Over the years I’ve enjoyed renting rooms in several private homes. As the renter, here are a list of things I’ve learned that could bring some insight to both renters and landlords/hosts.
1. Pre-rental Interview
- As a tenant, is this host someone who will respect my boundaries and yet welcome me into the rented room and their home? Is this a safe and secure living environment? Does the rented bedroom have a locking door? What are the rules regarding entry of the host into the rented space? Is the home clean and well maintained?
- The host would be wise to request a background check, prior rental history and references who are called to confirm. You are strangers, not friends at this point.
2. Define Rental Expectations
Clearly written contractual rules determine the parameters of the rental agreement providing ground rules for the renter and host.
Some points to consider:
- Shared spaces: Is use of the kitchen, den, or living room part of the agreement? Are there designated shelves in the refrigerator/pantry for the renter? Is the expectation that the renter will watch TV in their own room? What about use of the yard, garage, attic or any storage space available?
- Who controls the thermostat for the renter’s space? What will be the division of household cleaning/chores?
- General compatibility and quiet time: Finding a renter on the same or similar sleep/wake schedule is a great advantage. As a renter and the host you both want the freedom to operate on your own schedule. Does someone watch TV late at night? Would coming in late wake the dog who barks and disrupts the entire house? Does anyone play loud music? Discuss the typical “house schedule” for waking and sleeping to discover any possible conflicts.
- House rules: Consider the pet policy, alcohol use, smoking and guest policy.
- Together time: After moving in with a retired woman I discovered that she thought we’d watch Hallmark movies together every day. That didn’t function well with my work schedule and desire to be outdoors and active when not working. A prior discussion would have given us a better idea of what was doable.
3. Both parties should understand the local laws:
What are your city/State laws regarding renting and – eviction — should the latter become necessary? What is your exit strategy as a renter if you should find the situation doesn’t “fit”? Can you break the lease? What are the written stipulations of that action? What is the landlord’s exit strategy if the renter falls behind on rent or doesn’t respect or care for your property, etc.? Is rental insurance required? It will protect the renter in the event of a fire or other disaster. Does the homeowner need additional homeowners insurance to cover renting?
4. Rental agreement
The rental agreement needs to cover the rental fee, utilities that are included or additional, and when rent and utilities are due. Is there a security deposit? Is there a pet fee? Are there late fees that will be applied if the payment due date is missed? When will rent increase? How is payment to be collected? Most people can pay by electronic transfer these days avoiding the possibility of a “bounced check”.
5. Enjoy the experience
I found that living in a shared home invited many great opportunities for connection. Trying out new recipes together, grabbing a housemate for a walk around the block, house or pet sitting for each other when one traveled, or enjoying a show together. It can be a very positive experience if the ground rules are clear, expectations are managed and you find out compatibility beforehand.