When Does a Guest Become a Tenant?

Savvy landlords are always careful when it comes to considering the type of tenants to rent to. They carry out extensive interviews and rent to tenants based on the outcome of their thorough screening process.

Sadly, the same level of scrutiny doesn’t apply to tenants’ guests. That’s why it is important to have rules in place to help answer the question “when does a guest become a tenant?”

This post will seek to answer that question and provide you with some tips on how to protect yourself and your Florida investment property if a guest overstays their welcome.

Tenants vs. Guests

A tenant is a person who is of legal age and who has signed a lease agreement to live in your rental property. A tenant is expected to comply with all rules outlined in the lease or rental agreement they have signed like paying rent on time, respecting the property, and maintain reasonable noise levels.

In actuality, any other person paying rent to live in the residence can become a tenant. And this is regardless of whether their name appears on the lease or not.

A guest is someone who only stays for short periods of time. Unlike tenants, they aren’t expected to pay rent. But if they agree to take up residence for a period of time in exchange for paying rent, then that person is no longer considered a guest.

tenant who signs the lease

Scenarios that Describe a Legal Tenant

The following describes those who are considered legal tenants of a property:

  • Individuals who have passed your tenant vetting process. For example, qualified because of their creditworthiness, income level, as well as rental, criminal, and employment background.
  • Those who have signed the lease agreement and agreed to abide by all terms for the entire period the lease will be active.
  • Someone who understands that they don’t own the property and can be evicted for gross violation of the lease.

Scenarios that Describe a Guest

The following are scenarios that describe who a residential guest could be:

  • They are domestic helpers who have made arrangements to stay over for a night or two. They have no intention of taking up residence at your rental property because they have a home to go back to.
  • They are a member of the tenant’s family and are only on a short-term visit. They will only be staying there for a couple of days and then leave.
  • They are friends with the tenant and have only come to stay the night or over the weekend. They could be visiting in from out of town, or they are crashing after a long night out.

florida tenants

Recognizing When a Guest has Taken up Residence

It isn’t always easy to determine when a guest has become a tenant. Although there are some grey areas, below are some signs to help you spot the differences:

  • They have a key to the residence. According to a typical lease, besides the landlord, only the person who has signed the lease is supposed to have keys to their apartment. If the guest has them and is spending nights there, they are considered more of a tenant than a guest.
  • They have moved in their furniture. Has the person moved in a significant amount of personal belongings? If they have, then those are telltale signs that they have taken up residence.
  • They are spending each night at the premises. Someone who is regularly spending nights at your Florida rental is no longer a guest. It’s a sign that they have moved in. Frequent daytime-only visitors, however, remain to be guests.
  • They receive mail at the address. Is the guest receiving letters and packages at the property? If they are, it’s a sign that they have moved in.

Adding a Guest to the Lease – Should You Do It?

It’s important to include all adult tenants in your lease or rental agreement. Doing so ensures two things, it makes you aware of who exactly your tenants are and it ensures that all tenants follow the terms of the lease.

adding guest to lease agreement

Confronting the tenant about a guest may not always go down well, especially if it has been going on for a significant period of time. Offer a suggestion to the tenant to have their guest added to the lease.

If they don’t agree and issues persist, then you can consider serving the tenant with a legal eviction notice for a lease violation.

Have a Guest Policy in the Lease or Rental Agreement

The following are some terms you should consider including in your lease:

  • The number of consecutive nights a guest is allowed to spend in your rental premises.
  • The total number of nights, consecutive or not, a guest can spend on the property within a certain period of time.
  • The number of guests that you can allow in the space at one given time.
  • The maximum number of residents that can occupy the space.

It may also be in your best interest to define what “long-term stay” means. Generally speaking, most landlords don’t allow guests to stay any more than 10 to 14 days in a 6-month period.


The best way to prevent strangers at your rental property is by being proactive. Have a clearly defined guest policy in your agreement and create open communication with your tenants.

If you need help drafting a guest policy, State Property Management can help! Get in touch with us to learn more.

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