Many people who are in dire financial straits think about taking in boarders as a way meet monthly expenses. This potential income stream requires care in communicating the home rules for a positive living arrangement for both landlord and tenant. Take steps to prepare the home before a boarder is welcomed to save some frustration and avoid unnecessary expenses.
Inventory the Home
Make an inventory of the rooms that will be utilized by the boarder in the home. Note the things that can be used or borrowed. If there are fragile, breakable or expensive items, consider moving them out of heavy-traffic areas. A boarder won't be able to identify the family treasures or antiques and will need to have them pointed out. Limit access to rooms by either communicating to the boarder the "family-only" areas or by locking the door.
For each additional person in the home, expect a 10 percent to 25 percent increase in utility usage. Control expenses by installing a tamper-proof thermostat that can be set in advance for temperature control throughout the year.
Lower the temperature on the hot-water tank. The additional use of the tank requires more heating of the water. Lowering the temperature keeps the heater from burning more fuel.
Install energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the house. Keep spare bulbs available for lamps the boarder may use.
Remove the long-distance calling feature on the home phone line. Use a cell phone or calling card for long-distance calling.
Ask questions of the boarder during the interview process. Find out his typical schedule and work hours. Listen for conflicts in the household schedule and discuss how to avoid them. Inform the boarder that there is a cost for lost keys. Also make sure the boarder knows where to park in the neighborhood, is aware of parking restrictions and informed about appropriate noise levels. If there are pets in the home, make sure the boarder is not allergic, fearful or disdainful of animals.
Care of House Rules
Be detailed and repetitive in communicating your house rules with boarders in two ways. Verbally review them with the boarder. Then, print out the rules and make a copy for the boarder, and post the other in the laundry, utility room or garage. Require a deposit for items that may be damaged or broken. It can be a set amount, which should be about the cost of a month's rent.
Remember to include kitchen, bathroom and bedroom cleaning practices and schedules. Tell the boarder where and how to load the dishwasher, when to empty the trash, where to find cleaning supplies, and what is expected or provided to him. Maintenance of floors, walls, bedding and bathroom all need to be written out, and explain who is responsible for cleaning them. Label the cleaning equipment and supplies.
Setting Visitor and Neighbor Rules
Consider the neighborhood, the family schedule and what time the family retires each night. Set a noise-level limit for the boarder's room. Don't just say "no loud music"--make sure the boarder understands the noise-level limits by demonstrating appropriate and inappropriate volumes. Be clear about the rules for the boarder's visitors and overnight or extended stays.
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