As a landlord with rental property in Houston, you probably make routine inspections to ensure your property is well-maintained and your tenants are abiding by the lease. However, this time you notice an unauthorized occupant living there.

Unofficial roommate sleeping on the couch to illustrate an unauthorized tenant.


Should you be concerned about this unauthorized occupant?


How do you handle an unauthorized occupant in your Houston rental property?


Landlords discovering a new person living in their property who is not on the lease should be concerned as there are many dangers and risks that come along with this situation.


By the end of this article, you will learn how to handle unauthorized occupants in your Houston rental property and the best methods to avoid the situation altogether.


What is an Unauthorized Occupant?

Before we dive into the dangers and solutions for having an unauthorized occupant, it’s important that we define who is considered to be one.


An unauthorized occupant is a person (18+) living in your rental property who is not listed in the lease agreement.


This could be a long-term guest of your tenants, someone who has unofficially sublet the property from your tenant, or a squatter living in the property without a lease entirely.


Dangers of an Unauthorized Occupant

Since your unauthorized occupant has not signed a lease and has no legal right to live in the property, they also have no legal obligation to abide by the lease. Therefore, they can cause financial and physical damage to you and your property.


Unpaid Rent

An unauthorized occupant is not legally responsible for paying rent because they have not signed a lease with you. Therefore, you could go months without receiving rent from the occupant.


In the case of an unauthorized subletter, it’s best not to accept rent from them until you have solved the situation. Once you do accept rent, even if it is just a portion of it, the occupant is protected by tenant laws, which can complicate things.


Damage to the Property

If your unauthorized occupant is a guest of your tenant and they damage the property, your tenant can be held responsible. They can also turn to their renter’s insurance policy to help them remedy the situation.


However, proving that the unauthorized occupant is responsible for the damage can be difficult, especially if brought to small claims court. Since they are not on the lease, the landlord has no legal right to enforce consequences either.


Breach of the Lease

The lease agreement between you and your tenant lists exactly what may and may not be done on or to the property during the lease term. A breach of the lease can result in an eviction of the tenant.


However, if the unauthorized occupant breaches the lease agreement, it can be difficult to evict them as they have not agreed to the lease.


If you put a clause in the lease stating guests are not allowed for more than a certain period, then you may move forward and evict the tenant and the occupant – but more on that later!


Potential Squatter Situation

Having an unauthorized occupant in your Houston property could lead to a squatter situation. This is when the occupant lives in the property without a lease and does not leave. They do not pay rent or utility bills during their stay either.


This could happen when your tenant’s lease ends, but the unauthorized occupant continues to live on the property. According to Texas’s squatter rights laws, they can legally stay in the property until the owner evicts them.


After ten years, the squatter could claim the property as their own by adverse possession.


Can You Evict an Unauthorized Occupant in Houston?

Yes, landlords and property owners may evict an unauthorized occupant from their Houston rental property.


As long as they abide by the state’s eviction laws and gather enough evidence, landlords can successfully remove the unauthorized occupant.


How to Avoid Unauthorized Occupants

Fortunately, there are preventative steps you can take to avoid ever having an unauthorized occupant in your Houston rental property.

Always make sure every adult resident is on the lease.


Write it in the Lease

When creating the lease for your rental property, it’s a good idea to add a clause in the lease stating how long guests are allowed to stay on the property.


Typically, a guest can stay for 14 days without paying rent before they are considered an unauthorized occupant. However, to legally prove there is an unauthorized occupant, some districts may require this statement to be in the lease.


To avoid a tenant subletting the property, you should add a clause in the lease forbidding it. Instead, state that you must screen and approve the potential new tenant and have them sign a new lease with you.


Screen Tenants Beforehand

It’s always a good idea to have a thorough screening process for potential tenants before they sign a lease. During this process, you can decide whether or not the applicant is reliable, respectful, and trustworthy.


You can also view their rental history and speak to past landlords to ensure they did not cause problems in the past with guests or subletting.


Keep Communication Open

Forming a good and honest relationship with your tenants is crucial to managing a rental property smoothly. Ensure your tenants understand the rules concerning guests at the property and possible subletting situations.


If you do find an unauthorized occupant in your Houston rental, speak with your tenant to understand the situation. They may simply not have known or forgotten about the rule in the lease.


Work with a Professional Property Management Company

Owning and managing a rental property in Houston is a lot of work. Between collecting rent each month to making repairs to checking if there are unauthorized occupants, it takes up a lot of your time.


One of the best things you can do to combat these potential risks and save time is to hire a reliable property manager from Residential Leasing and Management.


As Houston’s leading property management company, landlords trust our experts to maximize their ROI while increasing property value with our services. 


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