Unusual rental situation
December 27, 2013 8:28 PM   Subscribe

Renting a house where the landlord will stay some weekends - bad idea? Have you ever done this?

I have the chance to rent a great house at a discounted price. The catch is, the landlords will stay in the house, in their master bedroom, once per month. I don't know the landlords personally. Has anyone else ever done this? I'm wondering if you think it's workable. Or just a really bad idea.

I'm worried about not having privacy. And not feeling that the home is "mine." Or being in a situation where the landlords are always criticizing and controlling my use of the house.

They also plan to keep the master bedroom full of their stuff, and have stated it would be "off limits" to the renter... but not locked. This shouldn't be a problem but I'm worried about one major thing.

I've known a few people who are disorganized and they lose stuff, but they don't blame themselves. Their first thought is "someone must have taken it." They freak out and rant and rave. Then they find the item and just quietly slink away and don't apologize. I lived with a couple roommates like that back in the day and it stressed me out so much. So I would actually feel way more comfortable if the landlords locked their door so I wouldn't have to worry about them losing anything and accusing me of taking it. But it has me wondering if the whole thing is just a bad idea. Or maybe I'm overthinking it?

What do you think?
posted by galenka to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Though this is a thing - I've seen similar setups advertised, though not often - it's generally called a "roommate" rather than "renting a house", and it should be priced accordingly. Often it's when the owner works elsewhere and comes home on weekends, every other week, or some such setup.

That said, I'd be really uncomfortable about things that were off-limits being left unlocked. I'd prefer them to be locked for MY peace of mind. And a clear understanding of what the situation would be regarding expectations for your visitors, etc. (My assumption is that it would be just you, as a single person, renting - I've heard of other, but those are pretty rare.)
posted by stormyteal at 8:39 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did something similar and it was a nightmare. I would definitely suggest you listen to your gut here.
posted by dotgirl at 8:45 PM on December 27, 2013 [6 favorites]

How discounted is the rent? And would you be sharing a bathroom when they are home? I personally would not be comfortable doing this as a renter, but my comfort level would vary a lot depending on how good a deal the rent is and how available other affordable housing is.

Honestly it sounds like they don't want to pay a house-sitter or someone to check on their vacation home and thought "hey maybe we could even make money off of this."
posted by radioamy at 8:46 PM on December 27, 2013

I've never done this personally, but I've had friends who did so and were happy about it. Agree that this is more a roommate situation than "renting a house" - will you be signing an official lease? If I were you, I'd be more comfortable if there was both a written lease and a written agreement of expectations regarding space usage. And yes, I agree that I'd be happier with the master bedroom door locked. Put that in the agreement, maybe using the excuse (if "You might freak out and accuse me of stealing your stuff!" seems a bit blunt) that you'd naturally want to have visitors sometimes and would rather not have the liability of them wandering in and breaking anything of your landlord's.

Also, would you live with a roommate otherwise were it not for the rent discount? Personally, I've dealt with too many crazies to ever do that again, at least with someone I don't know well.
posted by theweasel at 8:49 PM on December 27, 2013

A friend lived in her uncle's house in a similar arrangement- he owned it (and had lived in it for 6 years before moving 1000 miles away), she paid rent, he and his wife would stay in the master bedroom for a few days each month.

No input on the "missing" stuff as you described- although he also left the master bedroom unlocked as the laundry room was only accessed through it.

Issues did occur: the wife NEVER thought the place was clean enough or well decorated and my friend felt subtly criticized all the time(waking up to the wife mopping all the floors or rearranging my frirnd's dining room furniture ). There was weirdness about food and dishes: it was all her dishes and she bought all her own food, and sometimes the uncle and aunt would cook and notclean, leaving her with no clean dishes 2 hours prior to a dinner party, or eat her stuff, but not replace it quickly enough (eg they finish the bread at 5 pm and plan to buy more tomorrow morning- but she was getting home at 7 pm and leaving at 4 am for her rotations b/c she was in medical school, and had needed to use those last 4 slices for tomorrow's lunch and dinner). There was also weirdness around who owned common spaces and difficulty scheduling with people you dont really see often: the uncle and aunt would just invite people over without checking with her because they'd just plain forget it was not their own house anymore, but she had weekly book club scheduled on the same night too- who gets the living room?

