6 Tips for Renting Out a Room in Your House

Written on February 23, 2015 by

Renting RoomsRenting out a room in your house is sometimes favorable to leasing the entire property.

It offers more flexibility for your own private use of the other rooms, and renting multiple rooms can often be more profitable than renting the whole house under one lease.

People who live in shared households are an increasing bunch. In 2012, some 22 million households had this arrangement, and of those, 9.7 million were young adults living in someone else’s house.

Lots of homeowners find themselves with an extra room or two on their hands that they never use.

Renting one out might be the solution to some extra cash. However, please check your state and local county laws to ensure compliance with housing, license, and fee requirements.

Here are six tips you need to know before you start marketing your room.

1. Prepare the House

If you’ve ever had kids, you probably know about baby proofing – painstakingly going through every room to ensure you took all the right safety measures to keep your little one from harm.

You need to go through your house just as thoroughly, “renter proofing it”, before you consider even showing it to strangers to ensure the safety of your belongings.

  • Put keyed deadbolts on each bedroom door (use SmartKey locks)
  • Remove self-locking door knobs to prevent lockouts
  • Put that diamond tennis bracelet in a fireproof safe. 
  • Fix anything that needs a little TLC. If you have to hit the microwave on the side to get it to start, it’s time to buy a new microwave.

You then need to decide which room or rooms you’ll rent.

You can get more money if the room has its own bathroom. You might consider renting the master bedroom and taking a smaller bedroom for yourself. A basement setup with a kitchen can be even more lucrative since it provides more privacy than a shared level.

2. Figure Out What to Charge

Look at the ads on Craigslist, or sign up for a service such as Roommates.com or EasyRoommate. This should give you a ballpark figure on what you can expect to get based on your ZIP code and type of room you’re offering.

Any money you receive is taxable income. The good news is that you now have deductions and can claim expenses – at least for the portion of the property that is being used as a rental. For example, new carpet in the renter’s bedroom is a deductible expense, but new carpet for the entire house is not.

A tax expert (or TurboTax) can help you with this.

3. Determine your Non-Negotiables

Be honest with yourself. If you can’t tolerate a smoker or a party-prone college student, say so in your ad. If you want someone who can stay for at least six months, indicate that, too. You’ll save yourself a lot of time that way.

Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to accept a smoker/pet/whatever, because you didn’t set clear boundaries for yourself.

If you live within walking distance to restaurants, have access to a pool, live near a college, allow pets or have any other perks, list them in your ad.

Don’t forget to post amazing photos. If you don’t, many people will bypass your listing.

Related: The Landlord’s Guide to Marketing with Craigslist

4. Use your Intuition, but Don’t Discriminate

Think about what you want to ask a potential renter in your initial conversation. We provide a screening checklist in The Landlord’s Guide to Tenant Screening, which will help you evaluate each candidate fairly.

Find out what each applicant’s situation is and look for holes in their story. If the applicant says he or she works or claims to be a student, ask to see proof, such as pay stubs or proof of college enrollment.

Also, make sure you not only ask for references, and contact information for previous landlords, but call them too.

Above all, make sure you provide an equal housing opportunity, and avoid discrimination (and the appearance thereof).

Related: Know What is Considered Illegal Discrimination

5. Verify with a Credit Check

If the interview and reference checks go well, run a credit check. Cozy makes it super easy and quick to check tenant credit. It’s free for landlords too.

With Cozy, you’ll get a report from Experian, and based on what the report says, you’ll be able to decide whether the candidate will make a good renter for you. The report will automatically be paid for by, and shared with the tenant, so it doesn’t cost you anything.

Related: Easy Tenant Credit Checks for Landlords

6. Use a Written Rental Agreement

Make a written lease instead of an oral arrangement. Everyone remembers a verbal agreement differently and it is tough to prove in court.

When creating a written lease, remember to specify the following attributes, in which both you and your tenant will sign to:

  • How much the rent will be
  • The date the money is due
  • Whether the renter will pay utilities, and if so, which ones or what percentage
  • How you will handle food, fridge space, laundry, common areas
  • Any other concerns you have (cleaning, parking, quiet time, etc.)

