How to rent out your spare room?

Last month, Alison from Diamond-Cut Life shared an article about providing lodging to a housemate in exchange for work (instead of rent). Her story prompted a number of readers to ask about the mechanics and practicalities of actually renting an extra room to generate income. For example, Penny wrote with the following:

In August, my brother-in-law moved in with us. By December, he couldn’t find a job, so moved back out. While I had mixed emotions about his leaving, I did lament losing the potential income, because I thought my husband would never agree to renting a room to a stranger. Imagine my surprise when I mentioned the idea and he agreed to it.

I need some advice as to some things we should consider when finding a renter.

  1. What would be the best way to charge for rent? Flat monthly rate with utilities included? Weekly rate plus a third of the utilities? In our immediate area, rooms rent for $485-500 with utilities, or $125/week plus a portion of the utilities. I’m torn between the two modes.
  2. What sort of keywords should I put in the advertisement that would help find the right fit?
  3. How would food work? I don’t mind cooking for everyone; in fact, I love it, but I don’t want to pay for all of their board.
  4. Any other suggestions? Am I being too specific?

Our situation is a bit unusual, because we’re sort of urban homesteaders. We have gardens all over our small yard. We don’t use the dryer or the air conditioner. We use wood heat in the winter. Our family hunts and fishes. Will these things matter?

I’m curious about this, too. I don’t know anyone who has ever rented out a room, so I don’t know the process — and I don’t know if the income is worth the hassle. I do have friends, though, who have been on the other side, who have rented rooms from people in Penny’s position. During college, for example, my friend Andrew rented a room in a converted garage. But although the garage was attached to the house, but he didn’t interact much with the family he rented from.

If I were doing this, I’d check with my lawyer and accountant to be sure I was fulfilling my legal obligations, as well as protecting myself from possible problems.

I’d love to hear anecdotes from other readers. Have you ever rented out a spare room? Or have you ever been on the other side? Have you ever rented somebody else’s spare room? What did you learn from the experience? What advice would you give to somebody who was hoping to generate a little income by renting out space in their home, garage, or attic? And, finally, do you have any specific advice for Penny?

More about...Home & Garden, Side Hustles

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