Renting out a room in your home: Tips for finding a great housemate
19 October 2023
If you’ve got a spare room in your home, maybe you’ve thought about renting it out. And with plenty of people looking for a great place to live, it’s a win-win situation – you get to offset your rent or mortgage costs, while your new flatmate gets somewhere to live.
While it might sound like a perfect scenario, there’s an art to finding a great housemate.
What’s the difference between a tenant and a housemate?
The terms ‘tenant’ and ‘housemate’ – or roommate, flatmate etc – refer to people living in a shared accommodation and are often used interchangeably. However, they mean very different things.
While this article is about finding a great housemate, it’s important to understand the difference between a tenant and a housemate.
A tenant has an agreement with the property owner or property manager to rent and live in a property. This agreement is usually a lease or a rental agreement. The tenant has specific rights and responsibilities outlined in this agreement, including paying rent on time, taking care of the property and sticking to the terms of the lease.
A housemate shares a living space with others in a rental property and may or may not have a formal agreement in place. They often share the rent and household expenses and their living arrangement is typically less formal than that of a tenant.
Tips to help you find a great housemate
Ask friends first
It makes sense to ask friends or family when looking for a housemate. It’s a safe and easy way to find someone, as you’ll have a good idea what they’re like and whether you’ll get along.
If friends aren’t an option and you’re going to advertise online or use your extended social network to search, proceed with caution. After all, you’re giving someone access to your home, belongings and family, so always screen people carefully.
Be clear about the space
Tell your new housemate exactly what to expect. Is the room or wardrobe space small? Will they have to share a bathroom? If you don’t want pets inside, smoking or constant visitors, let them know.
On the flipside, be polite and let them know about any aspects of your lifestyle which may impact their comfort. Do you work from home, get up early for the gym or have a partner who stays regularly? Make sure your housemate knows these things in advance so there’s no surprises.
Place an ad online
Never include your full name or address in any online ad you may consider. It’s okay to just include your first name and suburb, along with your mobile or a generic email address.
Get the full story
Make sure you get all the necessary details from anyone who’s interested. No need to get their life story but ask a few questions about their job, ability to pay rent, rental history and rental referees.
Be sure to call referees and do a background check. Dodgy tenants often rely on people not bothering to check, so do your due diligence. Listen to your gut – if you get a bad feeling about somebody, don’t ignore it.
Get it in writing
Once you’ve found the perfect person, get the agreement in writing.
Whether you own or are renting the property, you should have an agreement which covers things like the amount of rent, how often it’s due, how utilities are to be shared and if there’s a household kitty for food and other expenses.
Make them feel at home
Your new housemate is doing more than just renting a room – the place has now become their home. It’s important to give them space for their belongings and their own set of keys.
Allocate them space in the common areas of the house like kitchen benches, fridge, pantry, bathroom, loungeroom and laundry.
Check your home insurance cover
Double check your Home Insurance policy to see if it provides cover when you have a housemate. Suncorp Insurance customers can check policy info and update their details via the Suncorp Insurance App, My Suncorp account or contact us to see if you’re covered.
Renting out a spare room in your home can be mutually beneficial. But you need to get it right from the start by looking at everything with a clear mind and deciding if this is the right move for you.
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