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Won’t You Be Someone Else’s Neighbor

My best friend and I lived together for five years. During that time, her boyfriend lived with us for about 8 months. After they broke up, he stayed for another month.

The Vatican is currently reviewing my application for Sainthood. 

Fortunately, this ex-boyfriend wasn’t a psycho. He didn’t set the place on fire, or do drugs, or throw house parties until 3 a.m. Still, he was unauthorized. (And, after the break-up, unwelcome.)

For apartment owners, dealing with husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, families and friends of residents who are not on the lease is a tough but important issue.

“We find that 80 percent of our operational behavioral problems are driven in some form or fashion by the unauthorized occupant,” said Brent Sobol, who operates Legacy Housing in Atlanta.

My roommate and I found that 80 percent of our friendship issues were driven by the same.

Sobol, whose portfolio comprises B and C properties, says that impact is confirmed when he speaks to other professional property managers about their similar experiences. One would be Sandy Martin, who manages a small, 32-unit community in the Carolinas with no onsite manager.

“We have had consistent problems with new and existing tenants with unauthorized occupants since we took over 16 months ago,” Martin says. “We have an addendum to the lease that is very specific about a ‘change in your household.’ We emphasize this in our ads, criteria and on our rental application. We even ask applicants before they are approved if they are the only adult occupant. Our phrase is ‘All Who Occupy Must Apply’. ”

Nonetheless, Martin says residents “still move in and bring husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends and entire families! If they weren’t causing problems, we probably wouldn't know they were there. There’s trash, drug activity, noise, fights, everything.”

Calling it an “epidemic,” Martin has evicted or not renewed leases on 12 apartment homes.

I’ve done the same on one ex-boyfriend.

To reduce conflicts from the get-go, Sobol says that engaged management companies—those that routinely inspect the apartment—are able to effectively curb the problem.

“But that’s easier said than done when managing a smaller property, particularly with no onsite management presence,” Sobol says. “Simply asking the interloper if they are a signor on a lease agreement and thus authorized to be there without the presence of a leaseholder or otherwise is often enough to compel them to go someplace else.”

Managers must try different approaches and see what works, Sobol says, and then do more of that.

“I firmly believe that engaged management really is the key to turning around that situation,” Sobol says. “The property manager then probably asks, ‘Well, how engaged should one be?’ That answer is based on property type and the property manager.”

Coincidentally, unauthorized boyfriend guests also make you ask, "How engaged should we be?"

For more, check out “Trouble Next Door?” in the February issue of units Magazine.

Lauren Boston is NAA’s Staff Writer and Manager, Public Relations. Unsurprisingly, she writes a lot—most often for units Magazine and as a weekly blogger for APTly Spoken. She enjoys making people laugh, sharing embarrassing childhood stories and being the (self-proclaimed) Voice of the Apartment Industry. She welcomes feedback, unless it’s negative (in which case, please keep it to yourself).