What should I be thinking about when renting a room out on AirBnB?
July 2, 2016 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I am renting a very large 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath house in a touristy area of New Orleans. I am considering renting out my guest suite on AirBnB for 1 or 2 weekends a month to make some extra cash. What do I need to be thinking about? Should I or shouldn't I consider this?

I am a single 30-something women renting a huge apartment, and the possibility of bringing in some extra cash every month is appealing to me. But I also have concerns, and worries, and I thought I'd turn to the hive mind for advice.

The guest suite in question is half of the upstairs of my home. The entire section has a door which can be locked from the inside - there is a small hallway, closet, full bath, and bedroom in there. The other side of upstairs is my office, bedroom, and bathroom - the door leading to this half can be locked from the outside with a key. I work from home during the week, and would not rent the room out on a weekend when I was not planning on being here. I really enjoy living alone, but I feel like security and privacy wouldn't be difficult in short spurts with this setup.

The neighborhood is upscale with very few rentals. I live in half of a double, with two young dudes (who are not particularly quiet) living next door. I would definitely not be able to rent the room out to loud party folks and would need to be cautious about keeping peace in the neighborhood. Technically short-term rentals of less than 30 days are not allowed in New Orleans, but there is a THRIVING market for AirBnB rentals anyway. The majority of complaints are regarding absentee landlords who rent out whole houses on AirBnB year-round. Also because there is a lot of tourism in the neighborhood, guests or unknown cars would not immediately raise suspicions.

My lease does have a clause about subletting, and I'm not allowed to have visitors for more than 10 days at a time. However, my landlord has turned out to be completely awful and I can't imagine a scenario where she would find out. I can't even get the landlord to repair things in the house, or put in even a minimal effort to manage the property. I would only have renters for less than 10 days total a month, so I could pass them off as guests if needed. My guess is that if she found out and disapproved, she'd probably just tell me to knock it off rather than go through the trouble of evicting me. I'd rather not ask her permission, but I could go that route if needed (though she never responds to communications at all).

What else should I be considering here? Assuming I can market the room towards low-risk guests (singles, couples, etc....not bachelor parties) and will be present during guests stay, what other issues might come up that I'm not thinking of? Has anyone done this successfully as a renter? As a single female?

Any and all ideas, thoughts, and anecdotes welcome!
posted by tryniti to Work & Money (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is there any chance that your awful landlord might want to kick you out before your lease was up? I don't know anything about New Orleans tenant law, but you might want to make sure that you're not giving her an easy excuse to do that.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:17 AM on July 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

AirBnB is not a great way to endear yourself to your neighbors. Honestly, even the best of AirBnB guests are an imposition to the people living around you, and there's no way to guarantee that you'll get ideal guests-- no one openly states their intent to throw sex parties in your house, to use an extreme example. The most likely way your landlord will find out is that your neighbors will rat you out once they're tired of it. Agreed that you need to check tenant laws in your area, even the most absentee landlord is not going to be pleased that you're running a hotel out of your apartment.
posted by fox problems at 11:59 AM on July 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

Can you afford to lose your home? I am asking because I live in a very high-rent market area. My landlord would immediately reap a huge windfall in market-rate rent if I listed my extra bedroom on Airbnb, the management company noticed, and I got evicted. And I would be totally screwed if that happened. So even though I could use the additional money, the risk is not worth it to me. It may be worth it to you, and I am not saying not to do it. What I am saying is that you should ask yourself if you can afford to lose your home if the worst should come to pass. Sorry to be a downer, but people get evicted for this all the time because the landlords can then rent their places for more money.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:12 PM on July 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've done it. I don't think doing AirBnB stuff if you are at home is more inconvenient than you having a lot of guests. However, I would not at all make assumptions that your landlady would not care or that she would remain hands-off through this so I would strongly suggest letting her know even if it's in an "If I dont' hear from you I will be doing this..." way.

Big deal about AirBnB is to describe the place accurately and to be really firm about what you do and do not tolerate. Be clear about parking, and about noise, and about extra guests, and about what you need in their profile filled out before you will rent. Make clear what kitchen access is included and what you expect regarding kitchen use. Same thing about any outside spaces (porches, whatever). Set the price competitively and don't try to give people a deal. Have a clear cancellation policy and understand how it works. Have "business amenities" (wifi and I forget what else) so you can list your place on AirBnB's business site.

I found a lot of people wanted to bring their dogs to my place (it says no dogs in the listing) or wanted to add a ton of extra people and do a ski lodge thing. Add a cleaning deposit and get the place cleaned professionally after every other guest. Guests tend to care about appropriately set expectations, cleanliness, and privacy. If you have noisy neighbors be clear about that in your listing (some people don't care, some people will care). Get a few personal reviews for you and check out the places near you to see what rates are like. Take really nice pictures and clear as much stuff out of the place as possible. Have a nice set of towels and amenities. Make sure heat and cold can be appropriately controlled.

