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Lease Confidently with Rocket Lawyer

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Can I rent out just one room to someone and make rental income?

Yes, property owners generally have the right to lease out some or all of their property to earn rental income. If your property is subject to a homeowners’ association (HOA), check your HOA’s bylaws to make sure they allow members to rent out parts of their property.

If you rent, you may have the right to rent out part of the property you rent, depending on local laws and your lease terms. Check your lease for terms addressing your right to sublease your space and always be upfront with your landlord about your plans. At a minimum, you may be able to add a tenant to your existing lease as a roommate to reduce your rental expenses.

It is a good idea for both property owners and renters to formalize any rental agreement with a written Lease Agreement or Sublease Agreement. Consider asking a Rocket Lawyer network attorney to review your agreement to make sure you are protecting your rights.

How can I find a safe tenant?

The key to reducing risk when looking for a tenant is good information. Use a Rental Application to gather initial information and screen potential tenants. Perform a background check, including a credit check and confirm their employment, to gauge a potential tenant’s financial health. Ask for references from former roommates and landlords and call them to get an idea of how responsible and amicable the potential tenant is. Most importantly, interview the tenant over the phone and in person to assess whether you are likely to get along with them. 

Screening a potential renter is especially important if you plan to share space, or common areas, with them. In that situation, a bad renter can affect not only your finances but also your comfort in your own home.

What do I want in writing in the Lease Agreement?

A written agreement sets out the terms of the landlord-tenant relationship, making expectations clear, reducing the chance of conflict, and providing a means of holding tenants accountable if issues do arise. The more specific the Lease Agreement, the better it is able to address important terms such as:

  • Rent, including the amount, when it is due, and preferred payment methods.
  • Security deposit, including the amount, when it is scheduled to be returned, the method of return, and a list of examples of situations that would cause it not to be returned.
  • Whether it is a Month-to-Month Rental Agreement, or the expected duration, including when the lease begins and when it is set to end and what happens when it ends.
  • Utilities the tenant is responsible for, including any that may be shared.
  • How maintenance requests are handled.
  • Space allocation, including which parts of the property are leased to the tenant, which areas of the property are common spaces, and which areas are off-limits to the tenant.
  • What pets, if any, the tenant is allowed to have, as well as cleaning responsibilities before a tenant leaves. A separate Pet Application Form can solidify these additional terms.
  • The number of guests, if any, the tenant may have, as well as when guests are allowed to visit and how long they are allowed to stay.
  • House rules the tenant agrees to follow. 

If you plan to share space with your tenant, consider drafting a separate Roommate Agreement to govern situations such as cleaning responsibilities, shared storage space, and noise levels.

What size space can I legally rent out as a room in my home?

Many states, cities, and counties have legal requirements for rental space to be deemed livable or rentable. Though these rules vary by locality, they typically require that a space be a certain size, safe, accessible, and in good repair. For example, Florida requires that residential properties include at least one habitable room of at least 120 square feet and additional habitable rooms to be at least 70 square feet. Florida also requires a smoke alarm inside and directly outside each bedroom along with a clear emergency exit for each property.

Most localities make their housing codes readily available on their websites. If you’re having trouble finding yours, try searching online for the name of your locality plus housing code. Because local housing codes are required to align with state and national codes, you generally do not need to worry about finding additional codes. That said, you can always contact a Rocket Lawyer network attorney to help you ensure your property is up to code and ready to rent.

What are the keys to being a successful landlord?

Whether renting one room or multiple buildings, successful landlords are proactive, conscientious, and diligent. The following keys can help you secure valuable rental income while minimizing risk:

  • Know the law. Every state and most localities have detailed requirements that govern landlord-tenant relationships and housing rentals. Additionally, federal law imposes its own fair housing laws that forbid discrimination. Become familiar with the laws that govern your property to avoid liability and surprises.
  • Screen your tenants. Gather as much information from as many sources as possible about your tenant before leasing your property to them. Be sure any potential tenant can afford the rent and that they are likely to be responsible and respectful of you and your space. At the same time, be mindful of your tenant’s rights and privacy laws. Remember that respect runs both ways.
  • Put everything in writing. Use a written Lease Agreement or another agreement that suits your needs, such as a Sublease Agreement or Room Rental Agreement. Consider drafting a Roommate Agreement to cover more detailed living arrangements not suitable for the lease itself. Keep signed copies of these documents at your property and in another secure location. Get in the habit of writing up short summaries of verbal conversations with your tenant about rental conditions and keeping them with your records.
  • Protect yourself and your property. Consider adding landlord insurance to your homeowner’s insurance or, if you rent the lease space yourself, purchasing landlord insurance separately. Craft a clear plan of what to do in the event of conflict, up to and including evicting your tenant. For example, if a tenant pays their rent late, you may plan to issue a Late Rent Notice. A lawyer can help you craft this plan and give you peace of mind.

If you have more questions about renting out a room, or another space in your home, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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