She planned to stay for 3 years but only made it two before moving out to her own apartment.
posted by holyrood at 8:56 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am doing something similar right now, and I would say it depends a lot of the personality of the landlord. My landlord is intense and flighty so it can be difficult to deal with her, further she also expects me to to bring in her mail, let her know when her packages arrive, to meet service people, which I did not initially sign on for. There is a power differential that is not present in other shared housing situations. However, it is a very good discount on rent (~50% of average neighborhood rate, though some of that is due to her rent control), and she does honor my request that she text me when she is coming over, so I am never *surprised* by her. She comes in quite late and leaves very early in the morning only about one night a month, and doesn't hang out at the house. I don't think I could handle it if she was around a lot more. If I were you, I'd make it explicitly clear what times/frequency the landlord would be there, that you be notified well in advance of his/her arrival, and it better be at least a 40% discount on the usual rate. I personally think this is a bit of having your cake and eating it too as a landlord and that "roommates" is a more accurate term for this situation.
posted by amileighs at 9:00 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have been in a similar situation--the landlord came up and stayed in his basement room every couple of weekends. It was not a good situation, for most of the reasons you mention. He'd hang out in the living room and watch tv, make his food in the kitchen, have his girlfriend over, and it felt like we were just guests (even though the furniture/tv/dishes/etc. were all ours, not his). It got to a point where we'd make plans to stay out late on the weekends we knew he was coming up.
posted by lovecrafty at 9:10 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't touch this.
Your original post answers every question.
Everyone needs their own private space 24/7/365. That's home.
The landlord relationship adds a layer of tension.
False accusations of theft may be unlikely but why buy trouble?
Don't bite.
posted by LonnieK at 9:26 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm worried about not having privacy. And not feeling that the home is "mine." Or being in a situation where the landlords are always criticizing and controlling my use of the house.

These are all completely valid and realistic concerns. You should only do this if you're willing to accept all these things happening. By which i mean, enter this under the assumption that they will all happen. You can act relieved if they don't, but you should be weighing the pros and cons of this with the default state you're assessing it at being that stuff happening.

This is like buying something listed as broken on ebay under the assumption the person selling it just doesn't know how to use it or tell if it's actually damaged. Only pay what you'd pay for something that is for sure broken.

They also plan to keep the master bedroom full of their stuff, and have stated it would be "off limits" to the renter... but not locked. This shouldn't be a problem but I'm worried about one major thing.

This sounds like a stupid "test" situation to me, like leaving cookies out on the counter to tempt a child into eating them either to test their maturity, or from a more sinister perspective as a trap to intentionally create a situation to punish them.

On one hand it's like "why should i have to lock the door? it's my house!". But at the same time, any way you approach the attitude of someone who wouldn't lock it besides the edge-case idea of "old hippie who believes in the inherent kindness of man", it's a symptom of a potential cockhead attitude in which you will always be the subservient one and the scapegoat.

What you've given us here are a lot of negative reasons, and no positive ones. Basically all you said is it's at "a discounted price".

So, with all that said, i have done something like this. Several times actually. Once, i lived in a house that my friends dad owned. He technically lived there too, but wasn't there a lot. It was a goddamn nightmare. The second time, i lived in a really nice rental house that was insanely cheap for what it was and where it was. The landlady had never rented before in her life, and was only doing so until she was ready to sell the place. Not only did she act like it was her house and we were overnight guests, but she had enlisted the help of several VERY nosy neighbors to spy on us 24/7/365.

We dealt with everything from late night "so who's car is that parked next to the garage?" type of texts, to random visits not at scheduled times, to stuff like her saying we could have a small dog... and then after my roommate had committed to having the dog move in with her and burned the bridges to any other path(AND signed a lease saying we could have pets) she went "i don't want you having any dog there, i don't care how tiny it is". I think my roommates response of "Oh, ok, i guess i'll just go drop him off at the pound tonight". The entire thing was full of waffling flip flops and uncertainty, and some really passive aggressive or just dumb gas lighting type stuff. For instance, cleaning supplies and toilet paper and such were left in the house, and we asked and were told it was for us. Then when we used the cleaning supplies suddenly we weren't supposed to because they were for cleaning up after we moved out. Similarly derpy shit went on with mowing the yard(oh i'll take care of that -> why haven't you guys done it yet? that's part of the agreement!)

