When Guests Overstay Their Welcome, How Can You Get Them Out of Your Apartment?

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It happens to most of us at some point or another: a house guest comes to stay for a while, but ends up freeloading far longer than expected. When this happens, what can you do to get your pesky house guest to leave? Does the law offer any solutions?

Trespassing Laws

Your first thought might be to call the cops and report the overstaying house guest as a trespasser. Laws vary from state to state, but in most cases, a person commits the crime of trespass by entering or remaining in a building or on land without permission. Thus, someone who remains at a party after being asked to leave is a trespasser.

Unfortunately, if someone has taken up residence in your house, trespassing may no longer be an option. For example, if they have changed their mailing address (particularly with your permission), paid rent at some point, or if your state recognizes squatting rights, you may have to do more than simply call the police to report a trespasser.

House guest or tenant?

All too often, police officers become wary of getting involved in domestic disputes or tossing out overstaying house guests, because they fear the guest may actually be a tenant. If someone has become a tenant, they are entitled to certain legal protections. This is true even if there is no lease agreement between you and the house guest. While state laws vary, landlords cannot simply toss out tenants as trespassers, but must instead proceed through strict procedures. These procedures usually include giving notice to the tenant, filing an eviction lawsuit, and obtaining a final judgment from a court. The eviction is then carried out by a sheriff.

Fortunately, under the laws in most states, guests (even those that have stayed longer than a few days) do not become tenants due to the duration of their stay. However, a police officer has no way of knowing whether your guest is a trespasser or a tenant, so they will usually refuse to remove the person just in case you are trying to skip the eviction process. If that happens, you may have to file an action in court to eject the house guest and for civil trespass.

How to avoid letting a guest become a tenant

You may have allowed someone to stay in your property out of the kindness of your heart. But, as you have likely discovered, some good deeds lead to nothing but headaches. In the spirit of goodwill, your friend may have offered to give you a few dollars to defray the cost of living with you. He or she may have also changed mailing addresses to your property. It all seems innocent enough at first, but it can create problems down the road.

If you accept money for letting the person stay with you, that may have created a landlord-tenant relationship. If that is the case, your house guest may become entitled to eviction protection under state landlord-tenant laws. Similarly, allowing a person to receive mail at your address may also be evidence that he or she is a tenant.

Before agreeing to let someone stay with you for any length of time, make sure you understand the laws in your state so that you do not inadvertently allow your guest to become a tenant. It may be harder to get rid of your unwanted house guest if you have not taken these precautions, and will likely require legal assistance.

Obtaining Legal Assistance

If you have a house guest that just will not leave, first call police. This may be enough to your house guest move out on his or her own, feeling wholly unwelcome in your property. However, if that does not work, it may be time to consider an eviction. Familiarize yourself with landlord-tenant laws and determine if this is the course of action you wish to pursue. Then, contact an eviction attorney to discuss any questions you may have, the facts of your case, and to determine an appropriate course of action. You can find a qualified, licensed landlord-tenant attorney in your area by using the lawyer search function at HG.org.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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