Renting out bedrooms in my house

22 Replies

Good morning, I recently moved to Arnold and bought a 4 bedroom house. I have someone who wants to rent out a few bedrooms, my question is what steps do I need to take ensure this is successful? Also is there any trouble to look out for? I am a newbie so please don’t assume I know anything when giving guidance. Thank you, Jake Cast

The renter is a tenant. Read up the landlord tenant laws for your state. Make sure to put a lease in place. You will want to make sure you clearly specify what the tenant is responsible for; utilities , snow removal, parking , cleaning , access to common areas etc.

Congrats on taking down a property Jake! I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you had house hacking in mind before you bought it;) Brilliant idea as far as renting out the other rooms. I would definitely check with your HOA if you have one and see how they feel and if they have any rules in place against this, because HOA's can make your life a living hell. Make sure you take videos and good pictures of the rooms and common areas before they officially move in so when they move out you know how things looked before. I would have them walk through the rooms they will be staying in and create a checklist and have them sign it so after when they leave if they are like noooo the doorknob was broken when I moved in I'm not paying for it, you can simply bring out the checklist and point to their signature next to doorknob. I would also highly recommend sitting down with them and go over the lease agreement thoroughly and answer any and all questions before hand, this helps to avoid so many problems in the future since you will be dealing with them before they happen. Make sure to put in any and all things you don't want, loud noises, smoking, dishes, and when and how to wash and dry clothes. You will be living with them so make sure you can get along with them. Trust your gut! It's always better to be patient for the right tenant then to accept the wrong one in fear of not getting another. Good luck!

Thank you everyone for your input. I’m also in a HOA community and can’t find policies against renting out bedrooms, can anyone shed some light on this?

I used to rent out an extra bedroom or two in my personal home. The key is to talk to them and get a feel for if this is someone you could share your house with, and also to know your local rental laws. I recommend a few things:

  • Make sure your lease states that this is for renting a bedroom with use of common spaces.
  • Make your written lease month-to-month right off the bat. That way, if you find out 3 months later that you just can't live with them, you can give them a notice to vacate without being committed to them for a year-long lease.
  • Put general house rules in your lease regarding anything your particular about. Perhaps they do not have access to your garage. Perhaps they can only park on the street. Perhaps you expect their bathroom to be cleaned at least twice a month. Perhaps no shoes are to be worn inside. Or no metal utensils used on your nice non-stick pans. Etc.
  • Clearly state rules in your lease about visitors. Length of time. Number of visitors allowed, etc.
  • Make your lease state if utilities are included or not. If split, clarify that they are split dependent on the number of people occupying the house.
  • I highly recommend to NOT rent to couples.
  • I also recommend that if you choose to rent out two rooms to one tenant, that this is stated in the lease and the rent price reflects this.
  • Require a security deposit and first month's rent due the day of signing. If they do not have the money, they do not get to sign the lease or get a key.
  • If they seem too uptight, too irresponsible, or anything you're not comfortable sharing your personal home with, then pass on that person.

Do you know this person ?  Probably not , just remember you are giving them and their FRIENDS free run of your house . All your stuff is there , ask yourself " is it worth it ? "  

Me , there is NO WAY I would rent a room in my house to a stranger that I have no connection with , either personally or thru a friend . 

They bring drugs in .......................You are busted 

And you still have to evict them , in the mean time they are cleaning you out while you are at work .

or better yet , they go down and file a protective order against you fearing for their safety , and THEY kick YOU out of your house .   

( that happened to a friend of mine) 

Go to Maryland judicial search and look up their court records . 

If there is no policy against renting out rooms, then you are ok to do so. I agree with everything Michael said. My only addition is to get your lease written by an attorney, so you know it will hold up in court if need be. Also, only use a month to month agreement. This means you can give them a notice to vacate if you don't get along. If they sign a year long lease you are stuck with them a whole year. f course this means they can leave with 30 days notice as well.

