Renting out a room in a house can be a great, cheap rental option. However, you'll need to give up some privacy and abide by your housemate's rules. If you don't do your homework, your living situation could end up being more trouble than it's worth. Vet potential housemates carefully and make sure you understand the house rules in advance.
Renting a room is often cheaper than renting an entire apartment. Additionally, rented rooms often come furnished. You also get the benefit of living in a single-family residence with a private yard without the associated cost of owning the home. To figure out how much you should spend on a rented room, search Craigslist and the classified section of the local paper. This will give you a sense of how much landlords in a neighborhood are charging for an entire apartment and a rented room.
Before you agree to rent a room, think carefully about your privacy and space needs. How will you share communal spaces like kitchens and bathrooms? Do you need to purchase renters insurance to cover your personal belongings? Will your personalities match well enough so you can live in such close quarters with this person? Consider starting with a short-term lease to test out the arrangement before you commit to a year-long gig.
Vetting a Housemate
Since you'll be living in close quarters, you will want to vet your potential housemate thoroughly. Before you sign a lease, discuss how you'll share the space. Does your landlord expect you to follow a curfew? Will he set quiet hours? Discuss how you will share the common areas and if there are any regulations about bringing a guest to the home. You should also review your landlord's expectations about smoking, pets, illegal substances and chores or housekeeping duties. Your lease should lay out clear rules about what parts of the house are off limits, what hours are quiet hours and whether you can have guests.
Though renting a room can feel like a casual arrangement, it's not. It's a business transaction, and as a tenant you should expect to sign a lease before you move in. Before you sign, review your state and municipality renting regulations. Even though its his home, your landlord must follow your municipalities' renting requirements. That means there may be guidelines about how much notice he must give before eviction, what he can and can't use your security deposit for and what basic tenant rights you're entitled to.
John Louis is an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C. He attended Columbia University, where he was editor-in-chief of the "Columbia Spectator." He is currently studying law at Georgetown University.