How to read a "Room Wanted" Ad
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Are you thinking about renting a room in your house? Well why not, when Extra space + Paying person = More money for you! And bonus if you and your tenant get along well and enjoy each other's company. I've done this kind of arrangement from both sides, and it's worked well for everyone involved, mainly because we have all been working adults and treat the situation as a business relationship first and foremost.
Not everyone advertising here is an adult looking to make a business transaction for a place to live. So before you find yourself running the Sob Story Suites, take a close look at what people are saying in their ads, and what it really translates to:
"I'm looking for a hand up, not a handout"-
But if you look at what they are asking for, it's a handout.
"I'll pay you as soon as I get my (settlement, tax return, first paycheck, etc.)
Means - "I have no plan to pay you."
"Willing to work for rent" -
"...but not at an actual 9 to 5 job, you know?"
"Need a place NOW, urgent, emergency!" -
Means "I'm about to be evicted (or was evicted)" There are always reasons someone is evicted. Once in a while it isn't anything they did. But mostly it is due to something they did. Think about it.
"Must be near public transit"
Means - "My driver's license was suspended"
"Just need a little help getting back on my feet"
"Except I have never actually been on my feet in my whole adult life"
Means - more like "Drama, free". Expect all the drama you can handle, for free.
"I would like to house-sit for you"
Means - "I hope you think leaving someone you don't know in charge of your home and all your possessions while you're away is a great idea!" You may not have your home and possessions when you get back.
"Can't do a deposit or security"
Means - "Really can't afford rent either, but hopefully no one notices." Someone who is not able to come up with a security deposit or wants to pay weekly is not going to be reliable for rent. You'll get the first weeks rent, the second weeks rent will be 3 days late, the next week you may get 60% of the rent. There will be no shortage of sad, sad stories about how tough it is to make a buck out there though. Those stories are free and plentiful.
"Drug and alcohol free"
Means - Your home will certainly be drug and alcohol free once they raid the liquor cabinet and riffle through your prescription bottles.
"I need to get away from my horrible, horrible abusive ex-spouse/bf/gf/family"
Means - in reality, you are hearing once side of an undoubtedly complex story. And even if you're hearing the truth, it's not something you want in on. You didn't get hitched with a dangerous nut-ball. You're not responsible to fix it for someone who did. Keep in mind, the horrible, horrible ex is just a phone call away. If the tenant gets mad at some perceived slight from you, and the ex comes back into the picture? Or the ex just goes psycho one day? That's not a situation you want to have in your house. There are shelters which specialize in this kind of problem, complete with security and rules about who can visit and when. Leave it to the experts.
"Saving up for a place of my own"
Means - "I want my landlord to accept a reduced rent so I can get what I want, generally while enjoying quality 420 and ciggies that I miraculously can afford." You value the things YOU earn, not what someone else earns for you.
"I have my trained service dog with me"
Means - they will show up with an ill-tempered little Yapsalot, which invariably has food aggression issues, unreliable house-breaking and bad breath. Look, I love animals. I own animals. But animals are rough on a house. It's not fair to expect a cat will never scratch something, or a dog will never shed. It's unrealistic to expect a dog or cat can live cooped up all day. If you don't mind animals, it's your choice to rent to a pet owner. As far as "trained service dog", I'm not even so concerned about what its supposed service is, but it has to be trained. So show me your dog follows "sit", "down", "stay", "come", "leave it" and walks in a mannerly fashion on a leash. Any dog that doesn't know the basic commands is not a trained dog, service or otherwise. And it's not living in my house. Period.
"I'll cook and clean for you"
Means - "I'll eat anything I find in your fridge and may (or may not) clean the dishes in hopes you won't notice what's missing" Ya know, I could get $500 from an actual paying tenant, then hire a cleaning service to come in once every 2 weeks AND get a considerable amount of takeout. Since so many people seem to think there is a demand for someone to cook and clean, why not get a paying gig for that, and then come back with money and rent a room from me?
"I'm a handyman with years of experience"
But you're not licensed or able to make a business doing handyman service? Hey, I have a hammer and I'm happy to beat on things too. That doesn't make me a handyman. It doesn't make me qualified to fix something. One idiot with a power saw can potentially cause $1000's in damage to a home.
"Had my money (ID, personal belongings) stolen."
And I'll totally believe you when you show me a copy of the police report you filed.
"I'm a woman with 2 (3, 4, 5) young babies and shelters are full"
If you are a female with small children, you can get into shelter. You're at the top of the list to get into supportive housing. However, shelters have requirements. You can't use recreational pharmaceuticals, you can't come and go at all hours, you have to take classes, you have to watch your own kids, you have to look for employment. You have to be willing to follow rules. Rules that a private homeowner can't really enforce. Plus who is watching all these kids when you get a job? I'm looking for a tenant, not to start a daycare.
"I've got nowhere else to turn"-
"I've burnt every single bridge with friends and family."
"I'm a good Christian person..."
"I've burnt all the bridges at my church too, apparently." And expect to be regularly moralized at about how it's your Christian duty to take care of the poor. However, mention 2 Thessalonians 3:10, and watch their face scrunch up like an angry little sea sponge.
Once you have rented a room, you are potentially in a situation where you have to formally evict someone. That will take time and money and will cost you a lot of grief as well. Unless you are willing to stay home 24/7, do you really want someone living in the spare room while you are in the process of kicking them out? A lot of damage can be caused by a spiteful person living under your roof.
Be very cautious when accepting an agreement to have someone live in your home. Don't be in a hurry to rent. If you have a good place, you'll be able to get a good tenant. Ask for references from previous landlords or roomies. If they have none, ask yourself why. Ask for job references (and call the job, don't just call a number the person gives you). Background checks are not difficult or expensive to run.
Consider why they are looking for a place. Are they moving to the area? Are they students? Family situation change suddenly? Do they just want the advantages of living in a home without the mortgage and associated costs? Are they on the run from something (or someone)? Is it short term, or are they potentially in for "til death (or eviction) do us part"? What do traditional rentals go for in the area? All those, "I can only afford $200/mo" sad sacks are basically offering you $6 and change a day to come and go as they please in your house!
Write up a lease, there are many examples online to use as a foundation. Specify what responsibilities the tenant had for rent, maintenance/use of common areas, and rules for company or overnight guests at a minimum.
Everyone gets a bad break or two in their life. But someone who has one story after another of how they are always victims of fate and their fellow humans is not giving an accurate accounting of themselves. A sob story straight out of the gate is already an attempt to manipulate you. Manipulative people are going to bring you a lot of misery, not money.
Your home is your palace. And while you may have an urge to help someone in need, you are not a shelter or social service agency. Most of the folks out there with a sob story are not fixable by you.