Spend time reading up on your local landlord/tenant laws. You should know them like the back of your hand. Also spend some tiem learning on these forums and podcasts. A lot fo great info that you'll want before anyone moves in. Good Luck!

Remember, when renting out a portion of your personal home, you can then also write off repairs in your personal home.

Of course you will hear some horror stories, but that's a risk in everything. Do background and credit checks. Accept people who are like you. People who have good careers and such. 

Is the Arnold you're talking about in Washington state or in Maryland?

Anyway, I rented out rooms in my personal home in MD for several years without any issues. The biggest gripe I had was that sometimes they didn't clean up to my picky standards. They were all great people though and I'm still friends with a few of them.

@Jacob Cast  I am 10 minutes from Arnold over in Severna Park .   You need to screen very carefully . Even though you are in a nice area , you still have to watch out 

You have to set it up like any other tenant situation. Except lucky you, you get to share a refrigerator with someone you don't really know. I would suggest you be very careful about who you bring into your home. Pay close attention to where you found them. If there is a problem, it is your problem, because it is in your home. 

The main thing is you have to get along and trust them since you are giving them access to your personal home. There are things you can do to protect your things but they still have access to many things so keep that in mind. Definitely write up a lease and make it month to month like others have said. You don’t want to be living with someone you don’t get along with...@Nicole A. How did you deal with when your tenants wanted to invite a friend over? Did they need to ask prior to them coming over? I currently rent rooms out in my home and that is one thing that I struggle with how to deal with that aspect.

I bought a 4br 2ba house this past September. I've been renting out 2 of the bedrooms, master bedroom as mine, and the last bedroom as my office. 

Like everyone else has said already. Make sure you have a lease, outline rules, responsibilities, expectations. I haven't had any issues. I'm a gov't employee and the two tenants are gov't employees at my same agency so that made the tenant screening a lot easier. 

Some issues I've realized (nothing major):

1) Dishwasher. One tenant will use it to wash a plate and skillet. Obvious waste of water but there's not much I can do excect ask him to use a full load next time. My lease doesn't state anything along the lines of loading the dishwasher with a "full" or "reasonable" load. Next tenant, the lease will state it. 

2) Washer and Dryer. Same as above.

Also: I changed all the bedroom door knobs to ones with locks. Each person has a key for themselves and I have a copy for emergencies. It's ~$15 per door knob at Home Depot but it gives everyone their own additional sense of security. Well worth the few bucks. 

Originally posted by @Michael H. :

The main thing is you have to get along and trust them since you are giving them access to your personal home. There are things you can do to protect your things but they still have access to many things so keep that in mind. Definitely write up a lease and make it month to month like others have said. You don’t want to be living with someone you don’t get along with...Nicole A. How did you deal with when your tenants wanted to invite a friend over? Did they need to ask prior to them coming over? I currently rent rooms out in my home and that is one thing that I struggle with how to deal with that aspect.

 I write in the lease that they need to respect the peaceful living of the other residents. Also, visitors can not stay over longer than a week (to accommodate for holiday breaks and the like). My tenants and I are on the same page when it comes to having friends over. They have friends over and so do I. We all act like adults because I made it clear from the beginning. 

It's a home. Not a military barracks or jail. You want to treat your tenants like humans and allow them to be comfortable. 

I'm doing this currently in my 3 bed/2 bath. I did not know either roommate beforehand. I'm 25 years old, and all I have ever known since age 18 is having roommates. I listed the rooms on all the online platforms, and then I would meet interested candidates in the city for a drink after work (assuming they passed my initial screening of all their social media). I had them show me their past two pay stubs, and I pulled credit reports. I drafted my lease on Legal Zoom, but no actual lawyer was involved. One pays me with Chase Quickpay, and the other with Venmo because they use a different bank. They're paying nearly 90% of my housing, so I highly recommend doing this is you screen thoroughly and are a people person. My plan is to do this and save for 2 years, then replace myself and hold this property as a rental.

