realize this is happening until you begin eviction proceedings on your original tenant, who in the meantime has been collecting the monthly rent from their sub-tenant and pocketing it.
Your Tenant Refuses to Leave
If your tenant refuses to leave your property under legal circumstances or does not pay rent, they too are considered squatters.
The true definition of a squatter is someone who breaks into your vacant property, has utilities turned on, and begins living there. However, this complex issue involves many federal, state, and local laws. That said, if a Maryland property owner attempts to evict a squatter illegally, or the squatter remains in the property for 20 years with no attempt at concealment, the squatter may retain some rights of their own, making your problems worse.
How to Handle an Unauthorized Person in Your Montgomery County Rental
Now that you have a general idea about unauthorized people in your rental property, let’s look at how to handle this situation should it arise.
Handling a Long-Term Guest
Some property owners build guest restrictions into their lease agreements to prevent over-stayers that are not contributing to the monthly rent. Often termed the “Use of Premises” clause, this might include a 10-day limit on guest stays in any 6-month period. And, should a tenant wish to house a guest for longer than that, the agreement requires written approval from the property owner. In addition, some property owners outline the consequences for “hiding” long-term guests in their home by threatening fines, rent increases, and even eviction.
The reason it is important to incorporate these seemingly strict rules into your lease agreement is because guests are not subject to the terms in your lease agreement. Therefore, you or your Montgomery County property manager cannot hold them accountable for rent or for breaking any of the lease provisions.
This lease provision is necessary because someone, whether it be the original tenant, or the long-term guest, has to be held accountable for the rent each month.
Handling a Sublet Property
One of the most surefire ways of avoiding a subleasing nightmare is by strictly forbidding the subleasing of your Montgomery County rental. This way, should your tenant continue to do so anyway, you will have a strong defense in your case.
However, should this scenario play out and you find yourself dealing with an unauthorized tenant, there are some important things to keep in mind while you begin the process of getting the unauthorized tenants out of your rental.
- Should you allow subleasing as part of the lease agreement, include airtight clauses requiring your permission or that of the property management company. In addition, require all sub-tenants be screened as your original tenants were. Lastly, require all parties sign the newly drafted sublease agreement.
- Never collect rent from an illegal sub-tenant. Once rent is accepted, there are certain tenant laws that activate protecting the sub-tenant regardless of whether they are legally allowed to be in your property or not.
- If you do not want to allow subleasing, state so in your lease agreement. Some states will not accept your claims of an unauthorized person if you do not state outright in your lease that subleasing is not allowed.
- If you are going to evict a sub-tenant, make sure to follow the correct procedures for a legal eviction to avoid getting yourself into trouble as well.
Handling a Squatter
If you ask someone to leave your rental property—whether that be an unauthorized guest or a squatter who refuses to leave—and they do not vacate the premises, you are entitled to seek an eviction by filing a “wrongful detainer” action in District Court.
A “wrongful detainer” means someone who holds possession of real property, such as a house, apartment, building, or land, without the right of possession. Keep in mind however, you cannot file a “wrongful detainer” to evict current tenants or those who are holding-over.
Here is an outline of the process should you initiate a “wrongful detainer” action:
- You will file a complaint in the District Court
- The court summons the person accused of wrongful possession of your property
- The person will appear in court and explain why they are not in the wrong
- If the court sides with you, you will then be granted a warrant of restitution
- You will then schedule a date with the sheriff to have the person/persons evicted from the property
Again, it is very important you follow exactly the legal regulations for properly evicting an unauthorized person in your Montgomery County investment property.
Before you find yourself dealing with an unauthorized person in your Montgomery County rental property, it is a good idea to look into employing a knowledgeable and experienced property management company to help you manage all things property related.
Contact Bay Management Group today and let us take care of business for you.
We can draft airtight and legal lease agreements, handle tenants who don’t pay rent or sublease your property without your permission, and set the ground rules for long-term guests. In addition, we will back you in court should things go that far.
Having a property manager from Bay Management Group will give you the peace of mind any unauthorized persons in your rental will be handled efficiently and legally.