Looking Ahead-Renting Out Rooms

mustangs81September 16, 2006

I have a roomy house with a suite on one end of the house. It has a hallway leading to a large bath, bedroom, and den. It has a seperate entrance and can be closed off from the rest of the house. We bought the house as it was perfect to make a comfortable space for my ailing mother to live with us-which she did for five years.

Question: If it becomes necessary, what is the conventional wisdom and forseeable issues of renting out this area to a single retired person?

Thank you for feedback.

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First and foremost, you need to check with your town to find out if you're even allowed to do that. And if so, what kinds of things do you have to do to make renting it out legal (there are often strict requirements for that sort of thing). And you'll want to check with your insurance company to see how this will impact on your insurance, and your liability.

Of course, the big problem is--how do you know beforehand if your tennant is someone who is: going to pay their rent on time? going to treat your home with respect? going to live a quiet life that doesn't disturb you?

A question or 2? I wonder if you're legally permitted to limit tennants to a certain age? It might be considered discriminatory--you'll want to check with your lawyer on that one (and also to get a lease that's legal and appropriate for your state's laws).

You may want to talk with other landlords in your area to see how easy/difficult it is to get a bad renter out, if that becomes necessary. Dsis had one tennant who stopped paying rent, was damaging the apt., and it took her almost a YEAR to get her out--during which they not only lost that rent, but had big legal bills, too. Then when they did get her out, they had a lot of expensive repair work (had to replace all the appliances, floors, and a lot of cleaning).

Are you of a mindset that you won't mind being awakened in the middle of the night if the tennant has a household emergency? We may be willing to let something go in our own homes (I have a dishwasher that's needed replacing for about a year, for example), but a tennant is going to expect to have things taken care of immediately.

What if you rent to a senior citizen who has no family in the area and something happens to them--you may have help in the event of an emergency, and what about afterwards? if they need a lot of care. Or--this happened to my grandmother--what if a tennant dies, leaving all their stuff in your house. What do you do with it?

Not saying you should or shouldn't do this--just pointing out some of the considerations and problems I've seen others have when renting out a portion of their home.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 9:30AM
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Azzalea, These are excellent points to take into consideration. I appreciate your time in posting.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2006 at 12:52PM
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After you've checked out the legalities, etc. a good place to look would be in some group where seniors frequent, e.g. church, which you are involved in yourself, so that you could get to know some potential tenants.

You might get to know several people well, have visited in their home, so you know something of their lifestyle, housekeeping, etc. After while one may feel that, for whatever reason, e.g. they had a large home that was too difficult to manage, etc., they chose to change their living arrangement.

In terms of some of the issues that might be involved, you'd need when to know when they moved in (or even before you agreed to rent to such a person) whom to contact (two or three, preferably, in case one might not be available in an emergency), what about powers of attorney, as to who'd take responsibility for ordering emergency health care, financial things, who'd look after things, e.g. house furnishings, in case they passed away suddenly, etc.

Just some ideas to consider.

I hope that you can offer useful accomodation to someone - it is helpful if more than one person inhabits a residence, to summon help in case of emergency.

I've suggested to some partment residents that they knock on the wall before the first one goes to bed, and after the last one gets up in the morning, with an answering knock indicating that both are mobile, at least twice daily.

Cost - zero.

That pleases my frugal old soul.

Have a great week.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 8:59PM
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This is a wonderful idea, but you want to be careful that you are happy with the final arrangements and tenant. The one thing you didn't mention is cooking. Would the tenant share your kitchen or just use a hot plate, microwave and small 'fridge?

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 9:36PM
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I have a split-level and know many several homes in the neighborhood which have converted the lowest level to a separate apartment. My lower level has a separate entrance, bath and large bedroom,but no kitchen. I'd have to put in a dividing wall, a shower and a "kitchen" to make it a full apartment. I was kind of considering keeping it open for my sister in law, who is age 59,single, and mildly retarded. She lived all her life with her mother until a year ago, when her mother (my MIL) died. She's not happy in her current apartment. I know at some point she'll have to stop work and I would feel very bad for her. So we may end up with a separate apartment for her. My own Grandmother was widowed at a young age. In order to keep the house for herself and her child, she rented out the upstairs bedrooms to boarders. She provided three meals a day,as well. In those days it was called "room and board".

