Renting rooms in your house

 

Renting rooms in your house seems easy but, you have to be careful as the eviction process is nothing you want to go through. As agree¬able as people seem, you don’t know them till you live with them. I’ve rented rooms since ’78 and have become wary.

Age
Older people are more settled and stay longer.

Work
Full time with a very stable work history. The others often have problems (which become your problems).

Nonsmokers
Far easier on your furnishings, health, etc. Some smokers say they will smoke outside, but they fudge. Even if they do smoke outside, their clothes often smell of smoke, and their sense of smell is off, which means you have to remind them to air out their rooms enough.

No alcohol or drugs
Not even on the premises.

Long term
There are many adjustments with each person, so there’s no point in taking someone who doesn’t look like he will stay a year or so. The best tenants need a room four nights a week as they return to their distant family on weekends. I’ve heard airlines pilots and stewardesses are similar. The next best are very busy [gone a lot], quiet, and MATURE !!!!

Visitors
Some homes don’t allow visitors. Others allow one per month, quietly, not overnight, and only in the tenant’s room.

Phone
California landlords have to provide at least one phone jack per residence for tenants, which can be activated [for $46?] by them. Most tenants put in their own private lines.
Don’t let them use your phone.

TV’s
Cable hookups in each room help attract and keep tenants and lower your cable bill.

Advertising
List the city first. My ad in ’92 read:

Org. $300 + dep. cable, tel, kit, util, lndry. 3 QUIET workers 35+. n-drink/¬smk/visitors. 894 6228. men preferred

Additions can be: gar, nr bus, refs, pro.
Some landlords use roommate agencies to screen prospects.

Screen by phone
Someone calling for someone else can be a bad sign – also someone coming with a prospective tenant. When a prospect calls, I tell him I ask a lot of questions as I’ve had a lot of trouble – also to save his time and mine. I relax to feel ‘the vibes,’ and write them down. They are surprisingly accurate. I ask how long he needs the room and where he works. If over a l/2 hour away, he probably won’t stay long. I ask his type of work, length, employers, if he’s been evicted, filed for bankruptcy, and how his credit is.
If he seems like a good prospect, we set an appointment. I ask him to be sure to call if he can’t make it. Even so many don’t call or show up.

The interview
I find a way to look at his car; it tells something. I show him the room and have him sit and read the rules. If his face shows resentment when reading, it’s a bad sign. I discuss par¬ticulars in a relaxed way looking for defensive¬ness, con¬tradic¬tions, too many ‘temporary’ crises, excessive quietness or charm, inap¬propriate behavior, and lack of foresight, car insurance, or money manage-ment. I make notes of this and ‘the vibes’ again.
All this is critical as once you get a immature tenant [of any age] in, it is very hard to get him out.

Rules
The more everything is spelled out ahead of time, the less chance for problems. People are going to break rules; so set them well below your level of irritation.

Insurance
Check to see how renting one or more rooms will affect your liability and premiums.

Misc
Accepting pets is a bad idea, but if you do, charge more. Get a water saving shower head, an electronic thermostat (with an opaque cover?), a receipt book with stubs, smoke detectors, and sturdy closers for exterior doors to save utilities and prevent accidental slamming. Get a ‘vestibule lock’ for the front door, which locks every time it shuts. You can get a ‘rekeying kit’ for changing keys when tenants move out.

Background checks and references are basic as you could have a:

Legal Nightmare Over Rented Room

For l5 years I had rented rooms in my house in Calif. I’d had some bad tenants, but eventually they would move out. Enter Sharon who would NOT. (She had a legal aid lawyer.) I called my lawyer friends, paralegals, landlords, and the courthouse. Paralegals wanted $25 to fill out each form, so I tried it myself. I began the clerical ordeal of serving Sharon with different notices (on obsolete forms as it turned out), running from post office to courthouse to copy place to home to read the LANDLORDS LAWBOOK. (All this over a rented room?) I learned the court had to ‘file’ some forms, ‘conform’ others, and ‘enter’ others, and all of them had to be typed in black ink. No one doing this the first time could avoid mistakes. I ran around filling out a ‘complaint’ and went through the tricky business of serving her with it. She didn’t respond in time. Ah ha! I ran in to file a ‘default,’ which would win the case. I was elated. But wait; something was wrong with my paper work. Her lawyer filled a ‘demurrer’ later that day; and, I was not only back to square one, but liable for her lawyer’s fees!

Now I had to get a lawyer [I did and he told me her lawyer was a zealot, this could go to a jury trial (over a rented room?), I couldn’t cut off Sharon’s cable hookup, phone, etc., and, if I locked her out, she could sue me to the point of my losing my house! If I won my case and the Marshall came to put her out, she could declare bankruptcy. Then I would have to pay $600 for a ‘lift of stay’ to get her out. Every time I turned around she had more rights, I had nightmares. (Who wrote these laws?!) (What if Sharon was a criminal and moved some thug into her room and I had a wife and kids in the house?)
After three and a half months of this, she moved. Throughout she had a free lawyer, I didn’t. She could sue me. (I couldn’t sue her and get anything cause she didn’t have anything.) She gained about $l000; I lost $l400 (on a $200/mo. room). She and her lawyer made my life miserable; I couldn’t touch them. It cost me great amounts of time and anguish; it costs them little.
What was the point? The poverty lawyer didn’t benefit her by helping her cheat a landlord, earn a bad credit rating, and lose an inexpensive room.
The laws regarding rented rooms are senseless, petty, unfair, and ridiculously technical, time-consuming, expensive, and reduce the amount of affordable housing. They coddle cruel tenants and persecute and endanger landlords. Once this happens to you, you’ll lose respect for those laws and will fear that part of the law and tenants the rest of your life.
Hopefully other states and countries are not drowning legal marathons. Our laws should be simple, sensible and fair. When a landlord wants to evict someone from his home, the legal part should be handled in a few hours by a qualified, PRIVATE arbitrator, and not cost over a week’s rent. #

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