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
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.
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.
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.
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?