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Have you ever come under fire from critics? Or felt like others treated you differently? This may be common when you do anything out of the ordinary in life, whether it’s sporting non-discrete tattoos or dressing in funky outfits. Certainly, renting out a spare bedroom as an income-generating source can be considered out of the ordinary. It may not be as extreme as tattoos or clothing, but it’s still different, and thus may invite some criticism.

I never really gave this topic much thought as I prepared to rent my first room in 2006. But after surveying readers, I realized that criticism might drive homeowners away from renting out their spare rooms.

Potential Sources of Criticism

Residential Management

My townhouse complex has an association called “Residential Management” that governs it and takes care of the exterior features.  When I started to rent my spare rooms, I never really thought to check with my association to find out if they would allow me to rent out my spare room. After all, I had already noticed that one other townhouse owner was renting out his spare room to a friend or acquaintance.

Since this homeowner was renting out his spare room, I simply assumed, “If this other homeowner is doing it, it must be okay.  Either this person checked with the association, or the association is indifferent about it.”

But to make sure it was all right, I did a bit more research. I posed as a prospective buyer and called several realtors that had other units listed in my complex.  When I talked to these realtors, I expressed interest in buying a unit and renting out a room to ease mortgage payments. Every realtor said they didn’t foresee any problems with renting out a spare room. This made me think it would be perfectly fine to rent out my spare room.

Fast-forward five years.  So far, I have yet to receive a complaint from my association. I’ll continue to rent out my spare room unless something from the association tells me otherwise.  I’ve learned that asking realtors who are familiar with my townhouse association proved to be an excellent way to determine whether a townhouse association such as Residential Management would allow me to rent out a room.

Neighbors

I never checked with my neighbors before I rented out my spare room. I just did it and hoped that they wouldn’t mind.

After renting out my spare room for several months the first time, my neighbors caught on that there was another person living in the same residence.  They figured out that I had a roommate renter, since this person did not immediately move in right after I bought the place.

My neighbors never complained once about renting out my rooms.  All in all, my neighbors seemed indifferent as to whether I had a roommate or not.

In fact, I can recall several times when my older neighbors rang my doorbell to ask if my roommate and I could help them move a large box out of their car.   Based on this, they must like the convenient assistance that my roommates and I can offer when they need it.

However, neighbors can be a major barrier to successfully renting out a room. If you don’t get along with your neighbors and you decide to rent out a room, it can give your neighbor some leverage to file a formal complaint against you with the townhouse association.

My Checklist

When I first prepared to rent out my room, I didn’t have a checklist of people from whom I should obtain permission. I often have the M.O. of asking for forgiveness rather than for permission.

With that being said, I did take some steps.

1.   Check with my homeowner insurance company to verify whether renting a spare room would be acceptable within their policy guidelines.  My townhouse is my single largest asset. I did not want to be denied coverage because I was renting out a spare bedroom for profit. I needed to be 100% sure before I rented a room.  Call your insurance company to make sure they are onboard.  If they are not, call other insurance providers and switch to that provider.

2.  If you feel uncomfortable with renting out your room because of potential criticism from neighbors, just ask your neighbors first, or give them a heads up.  If you get along with your neighbors, then they’ll most likely appreciate your honesty and see your point of view.  I was actually shocked that my neighbors, to whom I rarely speak besides the friendly wave, asked for assistance from my roommate and me.

End Result

After nearly 5 years of renting out my spare rooms, I have yet to face any adversity from neighbors or the association.  Your experiences may vary. The most likely source of problems will be your neighbors.  The best advice I can offer is to be courteous to your neighbors and tell your prospective roommates to do the same. Assure your neighbors that you thoroughly screen all of your roommates.  If you and your roommates prove to be no trouble to your neighbors, then they should have no reason to complain.

Have you faced any other kinds of adversity when you’re renting out rooms?

{ 7 comments }
  • Jose Miura September 1, 2010, 4:18 pm

    Hello Mike!

