Renting out a room
February 24, 2020 1:35 PM   Subscribe

I’m a new homeowner and am in the position to rent out a room in my house to a peripheral acquaintance. I’ve lived with roommates before but this is my first time being on the other side. What should I consider beyond a lease/security deposit? What are good questions to ask the potential tenant? Location is Oakland, California.
posted by Francies to Human Relations (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Ask how long they are planning to stay. In my experience, even the best of roommates have an expiration date and I have loved renting to friends who just wanted to live there for a half a year or a year while they transition to another situation (like a planned move, moving in with an SO, or buying a house etc). I had problems with one friend who was seemingly planning on just living in my house FOREVER. Watching them auger in really stressed me out as I did not want a permanent situation!
posted by cakebatter at 2:28 PM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I always looked specifically for people who had lived in house shares before - gives you head start on the level of shared understanding about how these things work. Be upfront about how housework for communal spaces will be dealt with, what your expectations are in terms of time spent in shared spaces, noise levels, socialising at home, dirty dishes left out, morning use of shared bathroom, how tidy/clean you expect their own room to be kept etc. There’s no right or wrong answers, you’re just looking for someone whose lifestyle is compatible with yours.
posted by penguin pie at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2020

Here are some questions that have worked for me:
- Tell me a little bit about yourself and your experience living with others.
- What is your schedule generally like (e.g. late nights, morning person)? What time of day do you usually need the shower?
- What are your preferences about cleanliness?
- What's most important to you in a housemate?
- How do you deal with conflict when living with housemates?
- How much interaction do you like to have with housemates? Do you mostly want to have private time in your room, or do you like to interact?
- How do you feel about having people over? What's your approach to parties and group gatherings?
- It's important to me that the house be LGBTQ friendly -- how do you feel about that?
- Nobody in this house voted for Trump -- does that work for you?
- Do you have a pet / are you ok with my pet?
- Do you have any questions for me?

Open-ended questions as part of a conversation seem to give the most helpful information. It's also critically important that you think about your own answer to all these questions before you ask someone else -- if you don't know what you're looking for, you definitely won't find it.
posted by ourobouros at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

(PS - It sounds overbearing to talk about tidiness in their own room, but I’ve had someone who left their room in a terrible state during their stay and when they left - things that you think are obvious base-line levels of how you want your property cared for are sometimes not shared by lodgers and if you’d like them to hoover occasionally or not leave dirty dishes mouldering, it’s worth saying aloud.)
posted by penguin pie at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2020

Look into the rules for “eviction” in your specific situation. In San Francisco I believe an owner-occupied situation where you rent one room out (sometimes referred to as a lodger or boarder situation) gives you a lot more freedom to make the tenant leave than if you were renting the whole house/apartment to them, but make sure that’s the case in Oakland.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:00 PM on February 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

Ourobouros has great questions but first you need to think about what you are imagining this will look like particularly the relationship between you two. Is this person on equal footing with you regarding use of the common areas of the house or do you believe that you are only renting them the room and you expect them to be in there most of the time when they are home? Do you expect them to do half the housework? Are you comfortable with their friends being in your house? What about sleep-over romantic relationships? I'm sure having been in roommate situations before, you have a sense of their expectations might be but your tolerance might be different when it is your house and they are just renting out a room.
posted by metahawk at 3:11 PM on February 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

Be 100% sure that you have the ability/legal right to get rid of this person when you want them gone, and that you understand the process/requirements to do so. You don't want to accidentally do/not do something that will leave you unable to reclaim the space in your own home.
posted by mccxxiii at 3:26 PM on February 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

I'll add
Do you play an instrument?
Do you recycle?
What cleaning tasks do you hate, which ones do you not mind? I was once chosen as roommate because I said, honestly, that I didn't mind cleaning the bathroom but would not vacuum. We got along well, are friends 30+ years on.
posted by theora55 at 3:49 PM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Any substance use? (It's good for housemates to be in sync on that one. I myself don't give a damn morally about weed but I hate the smell and wouldn't want it in my house. Etc.)
posted by praemunire at 4:36 PM on February 24, 2020

Be direct: ask them how they are about doing dishes and cleaning the bathroom.
These are the core issues of living with someone.
posted by dustpuppy at 6:44 PM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

There is most likely an organization in your state that provides a contract that is legally correct, thorough, fair to both sides, and covers all the details. Use that, as much for their protection as yours. Do not do it "as friends", or "verbally".
posted by nickggully at 7:12 PM on February 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Be 100% sure that you have the ability/legal right to get rid of this person when you want them gone, and that you understand the process/requirements to do so. You don't want to accidentally do/not do something that will leave you unable to reclaim the space in your own home.

I would also suggest making sure you have the financial means to take legal action if you want them out and they won't cooperate willingly. Eviction can be expensive.
posted by ktkt at 7:30 PM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'd put a clause in the lease that indicates that s/he/they cannot rent the room via AirBnB/VRBO or any other short-term lease protocol.

Also indicate that any sub-lease arrangement must be approved by you, in writing, at least 30 days beforehand.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:45 PM on February 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Buy the Nolo guide to being a landlord in CA and read the whole damn thing. It will let you do things the legal proper way so as not to get burned by weird legal issues.
posted by benzenedream at 10:56 PM on February 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

Also, do you play videogames and watch the same Avengers movies over and over again for hours on your days off with surround sound while other people are trying to relax?

That was a big issue for me and my roomie, I'm sound sensitive and was periodically bursting into tears hearing the explosions coming from the family room. So, noise.
posted by erattacorrige at 6:42 PM on February 25, 2020

THE most important question I should have asked: do you play League of Legends until 3am screaming at your friends continuously and thinking its okay because you're wearing a headset?

Second most important: do you understand basic cleaning and will clean up in AND around your living area? Especially how to clean a bathroom.

Third is: can you keep everything you own in your room, especially your enormous magic and other card collections that are now very much in the way in communal areas?
posted by meepmeow at 8:47 PM on February 25, 2020

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