@Michael H. I agree with what @Kevin Phu said regarding tenants having friends over. You simply make it clear what your rules are... so if they must first ask permission, then state it. If you otherwise don't really mind as long as the visit isn't longer than a certain amount of time, then just state that.

While you should have all major expectations in writing, you should also have a slightly different mentality about these types of tenants. These are not tenants from a C or D neighborhood. These are people sharing your home with you, so I would expect that you would choose people who are on a similar playing field in life as you.

My previous tenants would typically ask if a visitor could come and it was never a problem. They didn't have tons of people visiting like the place was a revolving door. If you have one that has someone new always visiting or lots of people over, you communicate to them that you don't want that. Any decent person would listen to you as it's your house, and if not, you give them a notice to vacate. Not every tiny rule needs to be written in the lease either; your house, your rules that you just communicate as they come up. Again, if you do your background/criminal checks and you're halfway good at reading a person's personality when first talking to them, you will have a decent idea if it'll work out.

It's all about communication and putting expectations out there. And you also can't expect perfection. People don't have the same habits as you. So, you can't expect them to know that you must clean those chopsticks by hand rather than put them in the dishwasher (or whatever vague preference you might have). Again, communicate with kindness and respect.

Oh, you may find yourself or want to let tenants know up front not to mess with the thermostat. =P

And don't be afraid to not offer someone a lease. I have (nicely) rejected two applicants that I can remember. One was a pregnant girl, and well, I just felt my house is not the best place for a baby or a single mother. Another was a military guy who wanted me to set forth "quiet hours" and "laundry hours" in the lease. I felt with such strictness that he wanted, he would not be a good fit in my personal home. In your personal home (at least in my area), you can be more particular about what kind of person is in your home without talk of "protected classes".

Finally, as someone mentioned, after some time you will likely decide you are done with sharing your personal home. But while you're into it, you might as well learn from it and make some extra income.

@Jacob Cast ,

Be sure to scan over your City (and county) landlord laws. I know others have mentioned that already.

In Minneapolis Minnesota, even for simply renting out a room to a relative requires the owner to hang two 2 postings in the property stating "this is a rental....." and a "Who To Call" under different circumstances, the owner has to buy a rental license ($700)

Since Washington and Minnesota are both more tenant-friendly states, there are probably some similar requirements.

@Nathan Platter  Actually in the city of Minneapolis if the owner occupies the home, so a roommate situation,  you do not need to get a license nor do you need to post anything. If you do not occupy the property then you need a rental license. Also, to convert a single family home to a rental,  the fee is $1000. After that if your rental is in good standing yearly renewal is $70.

@Jacob Cast What are the future plans for the home?? If your goal is to eventually convert it into a rental home and purchase a new primary residence, you could potentially use boarder income to help qualify for your next home purchase. So long as it is not more than 30% of your qualifying income. Meaning if your plan is to convert your current primary to a rental and purchase a new primary (for the sake of the favorable LTV/down payment terms) you could use the rent you are being paid to help you get into another 1-4 unit home w/ a 5% down payment (Through Freddie Mac).

The catch is you need to be able to document it. Meaning you need to be paid by checks or electronic deposits that you can document and show they are paying you their rent each month. You will also need to be able to show atleast 12 months of receiving their rent, but you won't be able to purchase another "primary residence" for another year anyway.

This might be completely irrelevant to your long-term goal, but just some food for thought to help you get into a multi-unit that you could house hack.

Good luck!

P.S. - Where is Arnold???

@Julian Sibley Arnold is in Maryland, fairly close to Annapolis. It is generally a nicer area and fairly expensive. I noticed too that it's not easily obvious that this post was made under the Maryland Local Real Estate forum. =P

@Jacob Cast, I am also in the Arnold area.  I have seen a couple of Facebook posts of people advertising bedrooms available in our area, maybe that is you.  I wish you the best of luck and would enjoy meeting up to hear how your experience is, I am also a newbie.