Earn money get a Roommate
• Check with landlord or mortgage holder
• What are your rights and your responsibilities
• Things to look for
• Protect yourself
I have a friend whose motto must be “Earn Money: Get a Roommate.”
A place to live tends to require a major financial commitment. It’s expensive. My friend figured that out a long time ago. He also figured out how to reduce that expense. He always lived in a place with more bedrooms than he needed (still does). His method of charging rent is fairly simple. It’s by bedroom: If the house has four bedrooms and a tenant occupies one, the tenant pays one-fourth of the rent; if a tenant takes two bedrooms, the tenant pays half the rent, etc. The cost of utilities is divvied up equally between himself and his roommate(s). Sometimes, when his place is large enough, he farms out the whole expense; his own financial contribution can be $0. Want to guess how I met this guy? Yep—at one time, I was his roommate.
There are some issues to consider before you get a roommate. Compatibility, responsibility, and loss of privacy are among them. So is legality.
Legality is the issue that should be addressed first. You really want all your endeavors to be legitimate, and (unfortunately) the standard can vary by locale and institution. The information you’ll need can be obtained from your rental company/landlord, HOA, or the County Recorder’s Office. You need to be familiar with your neighborhood covenants regarding this issue as well as your leaseholder’s policy. Also, if you are buying (instead of renting) your house, your mortgage might have a clause covering this issue. Some places are more receptive than others to the idea of taking on roommates.
In addition to acceptability there are other legal issues. One would be eviction. Thinking about eviction may seem strange when you start considering the idea of getting a roommate, but it becomes less so when you recognize that you’ll be entering a business arrangement; the escape clause is one of the first things any party to a business arrangement thinks about: If things go bad, “How do I get out of this?” This leads to the need to know the procedures, costs, and timeline involved in an eviction—all hassles and unpleasant things to think about, but protecting yourself is necessary.
So, what is an evictable offense? As with most legal issues, this can be a debatable question. Definitely non-payment of rent is one—but is a grace period required? What about a roommate entertaining a “guest” for an extended period? If not specifically prohibited, does having a pet violate the lease? What about someone who is consistently loud? What about parties (regardless of size)? There are any number of issues that can be a violation and grounds for eviction. Research—online, at the library, courthouse, or even reviewing some standard leases—is helpful.
This brings me to the subject of leases. Is a lease required? In my opinion, even if a lease in not required, you need one. It should spell out the expectations and responsibilities of both parties; your renter may have some issues about which he feels strongly, too. Ultimately, you have to remember that the idea of renting out part of you dwelling is meant to bring you some money. Know what is legal. Know what limitations you need to write in to a lease so that you and your renter can co-exist cordially.
Concerning leases: One of my kids lived in Philadelphia for awhile. She rented a three-bedroom apartment. She had her room and used another bedroom for an office. She really didn’t need the third bedroom, so she asked her landlord about subleasing it. The landlord said that he had no problem with her getting a roommate, but if she did, he wanted to rewrite the lease making the new tenant responsible to him for a portion of the rent and damage deposit. That was not what my daughter had in mind. While that arrangement could have saved her some money, she felt like she could have negotiated something even more financially favorable. Plus, she would have been locked into a new lease for a full year. She decided to forgo the change, moved out when her lease was up, and subleased a couple of bedrooms from a friend.
Now, as a tenant or home-buyer you will be required to continue making payment to your landlord/mortgage company, but as a leaseholder yourself you will have some responsibilities to your tenant. What does the law require of you? In some locales adequate heat is an issue. What else might be? What issues have you negotiated? Does it make any difference if you actually own the house? Again, research can give you the answers. Get advice from qualified sources. Talk to a landlord, a lawyer, or take a class on property management. Did you know there is a “Landlord’s Legal Kit for Dummies”? Subletting can be profitable; just make sure you know what you are doing.
There is one more person owed responsibility—yourself. Protect your privacy. Put a lock on your bedroom door. (Put one on your roommate’s door, too.) Invest in a lock box for important papers and valuable personal property. Password-protect everything you possibly can. Find out what your recourse you have if your tenant damages or steals your property. On the other hand, what happens if you damage something that belongs to your tenant? (Keeping things legal and having insurance is important.)
Along with responsibility goes respect. Your tenant is renting a room from you. Is access to the public areas of your house part of the deal? What of yours can they use? Pots and pans? Your second car? Nothing? Let any perspective roommate know. (And, maybe they have items they’d like to make available to the household?) Regardless, these things need to be discussed before a lease is signed. You will be living under the same roof, and it is not fair to either of you to just assume the other knows what to expect. Responsibility and respect are both important.
While you are thinking about shared space and property, you might as well address another area of responsibility: Chores. In general, everyone should clean up after themselves in a timely way. But… If you are sharing the public areas of the house, then the circumstances and conditions for clean-up should be determined ahead of time. Also, many chores—like taking out the trash—can be on a fixed or rotating schedule. The more everyone understands (and accepts) what is expected of them, the more functional the arrangement will be.
I think that the last few paragraphs can be summarized in one word: Compatibility. Compatibility encompasses respect and responsibility, but goes a bit further. Issues like can you live with each other’s schedules? Each other’s sense of humor? Get to know someone as much as possible, before you agree to let them move into your home.
Once you have decided you want a roommate and have an idea of the kind of person you are looking for, the only thing left to do is find one. If you don’t already have an interested party from among your acquaintances, a newspaper ad will probably be the cheapest and most productive way to get the word out. There are also websites, like Craigslist, that let you advertise for roommates. Once the responses start coming in, you need to start a culling process.
Interview several people: I’ve discussed the need to find someone compatible.
Check for police and criminal records: That can be done online with sites Instant Checkmate.
Verify employment: You don’t need a deadbeat moving in.
Request personal references: Be wary of people who have no one to vouch for them.
You don’t have to take the first person that comes along: Be selective get the right person. Again, I urge you to take advice—from people with experience, from guide books or kits, from help sites on the internet, etc. And, always, be thinking about the details of your arrangement. The more you can deal with ahead of time, the better your relationship with your roommate should be.
I have brought up a lot in this article: Issues like how to cover rent and other expenses, the need for respect and compatibility, interview questions, and more. I’ve emphasized that this arrangement should be beneficial for all parties involved. Initially, some aspects of having a roommate may seem a bit involved, but it can be a great financial benefit if you can find someone who will pay a percentage of your rent/mortgage and utilities. Earn money: Get a roommate. It’s better than getting a part-time job.