Questions and Answers for January 2017: Add-on People and Unauthorized Vehicles

Adapted from our Message Boards, where members can ask questions and get answers. Practicing landlords and service providers answer questions, and we combine the best answers into one here.

Q: When you rent to one person and they find a significant other to move in, is it normal to increase their rent?

One landlord replied immediately: you need a new rental agreement to sign both tenants so yes, you should use the opportunity to increase the rent. More residents cost more in terms of water, wear and tear, etc.

Another landlord disagreed. “Would you have advertised the apartment like a hotel room, $X for one person, $X + 50 for two people? If it ever ended up in court, a judge might frown on you.” Either you would appear to be unfairly ratcheting up the price (a Chapter 93A violation), or perhaps discriminating against large families? It’s unclear how you would look.
All participants agreed that having the newcomer pass a rental application was most important. If they aren’t passed and signed as a tenant, your actual tenant could move out, leaving you stuck with a tenant-at-sufferance, no rental agreement, and perhaps someone with a criminal disposition. Screen everyone over the age of 18.

Adding income-earning adults to a unit tends to make the household’s income-to-rent ratio higher and the tenancy more stable, so it’s not necessarily bad to have more people.
Note that dependent children generally get a bye and must be allowed.

Q: My tenant has an unregistered car, no plate, no insurance on the property. It’s an obstruction and an eyesore. They were asked to move it but can’t/won’t.

The best advice is to first consult your rental agreement. Does it require that vehicles be registered and in some measure presentable (e.g., not on cinder blocks)? You want the moral high ground. The tenant should have known before they moved in that dilapidated vehicles were not allowed.

The next best advice is to consult with an attorney and/or the local police department. Ask what the procedure is to remove an unregistered car. Sometimes it involves posting a “no trespassing sign” and waiting some period and/or notifying the tenant. This may not be allowed if you know the car belongs to a lawful tenant.

If you know who the car belongs to, send them a letter giving a definite date and time by which the vehicle must be relocated off the premises. Make sure the letter says they will be charged for the tow. Have it hand delivered by a constable or sheriff to prove it was delivered. Give the tenant lots of time to make the move. Then immediately after the date and time have elapsed, call the towing company. Then call the tenant, apologize, and tell them this is the consequence.

The best advice is to find a negotiated way to get the car removed, or to have the tenant pay for the inconvenience or disruption it causes. This cost will depend on the location and condition of the vehicle. Good luck!

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Richard Dube handyman