Once you start covering a good percentage of your mortgage from having a tenant in your home, you might wonder what took you so long to start doing this.

What’s Else?

Do you have experience with renting part of your home? What advice do you have?

Let me know in the comments below.

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204 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • nan

    Enjoy your subjects !
    Own rental properties & always int’d in sharing knowledge.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Thanks Nan! If you have a topic you would like to read about, I’d love to hear it. I sometimes write posts based on comments I get (if I can!).

  • Mike

    I’ve had a 4 bedroom house I’ve rented by the room for over 10 years now. Seems to appeal only to young professionals, but they always pay and have been great renters. Plus you never have your house sitting vacant for a full month while you re-rent. At most you have just 1/4 of the house vacant for a week or so. (other tenants usually help with the search) Also, having 3 additional people interview prospectives besides just me has helped me avoid at least a few mistakes of judgement for sure!

  • Mark Daniels

    Having done a bit of renting to the side, I can fully agree with advice number 6. You definitely want to have a written agreement because then expectations are set on both ends and the stress of verbal arrangements are gone and stress-free.

  • Bill - The Educated Landlord

    Hi Laura,

    I’d suggest also including all the house rules in your lease. I’ve been operating rooming houses for the last decade and establishing the rules up front makes a huge difference.
    Examples I include are quiet hours, laundry hours and even snow removal rules where applicable.

    Bill
    http://www.TheEducatedLandlord.com

    • Laura Agadoni

      Good advice, Bill! I know from experience how important laundry hours can be!

      • Bill - The Educated Landlord

        Yes, there’s nothing like doing laundry at 1 in the morning and keeping everyone up as your shoes bounce around inside the washer!

        I also add a clause about respecting the other tenants, again more of a common sense thing, but sometimes common sense has to be spelt out…

        Bill

  • Fred Summers

    Your tip on screening renters is really important. You want someone that will be able to pay the rent but you can’t discriminate. I appreciate your provided resources about this topic as it is one I’ve worried about since trying to rent a room. http://www.sorents.com/Properties-For-Lease.html

    • Laura Agadoni

      Thank you Fred. Screening tenants the right way is one of the most important things a landlord can do. I’m going to write my next post on that.

  • Deanna Jones

    Thanks for the tips! I have a couple of extra rooms in my house that no one is occupying, so it seems like a good idea to rent them to help pay off my mortgage. The fifth point about verifying any renter’s financial study by running a credit check seems like a great way to make sure that any tenants I take in will pay the rent. Running a credit check before leasing a room to a tenant is something that any other landlord would do, so it seems like I should take your advice and take precautions by doing the same.
    http://www.chasmoles.com/rental-listings

    • Laura Agadoni

      Good luck Deanna! I hope you find a great tenant.

    • Donna

      What I find out now we have a room and our home for rent a thought was a contract agreement come to find out does not stand up because a lawyer is the only one that can make legal documents a tenant has more rights than you and your own home I would call your local State trooper and get the advice from them you have no rights .You cannot give verbal evection notice you have to legally evict them it’s really sticky they are allowed to do whatever they want in your home again call your local police department and they will give you the lowdown on renting a room in your house learn my lesson today even the officer would not rent anything because the tenants have more rights then the owners

  • Ali

    I think it’s also important to consider if the tenant has a visitor or guest on how long should they stay in the room.

    • Laura Agadoni

      That’s a great point Ali. There should be no surprises there. That would be a good thing to put in your rental agreement.

    • Donna wager

      I do think you need to establish something because after 30 days they are considered a resident of your home and they can run you out of your house

  • Laura Agadoni

    Thanks for sharing. You can’t have too much information when it comes to your property!

  • Dave

    Good book that I found about how to rent rooms in your house or any property

    • Rebecca

      Dave, I realize your comment is over a year old, but I clicked the link you provided and nothing is there! I really wanted to peruse the book you mentioned. Gonna check Amazon for it.
      Thanks for the great tips, Laura. I’m about to lose my highly prized privacy because I’ve got to rent out my spare bedroom. And I want to do it right and by the book and avoid any/all pitfalls down the road. More tips/advice from everyone would be appreciated!

