How to Deal With Unauthorized Occupants

Dealing with unauthorized occupants in your Pennsylvania rental property can be a challenging situation for landlords. Whether it’s a tenant who has allowed others to move in without your consent or someone who has simply overstayed their welcome, the landlord should follow these legal steps.

Dealing with unauthorized occupants in your Pennsylvania rental property can be a challenging situation for landlords. Whether it’s a tenant who has allowed others to move in without your consent or someone who has simply overstayed their welcome, the landlord should follow these legal steps.

Review the Lease Agreement

Begin by carefully reviewing the lease agreement signed by the original tenant. Lease agreements typically include clauses that address occupancy limits and the requirement for landlords to approve any additional occupants. Ensure you understand the terms related to occupancy.

Communication with the Tenant

Contact the tenant who signed the lease and discuss the situation openly and professionally. Ask them about the unauthorized occupant and inquire about their intentions. It’s possible that the tenant is unaware of the lease terms or has a valid reason for having someone else stay temporarily.

Lease Violation Notice

If the tenant admits to housing an unauthorized occupant in violation of the lease terms, issue a formal lease violation notice. Clearly outline the breach, provide a reasonable timeline for correction, and explain the consequences of non-compliance.

Tenant Remediation

Allow the tenant to rectify the situation by either obtaining your approval for the additional occupant or ensuring the unauthorized occupant vacates the property within the specified timeframe.

Eviction Process

If the tenant fails to remedy the lease violation, landlords can initiate the eviction process. In Pennsylvania, this typically involves issuing a notice of termination of the lease followed by filing an eviction lawsuit in court.

Court Proceedings

Prepare to present your case in court, demonstrating that the tenant breached the lease agreement by allowing unauthorized occupants. Follow all legal procedures and timelines required for eviction proceedings.

Document Everything

Maintain thorough records of all communication with the tenant, including notices, emails, and conversations. This documentation can be crucial if legal action becomes necessary.

Avoid Self-Help Measures

Avoid taking matters into your own hands, such as changing locks or shutting off utilities. These measures can lead to legal complications and potential liabilities for landlords.

Get Legal Representation

Consult with an experienced landlord-tenant attorney in Pennsylvania to ensure you are following all applicable laws and procedures. An attorney can represent you in an unauthorized occupancy case and provide appropriate rental property legal guidance. 


To prevent future unauthorized occupants, clearly outline occupancy restrictions in your lease agreements, conduct regular inspections, and maintain open communication with your tenants.

Maintaining Proper Documentation is Vital to Your Case

Record-Keeping of Unauthorized Occupant Incidents 

Landlords should maintain proper records of all unauthorized occupant incidents. This includes documenting the date of discovery, the names of the unauthorized occupants, any communication with the tenant, and steps taken to address the issue. Keeping a detailed record of these incidents can be invaluable in legal proceedings and when demonstrating lease violations.

Photographic Evidence 

Whenever possible, landlords should gather photographic evidence of the unauthorized occupants and their living conditions within the rental property. These photos can serve as visual documentation of the situation and may be used as evidence in court if legal action becomes necessary.

Correspondence and Notices 

All written communication with the tenant regarding unauthorized occupants should be carefully preserved. This includes lease violation notices, emails, and any written agreements or arrangements made with the tenant. Properly documenting correspondence ensures that landlords can demonstrate their efforts to resolve the issue in accordance with the law.

How to Deal with Special Cases of Unauthorized Occupancy?

Subletting vs. Unauthorized Occupancy 

Landlords in Pennsylvania should distinguish between subletting and unauthorized occupancy. Subletting occurs when a tenant legally rents out all or part of their rental unit to another individual with the landlord's consent. In such cases, the original tenant remains responsible for the lease. Unauthorized occupancy, on the other hand, involves someone residing in the rental property without the landlord's approval or knowledge.

Roommates and Joint Tenancy 

Landlords should be aware of the legal status of roommates and joint tenants in the rental property. In joint tenancy, all tenants are typically named on the lease and share equal responsibility for rent and property care. Roommates, however, may not be named on the lease but are approved by the landlord as occupants.

Airbnbs and Short-Term Rentals 

Landlords should establish clear policies regarding short-term rentals and Airbnb-type arrangements in their rental properties. Leases should explicitly prohibit such practices if not allowed. Unauthorized short-term rentals can lead to various legal issues, and landlords should be prepared to address them swiftly.

Are you faced with unauthorized occupants or other complicated landlord-tenant issues in Pittsburgh? Let Very Law be your dedicated legal ally. Our experienced attorneys will pursue practical solutions suited to your situation. Call Very Law today at 412-430-0131 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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