    Bookmark   October 1, 2006 at 9:47PM
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I recently found out that,in my county, the taxes are much higher for a boarding house and it's considered a commercial business. I would check with a local real estate business before offering a room for rent. I know my neighbor rented a bedroom to a single woman but did so unofficially, off the books, so to speak.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 9:31AM
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Thanks to all who gave me feedback. Certainly there are many things to consider before making such an arrangement.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2006 at 9:43AM
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I don't "rent" rooms in my house, but I've had "roommates." The distinctions have to do with taxes and also with my power to evict. I can ask a roommate to leave with no notice whatsoever. A tenant is almost impossible to get rid of where I live. Even if they don't pay rend and are destroying your property, it can take months to get rid of them.

I have not, by the way, ever kicked out a roommate without notice. To begin with I'm picky about who lives in my house. Right now it's just me. But if I found someone who was compatible, I'd take someone else in again. It's good to have agreements in writing for roomates. Some college Web sites have suggested forms.

If a room is going begging, I think it's a great idea to consider ways to use it. With so many people needing homes, it is also a great service to whoever moves in.

I just think it's best to keep as much control as possible in my own living situation.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2006 at 8:29AM
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I haven't read all the postings, so please forgive if I repeat something someone else has already pointed out.

I understand the 'suite' is attached to your house as opposed to a seperate structure on your lot. (I don't know if this makes any difference where YOU live - but it does where "I" live (CA).)

Do a search for "Civil Code" for your State.
For example - For me, I search "State of California Civil Code". When I get to the right place, I click on "Civil Code", and type Landord, Tenants in the search. It gives all the laws.
A LOT of reading, but very informative.

Would be worth your while to read and take notes before even paying an attorney or otherwise.

I had "roommates" most of my life in the past. The laws have changed here so much in recent years, that I'd 'hesitate' today to get a roommate again. At least, not like in years past where I just ran an ad and interviewed people...
Laws are protecting Tenants now MORE than ever. AND, I've heard today, even if you "just let someone move in for awhile", it CAN be VERY hard to get them OUT even if they pay you NOTHING!

As you describe your place, sounds like an ideal setup for a retired person or couple.

As I scanned some other posts VERY BRIEFLY, I did notice defining as "roommate" rather than "renter" - so to speak. I think I agree - ROOMMATE.

But yes, you have insurance to think about. If they hurt themselves on your property...DING!
If someone were to die IN you home...police, CSI, investigaters, potential lawsuit?
Since your suite is connected - what about your personal stuff inside the home? (What if stuff starts turning up "missing"?)

Also...you may have the "surprise" of the renters having "VISITORS". What about that? Family, "overnight guests", friends. OK, fine - they need that. But what if the wild and crazy Grandkids come over every weekend and are loud and obnoxious and cause chaos everywhere? How long would you put up with that?

I think it's a GREAT idea - could help you AND some other person to live better, provided the conditions are right.

I'd definately read and familiarize yourself with the Civil Codes first. Take lots of notes and take your time. Consider all the possibilities - good and bad. Be Honest with yourself about what COULD go wrong. (Looking just at the extra income - throw that out the window)

I'd also strongly consider an attorney. (If you are half-way understanding of laws - less time and confusion at attorny's office! OR, at very least, a little more educated and would know what questions to ASK the attorney.)

I know there's a lot of good people out there who would consider it a blessing in disquise to be able to rent your place. But there's a lot of people out there with "other motives" also.

(Now, when I have time, I'll read all the other posts! LOL!)

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 9:29AM
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Thanks for the amazing amount of feedback that you all have provided. It certainly gives one a lot to ponder.

I'm thinking I would have to be in REALLY dire straights to consider this option. I rented out our condo in Palm Beach County for 20 years, I should have looked to that experience for guidance.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2006 at 9:40AM
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Please don't let all of the negative possibility stuff that has been brought up here deter you from any further consideration of the situation.

As I mentioned before, if you have contacts with compatible people, that you've come to know fairly well, over a period, and visited in their current home, such an arrangement could be very helpful for both of you. Especially since, as I think you said, the connection between your living spaces can be closed off so that each of you is actually independent.

I have said for a number of years that it makes sense for several seniors to live together, for it can well delay the time that they feel it necessary to go into a retirement or nursing home.

