Renting Out a Spare Room in My House

Tips for renting out a spare room.

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Question

I’m thinking of renting out a spare room in my house on a long-term basis (not Airbnb). What are the issues I need to consider before I open my home to a boarder?

Answer

Assuming you own your house, here are some of the key questions to ask yourself:

  • Is it legal? It might not be if you own a condo or townhouse with restrictions on additional occupants.
  • Do you have the right setup for a boarder? A good-sized, well-maintained bedroom, ideally with a private bath and entrance, are ideal.
  • Who is your model boarder? If you are particular—for example, you want someone who will love your cats as much as you do and will happily eat meals with you every night—you may have trouble finding a boarder. Or, if you have been living alone a long time and really value your privacy, renting out a room in your house might not be for you.
  • Is there a market for the room?  If you’re in a college town, you may find plenty of prospects, less so in a suburban community where most people own their homes.
  • Is it worth the amount of rent you can collect? Check comparable rates on Craigslist, then subtract additional utility costs (and possibly insurance) you may need to pay. Be sure to factor in any tax benefits of renting out a room in your home.

If you’re in California, check out Nolo’s Renting Out a Room in Your California Home Kit, which includes the key forms you need to find and rent to a boarder, including a rental application and rental agreement.

Note to tenants who want to rent out a room in their rental home: Most leases and rental agreements restrict the number of occupants and require landlord approval to add a new roommate. Check with your landlord before bringing in a new person.

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