I don't think it's a bad idea but it's good to go in there with eyes open. I've styae din a lot of (enjoyable) random AirBnBs and I mostly cared about knowing what I was getting into.
posted by jessamyn at 12:36 PM on July 2, 2016

I live (and rent) in New Orleans. I've rented in my neighborhood for several years. The scenario Bella Donna has described has happened to two of my close friends recently--in one case my friend's roommate was also her landlord, and decided to get rid of all of her friends/tennants so she could make extra income (above paying the note on the house). Another got caught by her landlord and lasted a few months, but was then evicted so the whole property could be STRs.

I know you didn't ask if you should AirBnB, but in our city, right now, I think it's a question worth considering very closely. One of the (many, imho) thing(s) about AirBnB is that it gives a lot of landlords an easy excuse to raise the rent--and the rental market here has long been inflated. Using AirBnB to earn extra money seems great in the short term, but from what I've seen in New Orleans, it only helps to accelerate rent inflation in the long term. Plus, it's possible the city council will start to enforce the law more strictly, as many residents have asked them to do in recent meetings (and as other major cities have started to do--looking at you, Austin). If you want a more comprehensive overview of my points, check out the VCPORA coverage of the issue (though tbh I often disagree with them on other issues)and this Gambit commentary, or meMail me.
posted by Penny Magellan at 4:53 PM on July 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I hate hotels and always stay in AirBNB (or hostels or whatever) when I travel, and I sometimes rent my apartment out while I'm gone. IMO it basically entirely depends on what your neighbors think. In my building my neighbors (and on-site property manager) all travel fairly regularly and have people housesit/sublet/airbnb/whatever their places when they're gone. So it is not a big deal among my neighbors/landlord even though AirBNB is very controversial locally. If I were wanting to host people every other week and run a mini hotel all the time, they would not be cool with that though. If your landlord is the hands off type, it will be your neighbors complaining that will change that.

All the people I have met as both a guest and host on AirBNB have been totally normal, budget-traveler minded people and it's been a good experience on both ends. I've read the horror stories though. I sort of think of it as couchsurfing for adults, the money just takes the flakiness factor out. My main criteria for accepting guests is whether they message me and tell me who they are and why they're coming to my town (+ good reviews and verified IDs). Those people 'get' how it's supposed to work and don't treat it as a cheaper hotel service. It's easy to not host party people: don't allow groups larger than 2 to submit requests.

Funniest request I've gotten: "Hi I'm turning 21 and my 6 friends want to have a night out and stay at your place!" Nope nope nope.

I've done this a few times a year for a while and hosted a pretty diverse range of travelers and never had any issues. Never had anyone leave a mess, in fact a surprising number of people take their trash out when they leave or strip the bed before they go.
posted by bradbane at 6:29 PM on July 2, 2016

Also kitchen access is a big advantage for a lot of people over a hotel, if you haven't considered that. Business travelers who hate eating out all the time, foreigners on extended holiday who are trying to save money, couples who would rather cook in after sight seeing all day... etc.
posted by bradbane at 6:33 PM on July 2, 2016

However, my landlord has turned out to be completely awful and I can't imagine a scenario where she would find out.

What?? Do you not know any long-term New Orleans residents? I've lived--and rented--in New Orleans for 25 years and my social media feeds are full of people complaining about short-term rentals in their neighborhoods, posting the AirBnB and VRBO listings for them, and publicly listing the owner/operators so people can complain to city hall. You could easily be publicly outed on social media as an AirB&B operator, or unhappy neighbors could assume your landlord is behind the listing and complain to her. If she is terrible landlord it is possible she might kick you out and just rent via AirBnB herself. Or she could use the fact that you are subletting as a reason for kicking you out and raising the rent.

I live in a downtown neighborhood (not the French Quarter, Bywater, or Marigny) that has seen a surge in AirBnB rentals in the past few years and I hate it, as do all of my neighbors except the ones profiting. The guests cause parking problems, are often loud and clueless, and destroy the cohesiveness of the neighborhood. As you know, crime is a big problem here and neighbors need to look out for each other and maintain communications. AirBnB guests don't do that. They add nothing positive to the neighborhood.

Please don't rent out your place.
posted by BicycleFace at 8:21 PM on July 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

New Orleans is notoriously tenant-unfriendly. An absentee landlord is not the same as a "will not kick you out" landlord. I wouldn't do it.

Also, what BicycleFace said.
posted by radioamy at 11:17 AM on July 3, 2016

I am also a New Orleans resident, and resentment against Airbnb is at an all-time high, which makes it a lot more likely that someone would tell your landlord, who might well kick you out. (It's true that single-room rentals aren't really the main issue--I'm not saying that what you're considering is wrong, just that you're more likely to get busted then you would have been five years ago.)

If you are going to do this, I would suggest doing it informally (through friends of friends or through a smaller site) rather than through Airbnb. I think if you rent to single women and couples, and vet them carefully, you should be fine. A friend of mine rented as a single female, she mostly chose arty middle-aged women such as herself, and I think she had a good experience.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 6:49 AM on July 5, 2016

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