  • john g

    well I have been renting a room in this house for over five years. in that time my landlady has had several tenants. The last 2 she renters she had she chose not to have anything other than verbal agreements (we all know the value of them). the first one took her about 90 days to get rid of. Just like you , I figured she had learned her lesson. NOPE now she has a tenant that is being especially hard headed. as he was moving in he broke out a newly installed energy type window. he waited for her to notice. he fixed it himself with a much lower quality replacement. no smoking in the residence or at least designated areas only. he smokes where ever he wants. he is up all hours and is very dis respectful and loud. how does she remove him?

    • Lucas Hall

      Hi John

      With no written lease, the tenancy will likely be considered month-to-month. Wash state has their own requires for giving notice to terminate on a M2M agreement, but it’s usually not more than 30 days. If he doesn’t leave after she terminate the agreement, then she would have to go through the standard formal eviction process with the courts – which is specifically designed to help remove tenants who no longer have the right to occupy the dwelling but refuse to leave.

      You could help your landlord by mapping out a plan, for starters, check out our state law guides, and learn how much notice is required in your state. https://landlordology.com/state-laws

      Good luck to you and your landlord. Please know that I’m not a lawyer nor is this legal advice.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi John,

      Besides the great advice from Lucas, I just wanted to add that you didn’t mention in your post whether your landlord wants this renter out. Before you help her with suggestions on how to remove this tenant, you need to make sure she feels the same way you do. Otherwise, she gets to keep this guy. I hope everything works out for you!

      • john g

        oh yes Miss she wants the dude out worse than I do. He is a menace to society. he has been arrested at ;least 32 times in the 4 months since he just kinda took up root.

  • Lily de Grey

    This is a well-written article, Laura! Thanks for sharing this with us—it’s been very informative and enlightening! I’ve been thinking about renting out my home, so I’m glad that I stumbled upon your article. I think you’re absolutely right: it’s incredibly important that you’re preparing the house for your potential renters. First impressions are the most important part of drawing them in!

  • Rose C

    Great article and wonderful advice in the comments. I am new to this and renting out two rooms in my house. Does anyone have links they can share with sample lease and house rules? I have found plenty of regular leases (for renting out an entire house/apt) and roommate agreements, but nothing that is specific to the landlord living in the house with the tenants. Any advice or help would be most appreciated! Thanks!

  • Ccy

    Always, ALWAYS. Ask for references and run a credit check.

    NEVER let anyone move in without money, no matter how heartbreaking their story is.
    If you are willing to accept children don’t let that cloud your judgement, don’t feel guilty, it is not your responsibility to put a roof on their heads.

    I learned this the hard way. The very hard way.
    It hurts to say it, but when it comes to sharing your household there’s no room for being nice.

    Some people out there do that, makes you feel sorry for them and show their true colors once they are installed.

    Always try to get roommates that you know or at least a friend of you knows.

    Not everyone is like you, don’t forget that. You are respectful but not everyone is.

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Ccy,

      Renting a room to someone you know is a good idea. But that isn’t always possible, and it doesn’t have to be the only way. If you don’t know the person, you definitely should do a background and credit check on the person and check references. And you should have a lease with your house rules stated. I’m sorry you had a bad experience. I hope it works out better for you next time!

  • Abigail L Ramsey

    Hi, I own a house, and I decided to rent out one of the rooms a couple months ago. She’s been paying rent, but has been raising one conflict after another. We don’t have a written agreement whatsoever and when I asked her to sign a lease agreement, she refused. With the conflicts rising, I don’t feel safe leaving my home unattended. Do I have to give her a 7 day notice? She has already expressed to her friends that she will probably have to move soon, so she’s obviously been expecting this.
    What are my options here?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Abigail,

      Landlords have the most power in the landlord/tenant relationship before the tenant moves in. So that would be the time to spell out your house rules and get the potential tenant to sign the lease, not after she’s moved in. I suppose you’ve already learned this! If your tenant pays weekly, then you typically need to give a week’s notice to vacate. If she pays monthly, then you give a month’s notice. And the same typically goes for the tenants. But check your state laws or with an attorney or legal aid for a definitive answer. I’m not an attorney. Good luck!

