Declining Economy Sparks Rise in Unauthorized Guests
The weakened economy and poor job market are affecting everyone. In assisted housing, one problem that's hitting site managers around the country is a growing incidence of unauthorized guests.
The Insider talked with a California property management company executive about how her firm is dealing with the issue across its roughly 5,000 units. Gianna Solari is vice president of operations for Solari Enterprises, Inc., of Orange, Calif.
Insider: What is meant by unauthorized guests?
Solari: Our policy on guests is that they may not stay longer than three nights without written approval from management. Even with written approval, they may not stay longer than 14 days in a calendar year. Guests staying beyond these time frames are unauthorized. This policy is covered in our lease and in our house rules.
Insider: What is the scope of the problem?
Solari: We are seeing a huge increase in unauthorized guests, and I think it is definitely a result of the current economy. We see more households moving in a sister and her child, for example, or a brother and his kids. And it's not just in Section 8, but also in our tax credit communities.
Insider: How do you learn about unauthorized guests?
Solari: We hear in three ways. One is during unit inspections, which are done biannually. Two is when maintenance staff goes into a unit and sees something like a mattress on the floor of the living room or a makeshift area for hanging clothes. The third way is through building gossips—and each building has one!
Insider: What do you do when you discover a resident has an unauthorized guest?
Solari: We bring the issue up with the residents, and many times, they appeal to us. We tell them they should have come to us in the first place. If the guest is truly temporary, they just have to put that in writing. What they have done is a violation of their lease, and we have to write it up that way. We've had a number of cases of lease violations and even one eviction because of this issue.
Insider: Do you make any exceptions?
Solari: If they take the appropriate steps, we will work with them. In some cases, we might consider extending the 14 days. We can't be as lenient with our Section 8 residents due to certain federal requirements. Right now we are dealing with some mitigating circumstances—we try to do what we can. But anything more than three or four months, and the guest must be added to the lease to be able to remain in the unit.
Insider: What options do the residents have once you learn of their unauthorized guest?
Solari: The guest must either move out, or become a legitimate add-on to the resident's lease. To do that, the guest has to go through the usual application process with background checks, etc., and any income must be included as household income. It's cut-and-dried, really, because it is all spelled out in the lease and house rules.
Gianna Solari: Vice President of Operations, Solari Enterprises, Inc., 1572 N. Main St., Orange, CA 92867; (714) 282-2520; firstname.lastname@example.org.