I own a triplex. I live in one of the units and rent out the other two units. Recently I have suspected that one of my tenants is offering space in her unit to visitors who pay her to stay in the unit, probably through Airbnb or some other similar service. I don’t like this for several reasons including the danger that one of these visitors could damage my property or could engage in some activity on the premises that results in a lawsuit against me, because I am the owner.
How do I put a stop to this?
Your first step is to make sure your rental agreement clearly prohibits this type of “hosting” activity. Without a clear written prohibition, your tenant has an unlimited right to have overnight guests or even subtenants in her unit. Hopefully, you have a written rental agreement that you can check for language that prohibits this activity. If your current agreement doesn’t address hosting or subleasing, you will need to alter the agreement to add a clear prohibition. We cannot suggest the exact language you should use; you will need to consult a legal advisor, but here are some general approaches you can consider.
If the rental is not subject to rent control and if the tenancy is month-to-month, you can serve your tenants with a 30-day notice of change of terms. The change of terms could prohibit subletting and also prohibit having any visitor or guest stay overnight or longer in the unit in exchange for monetary compensation. You could also prohibit any adult person staying more 30 days without your permission, with or without compensation. This prohibition is important because after 30 days that person could become a tenant under California who can only be removed through a court eviction proceeding. If you have a lease with this tenant, you cannot add this type of language until the lease is renewed or until the tenant voluntarily consents to amend the current lease.
Once you establish this prohibition in your rental agreement, you will need to monitor and enforce it. Doing so will not be easy. You can check the various services such as Airbnb and also check Craig’s list to see if your rental unit is listed as available. If you live in a jurisdiction that requires a license for this type of short-term hosting, you can check whether the tenant has applied for the license. Since you live in the triplex you can watch for strangers coming and going, but you cannot invade your tenant’s privacy while doing so. If you believe you can document a hosting or subletting violation, your next step would be a three-day notice to stop the prohibited activity. If the tenant then fails to comply, you should consult an attorney who specializes in evictions to assess whether you have sufficient evidence to support an eviction case.
As an additional protection, you could consider adding a clause to your rental agreement that requires your tenants to maintain renters insurance covering your liability. Although some of these “hosting” sites offer similar protections, you should have the backup protection that a renters policy would provide if the tenant violates your hosting prohibition.
You also have the alternative option to allow the tenant to continue to profit from hosting but require her in writing to share some of the compensation with you either directly or through an increase in the rent she pays. However, if you consider this option, you should obtain legal advice about any potential liability you might incur.