And as for living at the place with my friends dad, don't even get me started on that. It actually got violent a couple times when he'd show up and be annoyed at us for simply being there.

I have several friends who have done things like this. Some evolved out of house sitting jobs, or were just listed as something like this, or came about in other ways along the lines of "living in SO's ill family members place".

I haven't ever met or talked to a single person who had a good experience, or would ever do this again. Me, and several other people i've talked to have bailed on these situations in to extremely unstable couch surfing/living in car/etc type of arrangements because it was so untenable and unreliable and awful and stressful and full of passive aggression and garbage. Honestly even the "best case scenario" sort of thing like holyrood described still sounds awful to me.

If you look through my posting history, you'll see that i also replied to someone asking if they should let their friend move in with them in a situation kinda like this, and i said the same thing. The weird power differential and(kinda understandable, but still bs) entitlement issues just muck it up too much.
posted by emptythought at 9:34 PM on December 27, 2013

I know a couple who rents a house in this sort of situation (although the landlord lives overseas and isn't around as often as yours would be) and it seems to work OK for them. (I"ve dogsat for them while said landlord is staying over.) HOWEVER, the landlord wasn't quite a random stranger; he's friends with the couple's children.

If it's just a random stranger, I'd be pretty cautious of this sort of thing, and probably wouldn't do it unless I was pretty strapped for cash and couldn't afford safe/decent housing without the discount in rent. I'd also be curious how this sort of arrangement changes your legal rights; if the landlords are maintaining a room that they stay in, that might change the standard legal requirement that they give 24 hours' notice before coming into the house, or other things like that.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:44 PM on December 27, 2013

You're not renting a house. You're renting a room in a house. Is it a great price for a room? A really, really great price? Such a great price that even after a single month, you've saved enough to move to a new place if things go poorly? If it's that great a price, and if the landlord agrees to lock the bedroom, then it's possibly worth the risk. If it isn't, unless you're very desperate for a place to live now or it's the best you can afford, probably try somewhere else.
posted by jeather at 9:54 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've done this temporarily (after moving cities, whilst waiting to find a good long-term rental) twice now, and had the exact same problems both times: uninvited/unannounced drop-in visits, being expected to be home for package deliveries, having common areas that were supposed to be clean full of the owner's stuff. Sharehousing was actually less annoying, because generally co-tenants are on a level playing field as far as their rights over the property.

My personal favourite incidents were:

House #1, where the adjoining garage was temporarily used to house an otherwise homeless family member.

House #2, where the owner unplugged our fridge to use the power socket. And then forgot to plug it back in. Whilst we were away for the weekend.

Would not recommend.
posted by jaynewould at 10:43 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, I did this. It was a terrible idea that I convinced myself of because it was such a good price - and they appeared to be so normal.

Their stuff filled the apartment - it didn't in the beginning, but there was gradual creep to the point that it was actually creeping into parts of the closets in "my" bedroom - parts that when I called them on it directly, they pointed out that they weren't occupying space that I was actually using.

They told me that they didn't actually need X things in X cupboard and I could just keep them and use them or ... whatever. So I got rid of X things and they discovered to their surprise and horror that they DID want them!

They critiqued my housekeeping style, and provided me lists of rules for each part of the house (things like "when cooking pasta, rinse colanders and pots immediately to prevent starch from hardening in place").

They came into the house unexpectedly and without any sort of warning. Though they didn't spend much time overall at the house added together, the time they spent at the house was unscheduled and entirely unexpected.

This worked (or didn't work) for about six months until I felt like I was going to tear my hair out and got OUT of there. Don't do this unless you go in treating it like a roommate situation and expect it to be a complex roommate situation (in which you're living in a house with a roommate that owns the dwelling). I'd suggest not doing it at all.
posted by arnicae at 11:06 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would do this as an alternative to a normal roommate situation. It's better than normal roommates, because the guy isn't usually there.

But I would not do it as an alternative to a rent-a-whole-house-by-myself situation. It is so much worse than that for all the reasons you cite.
posted by lollusc at 11:23 PM on December 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Something else to consider is whether the landlord will demand that you move out ASAP if her own situation changes. A friend of mine lived in a similar set-up with a man (and later, the man and his new wife), in a condo that he owned -- until his wife got a promotion, and they could suddenly afford the mortgage without a renter, and he gave my friend about two weeks to get out. He was a good guy in general, and my friend enjoyed living there by all accounts (she's even still friends with the couple and sees them on occasion), but there is a very strong power imbalance when one "roommate" owns the place and the other doesn't.

