If a friend stays with me for a few months, should I have him sign a rental lease?

I have a friend I would like to stay with us while he’s getting on his feet. If he lives here with a specifically worded tenant/rental agreement, could he claim “squatters rights” after the lease is up? What can I do to prevent squatting? I just want to take precautions.

Asked on March 17, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Florida

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

So-called "squatter's rights" has to do with the adverse possession of someone else's land.  However, this is not applicable to your situation since one of the elements of adverse possession is using another's property without their permission.  Here, you are inviting this friend on to your property.

In a situation such as this, if no rent will be paid, this friend will be deemed to be a "licensee"; if this they do pay rent (or a form of rent such as utilities/food) then they will legally be a tenant (whether or not there is a written lease).  That being said, if you want to have some formal written agreement it wouldn't be a bad idea.  You could then spell out this friend's rights/responsibilities while staying with you.  This way, they will know what is expected of them.  It might make living arrangements easier.

Just by way of further explanation, if a person is a tenant and there there is no written agreement, they will be considered to be a month-to-month tenant.  And whether or not they are a licensee or tenant, the lawful way to remove them if they do not vacate the premises when asked, is to file an unlawful detainer action (i.e. eviction).


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