Law Offices of Peter G. Aziz & Associates LLC
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What rights do you have when tenants have unauthorized visitors?

Being a landlord in New Jersey isn't particularly easy. Not only do you have to come up with the capital to invest in real estate to begin with, but you also have to maintain the properties you purchase over the years.

Beyond that, you have to collect rent from tenants and deal with issues that they may bring to your attention, such as late-night parties in one unit or problems with the plumbing in the shared laundry space. The average landlord has enough to worry about without the concern of whether or not their tenants actively violate the lease agreement.

Some people will rent a property and then allow another individual who is not on the lease to live with them. Most standard leases do preclude unauthorized occupants, but enforcing those terms can put landlords in a difficult situation.

Unauthorized occupants could cause liability issues

One of the reasons you likely require your tenants to list everyone who will live in the unit on the application or lease document is so that you can perform a background check and make sure you aren't letting someone dangerous into your property. When your tenants take it upon themselves to allow an unauthorized occupant to live in the space, you have no control over who comes and goes or any say whatsoever.

If you haven't already done so, you should review your lease and make sure that there are specific clauses that address unauthorized occupancy. Many landlords will allow people to have unreported visitors for one or two nights. This allows for socialization, such as having a family member visit for the weekend from out of town.

Not allowing anyone to stay overnight without prior written authorization could alienate your tenants, but not addressing the issue in writing could leave you vulnerable to future problems as well.

Take steps to enforce the lease when you discover a violation

No one likes to be the bad guy, but you can't let tenants get away with ignoring the terms of their lease. If you discover that a tenant has an unauthorized occupant, you need to address the situation.

If you have a positive relationship with them, you may be able to communicate informally about the issue. Perhaps it is a new romantic interest and that person will soon be on the lease as well. Maybe it is a friend who fell on hard times, and your enforcement of the lease will give them an opportunity to have that person move on.

If informal communication won't work, you should serve written notice to the tenant advising them that they are in violation of the terms of the lease and to have the other person leave immediately. If they do not, you may be able to invoke either financial penalties or the termination of the lease, depending on the exact circumstances.

Working with an attorney when evicting an unauthorized occupant is usually beneficial, as it is in any kind of eviction proceedings. An attorney who understands New Jersey rental laws can certainly make the whole process easier.

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