    I have been living in rented rooms for about three years now since I moved to NYC. Someday, I may own a house and rent out spare rooms. My question is: is it legal?

    Reply
    • Mike September 2, 2010, 9:14 pm

      It all depends on your zoning laws and most importantly how well you get along with your neighbors. After all, they are the one they will most likely report you to zoning officials.

      Reply
  • Nikki August 8, 2013, 12:51 pm

    Old post, but I have a comment to add. My boyfriend and I have been renting out rooms in our home since we bought it in 2009. We’ve never had neighbors complain. However, I have had some family and friends ask if we think it’s time to live without roommates…just the two of us…and “it’s not like you need the money”.

    Many times this is after I vent minor frustrations on say the messiness of a roommate. My response is always that we have no kids, but we have 2 extra bedrooms. It almost feels like throwing away money to not let those spaces make us money when they’d otherwise sit empty. The occasional frustration comes with any one you live with and isn’t so severe that we don’t want to rent!

    We’re getting $700 for each room…that’s $1400/month of income, not to mention split utilities. That’s a lot of money to give up when having roommates doesn’t really affect our lives (yet?). 🙂

    Reply
    • Mike August 9, 2013, 9:07 am

      Indeed it’s an old post, but it’s still relevant. I know what you mean. I can afford my place without the roommates, but the opportunity cost of the rental income is just too great to let it go. As far as dealing with the minor frustrations, the rental income makes it all worth it. I say stick with it, until you have some drastic life changing plans that forces you to stop renting out rooms.

      Reply
  • OhBoy February 2, 2014, 4:01 am

    Well, my neighbors don’t like it, and give me the evil eye about it. My association either, and recently sent out a notice. It cost me a lot to go to school. They don’t make it easy, and lastly the last three renters in my home have been horrible from CL. They really brought attention to the situation…bad news.
    I have to do it though, until they tell me otherwise…or else quit school!

    Reply
  • Mike July 17, 2015, 9:12 am

    What if you are dependent on the (renter/roommate) so that you are not house poor? I’m thinking of buying but would not be able to afford it (would have no money left at end of month after all expenses paid). I’ll have to have someone rent a room in my house for the life of the loan–30 years. I won’t become rich from this, but will be able to afford the house.
    Should I do it? Any comments, suggestions? Thanks

    Reply
  • Glen February 7, 2016, 1:01 pm

    I would suggest checking with the following sources before hand to be sure you are not violating any laws, covenants or contracts.
    State, County and Municipality for rental, landlord and tenant laws. Topics to understand include fire safety, handicap accessibility, occupancy limits and requirements, inspections, rent limits (Rent Control), privacy rights, discrimination and eviction process. Some towns have zoning laws limiting group houses, for such reasons as itinerant workers and even commercial pilot “hot bunking”. Others use laws already on the books such as health codes and fire occupancy, or more arbitrary “inspections” and “Bawdy House” laws.
    Home Owner Association rules and covenants. In this regard, go directly to the HOA or management company and ask them directly, preferably in writing. Ask for the answer in writing and file that response. Remember that HOA directors, their opinions and management companies change. If they are not enforcing covenants and rules that are on the books, they might later-on in order to cure a situation they do not like, and may have to enforce their new position on to violators they do not mind to demonstrate “fairness”. Asking real estate sales people is a lazy person’s shortcut, first because of potential incompetence, second because they are interested in making a sale and getting a commission; verbal statements are not binding, they’re just opinions. Consider parking, permits, registrations, etc.
    Property Insurance is good, but also review Mortgage Contracts and Primary Tenant Lease Agreements.
    It’s nice to be considerate to neighbors, but keeping them happy is more about keeping them quiet about any violations of the topics above. Those are tools they can use to correct a situation they don’t like. Other than that, don’t tell neighbors you are sub-letting, instead “a friend is staying for a while” or you “share”. Neighbors have no right to know about your private financial arrangements.

    Reply

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