There are possibilities to share household chores, plus costs of operation of the home, thus reducing the load for each person. There is mental stimulation, to delay senility. If someone has a spell and needs help, others are nearby to help, or call other family or paramedic services, as indicated.

Not only that - often family members/loved ones, concerned for a senior's welfare, wonder whether the time has come to move the person into a residential establishment - and others who share the day to day living in the current place could offer valuable information relative to such a decision, especially since a number of seniors have felt that their family dragged them out of their home when they were still capable of managing on their own.

Trouble is, many say that my idea of sharing a home won't work - that everyone's ego will get in the way, and they'll fight. Even over such an issue as moving a table/chest of drawers 6" or so.

I hope that you find a way ahead that is helpful for you, and possibly someone else who could benefit from your surplus space.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   December 7, 2006 at 1:37PM
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Another issue just came to mind.

A friend of 30 years died something over a year ago and his wife, lonely, has found a friend of the other gender.

Who is, due to earlier trauma, a bit short on mental capacity. Plus has little income - or assets.

Her family have strictly counselled her not to let him move in with her - for if she does, and she is about to sell her rural property in order to have sufficient assets to live, if he lives with her for a year, and leaves, whether of his own volition or because she requires that he do so ...

... half of her assets go with him, if he requests it.

And - his to her, of course. (A peanut - is a peanut).

Something else to consider.

And, with a number of jurisdicitons now accepting same-sex relationships as equivalent to marriage, it may be a consideration with regard to someone of the same gender, as well.

Another idea to consider - though, if the living establishents are seperate, one might be able to avoid such a consequence ... but that might be more difficult had one considered the "renter" as a "room-mate".

Sorry to add one more negative ingredient to this more or less curdled pie.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   December 7, 2006 at 1:48PM
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My neighbor (Divorced female)owns her home. She met a nice woman at her job who needed a place to live. She let the friend move into a spare bedroom. The roommate was nothing but trouble, refused to pay rent, wouldn't leave. One day she left on her own, leaving behind her dog and a dresser in the bedroom. My neighbor loves the dog, feels she got the best of the deal. Just an anecdote.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 9:22PM
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i'm a bit late to this discussion,,i hope it's ok to revive it,with maybe a twist for your consideration.
i'm thinking alot about creating a retirement home situation like this for myself. i have this vision of a large home with large suites for 3-4 room-mates.
more specifically i want to be in a community of like minded people as i age. i'm a horse,dog,and cat owner,and having two or three women my age (with their own horses,etc.) to share the farm chores and benefits with may mean that i can stay living independantly for longer.
i have had a lousy experience with a tenant in my home and i'm trying not to allow that to frighten me away from the idea. i know that people can manage to live in harmony if they work at it and are lucky.
so my question is,,how do i structure my own personal group retirement home? my worries run along the lines of what happens if someone can't pay rent? pay for their hay? care for them selves or animals? we don't get along? maybe three of us do and one doesn't? i know i'll need a lawyer to draw up a contract,,i'm thinking that each prosective roomie have a trial period and maybe first,last,security and a several month reserve in case of the unexpected.
anyone care to help me figure out if it can be structured in a way that protects me and is attractive to others? i know there is a pool of middleaged and older single women who are looking for a way to live the farm lifestyle on a fixed budget.
thanks if you've made it this far and are inspired to respond.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2008 at 6:35PM
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Fallingwaters, I work as a services and benefits coordinator at a HUD apartment complex for senior citizens. We have a lease agreement whereby the resident is re-certified every six months.

At the re-certification, we re-evaluate whether the resident is still suitable for our setting or not. At that time, a decision can be made, by either party, to renew or not. Maybe that is something you could do.

We also require first and last months rent plus a security/cleaning/damage deposit of $200. There is also a pet deposit of $250.

The deposits will be returned when the resident vacates the apartment and management deems it 'clean and in good repair'. If it is left dirty/damaged, other fees will be assessed on top of the deposits.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 10:35AM
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I thought if money changed hands it was a rental and required a 30 day notice. It's true that it can take months to get someone out. I was a landlord for 20 years. I would take in a border if it meant keeping my home. I would try to get a retired single lady or gentleman depending on the arrangements of the home through friends or relatives. I would also have a contract of some kind describing "company" rules. I know it sounds harsh, but a roomer would have to understand it was still my home and their company would be limited, especially until I got to know the roomer and her family and friends who came to visit.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2008 at 11:24AM
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