Seven Tips for Staying Out of Trouble if You Have Overnight Guests (Section 8 & HUD Housing)

Art: Robin Mead

Most landlords and many housing authorities have rules on how many nights guest can stay overnight.

The purpose of these rules is to ensure that you do not have anyone living at your apartment without permission. This is called an “unauthorized occupant.”

Unauthorized occupants can cause all kinds of problems, including potentially getting evicted or losing one’s housing voucher or housing assistance. Here’s some tips to protect yourself:

Read Your Guest Policy

Your guest policy will tell you how many nights you can have overnight guests, and how often they can stay with you. For buildings and rentals, your guest policy will be in your lease. For housing vouchers it’s a bit more complicated: How To Find Your Guest Policy

Don’t Let Anyone Else Use Your Address

Never let anyone use your mailing address for any reason.

Keep Documentation

This is generally not be needed for short or infrequent guests.

If someone is sleeping over regularly or coming for an extended stay, it may be helpful to have proof that the person does not actually live with you. You will probably never be asked for this proof, but it’s good to have just in case.

The best way to prove this is to have documentation of your guest’s regular address (For example: lease, letter from homeowner, utility bills in person’s name, etc)

Request an Exception

Some guest policies are flexible and just require you get permission. For example, a policy may say “a guest can stay over no more than two nights per month without permission.”

In a situation like that, you can have a guest for two nights per month without having to ask. For additional nights, you can ask permission.

If you have a friendly landlord or housing program, you may be able to send a simple email explaining your situation and asking for an exception. It’s a good idea to get permission IN WRITING.

Request Accommodations

If you or someone in your household is disabled, you may be able to get an exception to the guest policies, even if your request for permission was denied.

This may be possible if someone is staying with you to help or assist the disabled person: How to Request a Disability Accommodation for Overnight Guests

Know That You Are Responsible For Your Guests

If your guest does something to break the lease or commits a crime on the property, this can put your housing at risk. It’s a good idea to let your guest know any important rules for your buildings. Obviously, you might also like to avoid having any guests who you think might commit crimes on the property. (Including use of illegal drugs).

Make Sure You Have Reliable Intel

Some readers report that their housing worker told them wrong information about the guest policies. It’s great to double check and see the written policy.

Tip: Most guest policies are per person, not total. So, let’s say your policy is “20 days per year.” If your mother stays for 12 days, and then your grandmother stays for 19 days, it most cases, this would be allowed, since each person was there for less than 20 days.

If your housing worker tell you that this is not allowed, you may wish to request this in writing and/or check with supervisors or corporate office to confirm.

Having Problems

If you run into problems because of having an overnight guest, you have the right to appeal. You can also contact your legal aide program for help. You can also request disability accommodations to help resolve the situation in some circumstances.

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