  • Liz

    Your article and comments have been insightful. Thx!
    Any special tips ideas on renting a room to college/foreign students, anyone? Parents signing leases? Student services? Etc…

  • Laura Agadoni

    Hi Liz,

    Thanks Liz!

    About renting a room to students, it is a very good idea to have the parents on the rental agreement. They can be co-signers. In fact, minor students can’t be held to contracts.

    Make sure you screen the student and the parents.

    A tip for finding renters would be to ask the college if you can advertise on the college’s website.

  • Sandy Tull

    For those in the comments, renting out an apartment in your home differs legally frpm state to state. Where I am the most power is given to the Renter. The amount of protection they enjoy is unbalanced, to say the least. Also, don’t make the mistake of “forcing” the tenant to do anything until you know it’s legal! Cases like those are an attorney’s dream. http://www.daleforestapartments.com/

  • Sojib Ahmed

    Your tip on screening renters is really important. You want someone that will be able to pay the rent but you can’t discriminate. I appreciate your provided resources about this topic as it is one I’ve worried about since trying to <a href="https://www.roomster.com/app/000013f9"rent a room.

  • christian quintero

    I have a question? I rent 4 rooms in my home, is my home considered an apartment?

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Christian,
      I would not think so. You have a house with rooms you rent. An apartment building is one building with several complete apartments. Unless each room in your house has it’s own bathroom, kitchen, and mailbox, I would not think it can be considered an apartment building.

  • Julie kent

    I am considering renting out a room Monday to Friday and have someone interested who has asked if they have to pay for the weeks when they go on holiday? Surely this is not normal practise and they still have to pay rent during their stay.? They want a years rental. J

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Julie,
      If the person’s belongings are there, the person is there. You can’t rent out the room to someone else while this person is on vacation if their stuff is still in the room. That’s why she would need to pay rent, even when she is not physically there. I personally wouldn’t make her pay utilities when she isn’t there, but that is for you to decide. Good luck!

  • Sona Moni

    this post is very useful for us and the comments are also useful . you can learn more about. house rent law

  • Laura

    I have rented a room in my home a few years and no problems. Buy now I have a couple that list their jobs and refuse to leave. I’m in the process of evicting them, no problems there. The real issue/question is: I know I am still NOT allowed on their room, ate the allowed anywhere they please in my house, e.i. kitchen, living room, basement…?? Please help!

    • Laura Agadoni

      Hi Laura,
      Keep in mind this is not legal advice. This depends on whether this is a tenant situation or if they are boarders in your home. If they are boarders, you can typically have them leave as soon as they stop paying. If they are tenants with a rental agreement, you go through the normal eviction process. If they always had the run of the house as tenants, they would still get that. Otherwise, you would be taking the law into your own hands. If you aren’t sure, a local attorney should be able to guide you.

  • Hazel Adams

    I agree a lot with the idea of verifying a credit check. I think that is one of the most important ways to make sure your renter is a good renter. I also agree with having a rental agreement, so there are legal laws that are in effect.

  • Marya

    I’m renting 2 rooms and have learned that you have to be very specific. Do not take anything for granted, like not everyone has common sense – and if the landlord and the tenants are from different cultures, then expect that what you consider common sense is not what they consider common sense. It has been a learning experience for sure. I’ve rented rooms before, but this time it’s totally different. I feel like I have to explain everything, even if it’s written in the lease. Not sure this is for me, LOL. But I know I am helping these people and they know once the lease is over they need to find another place to live.

  • Harry Warner

    I’m still confused about the discrimination topic as it pertains to renting a room in your home.

    Here is what the Fair Housing Act says:
    What Housing Is Covered?

    The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.

    What are “Some Circumstances”?

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