If you’re looking to make extra income, renting out a room in your home can be a great way to do that. It can offer you passive income, and can even mean having some company (if you wind up befriending your roommate). Should you have more space than you need and less disposable cash than you want, renting out a room makes a lot of sense.
Of course, renting a room is very different from every other form of income in one major way: it means allowing your “customer” into your personal space. All day. Every day. Not many other passive forms of income – like investing or renting out your car – require that. In the best-case scenario, you adore your tenant and even become friends. More moderate scenarios involve a tenant who is a nuisance, plays music too loud, makes a mess, and is antisocial. We’ve all heard those horror stories. But, that’s nothing compared to a tenant who puts your safety at risk.
Anyone renting a room in their home must think about their personal safety when choosing a tenant, and when setting ground rules around the home. But women living alone must be particularly cautious about this. Applicants with less-than-good intentions may target single women for scams, or worse. Here are important tips for remaining safe if you’re a single woman renting a room in your home.
Ask if you can run a background check
This is a very common process and any applicant should be comfortable with it. If your applicant kicks up any sort of fuss or refuses to allow you to run a background check, move on to the next applicant. It’s never a good sign when someone takes issue with you running a background check. If you do run a background check and find something that you don’t like, move on to the next tenant.
Ask for multiple referrals
Ask for referrals, and ask for many. Again, you can be militant right now. You can be judgmental. You can be strict. Your personal safety is on the line. Ask for 10 references if you want. Anyone who has been able to hold a job and maintain personal relationships should be able to provide ten references. Anyone who cannot list ten people who could reliably say something nice about them…well, that’s something to worry about.
Use a smart door; not a key
One concern with renting a room is that you must typically give a copy of your house key, to your tenant. But they can make copies of those keys, without you knowing it. And you have to change the locks every time a tenant moves out. The best move is to skip the keys and just use a smart lock, so you can change the code when tenants leave.
Never feel pressured
Never feel pressured into accepting someone as a tenant. Listen to your intuition. It’s strong in women, and it speaks up for a reason. There are plenty of other housing opportunities out there for this individual. If you don’t feel he makes a good fit for your home, onto the next one. Guilt is no reason to put your personal safety at risk, but it’s an unfortunate reason many women often do just that.
Confirm tenant history
Ask about their last five to 10 years of tenant history. Get specific addresses, years lived there, and the name and phone number of their previous landlords. Call them. Make sure the landlords don’t say anything worrisome. Make sure the timelines the landlords say the tenant lived there line up with what the tenant wrote down. Beware of someone who has had to move around frequently. They may be a problematic tenant.
Only rent to women
Hey, this is your home. You are allowed to decide who you want in there. If you’re worried about violating equal housing laws, know that it is legal to specify the gender of a tenant if the tenant will be sharing communal spaces with you, such as a kitchen, living room, bathroom, etc. You cannot specify gender when renting a home in which you will not also dwell, but if you will be living there with the tenant, you can specify gender.
Only rent to one person at a time
You may feel the safest renting to just one person at a time. Couples may approach you, asking to rent your spare room. Or a pair of friends may ask to split the room. You can feel quickly overpowered in your own home that way. It can be best for household dynamics and for your safety that you only rent to one person at a time.
Require a sizeable deposit
Requiring a sizeable deposit can be a good way to avoid anyone who is looking to scam you, rob you, or give you trouble in making regular payments. It’s also a good way to ensure you can cover damages, should your tenant cause damage to your property. It’s much easier to hold onto part of a deposit you already have than to chase the tenant down for money after the damages have occurred.
Deadbolt your bedroom door
Put a deadbolt on your door and bolt it at night. Hopefully, you’ll never need to rely on this, and all your precautions in vetting your tenant will result in a tenant you like and trust. But it’s still for the best to keep yourself protected when you’re the most vulnerable – when you’re asleep.
Have friends drop by often
At least in the early weeks of having a new tenant, have your friends drop by often. It’s good to have your tenant see that you have people who check on you frequently. You should also introduce your tenant to all of your neighbors. It’s good for them to know who your tenant is, and recognize if someone who is not your tenant tries to enter your home.
Add a door sensor
Add a sensor to all entryways to the home. It’s important to know each time someone comes and goes from your home. This is particularly important when you have a roommate. You can become so used to the sound of someone coming and going, that you won’t pay attention if an intruder enters the house. A door sensor will notify you if a door opens when your roommate is asleep or out of town. And that is cause for alarm.
Install cameras inside and outside of your home. Notify your tenants that you have cameras. You cannot install them in their private areas like the bathroom or their bedroom. But it’s a good idea to regularly review footage to make sure your tenant isn’t doing anything that puts your safety at risk, like forgetting to lock the front door, or having guests over without your permission.
Do long-term over short-term
It’s best for your safety to do long-term rentals over short-term rentals. While you may not bring in quite as much income for long-term, at least you will have more consistent income. Most importantly, you don’t have to go through the process of vetting tenants every month or even several times a month. You can just vet one for a long-term stay, find someone you like, and not think about it again for a while.
Put valuables in a safe
Buy a safe and put your valuables inside of it. Keep it in your room, where you deadbolt the door at night. Don’t notify your tenant that you have a safe, since that only alerts them to the fact that you have valuables in the home. Choose a very random password that would be hard for someone to discover. Your tenant will learn a lot of things about you over time, like your birthday and date you adopted your pet, so don’t use these numbers as your password.
Have a no-guest rule
It could be for the best to have a no-guest rule for your tenant. Or, you can just have a no-guest rule for the first month or few months. If you find that you like and trust your tenant, then you can lift that rule. Even then, have a limit on how many guests can come over at a time.