Are Housemates the Solution to Lowering Your Housing Costs?

Massachusetts housing costs are very expensive — rent is expensive and the prospect of buying a home may seem completely out of bounds if you are single or on a limited income. Lately, we’ve been working with people who have tried to manage their housing costs by purchasing a property and renting rooms in their home out to others. While this can be a great way to offset some housing costs, there are some things you must consider.

  • How many rooms are you renting out? Many cities and towns have zoning rules which consider a residence who has 4 or more unrelated people living together (including the owner) to be a rooming house.  Rooming houses have zoning and other restrictions. Check with your municipality to determine the rules.
  • Have a written agreement. Not only should the lease include typical terms like the duration of the lease and the amount of rent, but include lifestyle rules.  Are pets allowed?  What about quiet hours? What are the rules regarding the kitchen? Does everyone need to have their own ketchup or can food be shared? When you are renting an apartment or a house, these things may not be as important (or may be completely irrelevant).  However, when you are sharing your house or condominium with someone, you need to consider what your day-to-day interactions are going to look like. You should also consider how the relationship ends. It might make sense that you or the other person can end the tenancy with 30 days’ notice.  While it diminishes certainty of income, it gives you the freedom to terminate a lease with a housemate who just is not working out.
  • Be up front with prospective housemates. If you host a dinner every Wednesday with your friends and they stay until 11 pm each week, then say so. If you want only to rent to vegetarians, be clear in your advertisement.
  • Be prepared to be a good housemate yourself. Think of housemates as permanent visitors. If you share your house with others, you must also be a considerate resident.
  • Make sure you handle any last month’s rent and security deposit correctly.