Sharing a House
Successfully Living with a Roommate
Savings for Singles
I am considering sharing my house with a friend. I would charge the friend a nominal rent for an extra bedroom I have plus use of the kitchen, laundry, etc. Has anyone done this to make some extra money? Any tips or help from your own experience would be appreciated.
My husband and I have taken in three housemates to go along with our three extra bedrooms. This has allowed us to comfortably afford a house payment on one income while being students. My suggestions are that everyone has at least one chore that is part of the household cleaning in main living areas and that a schedule is created for kitchen and laundry privileges. We have been doing this for almost a year and it has been great. They pay $750 of our $950 mortgage!
Having a written agreement keeps things clear and can avoid potential misunderstandings regarding all sorts of household and money issues. Spell out terms (month-to-month or longer), monthly payments and if a security deposit is required. Also include whether or not you will require an advance notice if your friend decides to move out and how much notice you'll need. Even though it sounds like a big bother since your potential housemate is a friend, it's especially important since friendships have been broken up forever because of arrangements like this.
Bernadine in Massachusetts
My husband and I have had several roommates over the years for short periods of time to make some extra money and help the friend out. I think the key is keeping it short term (one year or less). Because no matter who the person is and how much you like them, after a time, you just want your own space and quiet house back. It was critical for us that the roommate had his/her own bathroom. We have a master bath so the roommate pretty much took over the guest bathroom. We agreed up front that they would keep it clean, but whenever I was having company, I usually had to do some last minute sprucing up.
The kitchen can also be a trouble area unless you can work out a schedule so you aren't trying to fix two different dinners at the same time. We cleared off two shelves in the refrigerator exclusively for the roommate and we never touched each other's food. We also had to be bold and say something when the roommate was wasting hot water, leaving wet towels on the hardwood floors, etc. It can be a challenge having someone in your home that doesn't have the same house rules that you have. Just come up with a strategy up front. Be frank with your friend and let her know that you need to be free to communicate house rules if there's ever a problem.
We charged one of our renters $300 per month, which included utilities, laundry use, and her own bedroom. Another renter was only there four days per week so we charged her $200 per month. We found that it actually cost us around $75 or more extra if they're home during the day using electricity and water.
We have enjoyed the extra income from a renter for short periods over the years and will probably do it again. But we're better friends with the person after they move out. It definitely impacts your friendship until you work all the kinks out.
I would like to warn the reader that she would be legally required to pay income tax on the rent. Most people don't think of this before they rent a room in their home, and it takes a big chunk out of the money.
How do the two of you compare in neatness, loudness, sleeping hours, tolerances for various things, etc.? For example, I don't care if someone stays up late being loud or is home all the time or out all the time or keeps their own room very untidy or (now that I'm doing better financially) is a bit late with the rent occasionally. However, I'm not so good with people who dirty up dishes and take more than 24 hours to get to them or people who have the TV on all the time. If you're not compatible as housemates, you are endangering your friendship to invite your friend to live with you.
It is also important to discuss each other's expectations. Neither one of you wants to feel like your friend is intruding into your personal space. Will all of your friend's things have to fit into the rented room? How will you share chores? Will one cook and the other do dishes? What about pets? Are you doing this mostly to save money, or are you also looking forward to having your friend's company?
I would recommend that you suggest a trial period. It is very tough to have to throw a friend out if things don't work out. Perhaps you suggest that your friend stay with you until the end of the year. Don't leave it open-ended; this will box you in. Then, after a few months, if you feel it is working, you can invite your friend to stay longer. If you feel that it isn't working, you can still part friends because you have only committed to a short-term relationship.
A friend of mine recently went through a frustrating ordeal because someone he had allowed to move in refused to move out when the friendship soured. The police here in Illinois said that they could do nothing to remove a person who has worn out his or her welcome. Landlords may have rights as outlined in a lease or according to state tenancy laws, but individuals who let others move into their own dwellings can risk difficulty in convincing them to leave.
A written contract drawn up by a lawyer or at least stamped by a notary public and signed by all parties involved might afford some protection, particularly if it names a specific "moving out" date.
If you define housekeeping roles, financial responsibilities and other "house rules" up front, it should help prevent many conflicts. When problems arise, address them promptly and calmly. Allowing resentments to build up into arguments can make living with anyone a miserable experience.
After taking in several relatives from both sides of our families and a couple of friends as houseguests, we have learned by experience not to do it again without first writing up a contract. Regardless of how much you think you know a person, you will be surprised by how much you didn't know once they have moved in and lived with you for awhile. Here are a few things to consider including into your contract:
Duration of the contract - Begin with a renewable contract of three to six months in duration. That is a reasonable amount of time to really get to know the person's personality, character, habits, etc. If there are no surprises, then go ahead and extend the next contract out for a longer period of time. Review and update the contract, if needed, at each renewal period. Also, have a witness sign the contract.
Deposit - A deposit is for your protection. Maybe your friend keeps everything white-gloved clean. That's great! However, are they financially responsible when it comes to paying their part of the utility, phone, garbage, and cable bills? A deposit can help pay for the bill if your housemate moves out prior to the bill arriving.
Bills - Clearly state what bills your housemate will be responsible for paying. Include the monthly payments, if known, the due dates, and if the money should be paid directly to you or the company. Also, list the consequences of not paying the bills in full and on time.
Groceries - Sharing each other's food should be an exception, not the rule. Making your housemate responsible to purchase her own groceries will help prevent a number of problems. Specify which cabinets, pantry shelves, and refrigerator space your housemate can use as their own. Have them purchase their own toiletries, cleaning, and laundry products as well.
Laundry - Designate laundry days and times. You don't want the laundry going on early Sunday morning when you are trying to sleep in, or habitually at midnight.
House cleaning - Be specific on how often and in what ways you want the bathroom, bedroom, laundry room, kitchen and family room cleaned.
House rules - Let your housemate know if you do not allow pets, smoking, drinking, or parties in your home. Furthermore, are they allowed to bring guests? If so, how many at one time, and until how late in the evening? Can their guests spend the night? For how many nights? Would you like your housemate to ask permission before borrowing your things? Is there anything in particular that is not to be touched at all?
You may come up with other things as time passes. Either amend the contract or wait to make changes upon its renewal. Having a contract helps to eliminate a lot of heartaches and headaches down the road.
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