I agree with the previous advice that you should assume that all your ideas about a worst-case scenario will happen (none of the ones you list here seem farfetched to me), and consider if you'll still think this is a good deal.

If you do go through with this, I would recommend making sure to have a rock-solid lease that requires the landlord give you appropriate notice if you have to move out. Do not go through with this if it's just a handshake deal -- in general, the more imbalanced the power dynamic, the more that things need to be outlined in writing and agreed to beforehand.
posted by rue72 at 12:21 AM on December 28, 2013

In addition to all the concerns you've listed, the thing that leapt out to me is that you will be sharing this space with a couple, while (it sounds like) you will be by yourself. IME this kind of arrangement can easily go sour, especially when combined with the kind of power-differential that is bound to come into play here. They will almost certainly back each other up in every situation, and you cold easily end up feeling ganged up on and/or squeezed out of your own home.

If you do need to do this for financial reasons, then I agree with the suggestion to approach it as a roommate situation, and discuss/negotiate with them as appropriate. There's plenty of advice out there on what to spell out when agreeing to share space with someone, and if they're not willing to frame it that way, it would be a red flag in my book.
posted by rpfields at 6:35 AM on December 28, 2013

I wouldn't.

The problem is these folks will be your roommates. Roommates who have all the power. So no matter what the situation, if they don't like it, they win.

If the place is super-nice and super-cheap and you are really pressed money-wise with no other options, I'd say, "get as much in writing and pray that they aren't wack-a-dooles." But, if you can do ANYTHING else do that.

I'm not a lover of roommate situations, but at least if the two roommates have equal power in the relationship, you can work things out and compromise. You won't be able to do that in this situation.

Run away! Run away!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:05 AM on December 28, 2013

You will feel like the home isn't yours. You will essentially be a paid caretaker and you will have to be on communication with the landlord about the house. Once a month that's going to be very weird, and how do you know it won't happen more than once a month? You will never be allowed to tell him/her they can't stay there. And they are also keeping their stuff there? Spend the extra money for some peace of mind and find your own place.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:03 AM on December 28, 2013

This is, essentially, moving back in with your parents and all their arbitrary rules and extremely personal interferences, except in this scenario your parents don't care about you and may actually even actively dislike you.
posted by elizardbits at 10:32 AM on December 28, 2013

I did something like this when I was a student overseas. As others have said. It is really more of a roommate situation. In my case, it was a three-bedroom house; landlady had one room and used it about 3 days per month when she commuted from a neighbouring town for work reasons and the other two rooms were rented out to students. All rooms except the bedrooms were common to everyone, including her when she was there.

It actually worked out really well. Because she spent time there too, she was invested in keeping everything in good repair and she even bought a few things for the house when me and the other tenant suggested it---muffin pans when the other girl wanted to cook, and a dehumidifier when my bedroom had some mold issues.

I was very happy with the experience. But a lot depends on how the arrangements are made and how the situation is organized.
posted by JoannaC at 5:54 PM on December 28, 2013

Oh, something i missed in my first post that's very relevant here.

Even if you sign a lease saying they can't show up without notice, what's to actually enforce that? it's not like you can call the cops and tell them to leave, and challenging them is likely a declaration of war anyways.

Where i live it's illegal for a landlord to enter place they're renting out without giving 24 hours of notice unless it's an emergency. However, there's an exception for places where they live(and also a lot of other rules/law is waived if it's a single family home they live in). Even with that rule, LOTS of landlords and onsite managers break this rule all the damn time and basically go "do something about it" or worse.

Where this comes in though, is if around you those rules exist about single family homes the owner lives at, they may claim it's situation A where they aren't really "living" there, but if challenged at all go "hey, it's situation B, this is my house and my stuffs in it and i do live here!" creating a situation in which you have no actual standing to challenge them and they're just coming and going as they please with no notice.

Basically, there's no evidence to support your right to not be barged in on, unless you have proof they reside at another address.
posted by emptythought at 6:01 PM on December 28, 2013

Consider this as a simple roommate situation (with a roommate who's rarely there) and proceed.
posted by WizKid at 2:37 PM on January 8, 2014

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