Whether you've recently moved to a new city and you need a place to live or you want to maximize savings and don't want to go through the process of collecting financial documents (think: pay stubs and tax returns), subletting a room can be advantageous. Maybe you're uncertain of how long you'll be located in a given destination, or perhaps your credit is shot and you want to find a room without needing to secure a co-cosigner. Regardless of your housing situation, before you search for a room for rent, keep these considerations, caveats and pro pointers in mind.
Understand the benefits and drawbacks of subletting a room. There are a few enticing propositions for prospective renters looking to forgo getting locked into a yearlong lease in favor of a month-to-month arrangement. For example, subletting a room often means not having to pay a security deposit or the last month's rent, which may be welcome news if you don't have much socked away in savings accounts. Plus, some landlords do not require a credit check.
"I thought I would have to go through a background check or provide something that would prove my income. They surprisingly did not ask for any of that," recalls Shane Lee, the founder of RentHop, a NYC-based apartment search site. That said, when Lee rented out a room in her apartment, she took a more careful and conscientious approach. "I asked all renters interested in renting the room to fill out a form, including contact information of their previous landlords, referrals and their annual gross income."
Regardless of the agreed-upon terms and conditions between you and your landlord, it's important to agree to a sublease for added legal protection to ensure you're not on the line for property damages that occurred prior to your move-in date. Another important consideration: your comfort level with sharing communal areas such as a kitchen and bathroom with roommates. After all, for all the flexibility renting a room affords, you still also may feel a lack of privacy living in someone else's home.
Utilize the internet and social media to find a room. When looking for a room to rent, instead of relying on one database, explore many reputable sources across the internet. As Sarah Hill, the founder of the NYC-based roommate-matching service Perfect Strangers, puts it: "There are a ton of resources for finding rooms for rent. There are websites like SpareRoom and the Roomi app, as well as many Facebook groups."
She suggests typing in "rooms for rent" in the Facebook Marketplace search engine and seeing what comes up. Roomster.com, EasyRoommate.com, PadMapper.com and FindRoommate.com are other websites and apps worth checking out. After providing details based on your specific needs and criteria, such as how many rooms you're looking for, your price range and your location, each online platform provides a listing of rooms or apartment units that match your preferences. And don't forget to crowdsource for leads among your friends and family members on social media to look for a room for rent for someone you trust.
Decide if you want a written agreement. You may discover that the person renting out a room has no contract for you to sign. Still, Lee suggests drawing up some sort of contract.
Kara Cook, a real estate attorney and co-founder of Cook & James, a closing services company in Atlanta, also recommends getting an agreement in writing. Sure, you may think of a written agreement as a document that protects the landlord, but it will also protect you, too.
"Even though you may only be renting a room, you need to make sure you have a signed lease agreement, which should not only outline the rental amount, but also any requirements or restrictions expected from the landlord, like will they allow overnight guests and other details," Cook says. "You also want to define how utilities will be handled. Typically, if you're renting just a room, that would be included in the rental rate since it's difficult to determine an individual rate when utilities are shared throughout the home."
Determine if you will be a boarder or a tenant. "This varies from state to state, but you'll want to establish whether you're considered a boarder or a tenant," Cook says. This isn't just semantics. "A tenant has exclusive right to use the property in exchange for rental payments. A boarder pays in exchange for the right to occupy the room and perhaps share other spaces and typically has fewer legal protections," Cook explains.
Most states have detailed laws that regulate how a lease can be terminated between landlord and tenant, Cook says. "In the case of a boarder, however, the landlord may only have to give notice commensurate with the time period for which rent is paid. For example, if rent is paid weekly, only a week's notice may be required for termination."
Remember: Communication is key. Though not every prospective apartment-seeker is going to rent a room in as formal and professional a manner, even if you skip crafting a written agreement, you should (at the minimum) discuss agreed-upon rules and requirements. Talk about your living habits, your work schedules, if you'll be able to use the refrigerator and other important details. Do you have a pet? If so, you'll also want to discuss pet restrictions. Other questions to ask before you move in: Will I have roommates? Can I expect the room to be furnished?
And if you are subletting, "it's crucial to have a signed contract before sending any money," Hill says. "You want to make sure the contract lists the full name of the person you are renting from, the address and unit of the apartment, who the landlord is, length of stay, the monthly rent (amount), how much you paid in security deposit and terms on receiving that back, termination, splitting utilities and so on."
She also cautions that if you are subletting, "you have to be super careful that it's not a scam. If you didn't see the apartment in person, you want to make sure you had someone else view it on your behalf to make sure it's legit." Listen to your intuition. If you're not allowed to see the room before you rent it, that's a telltale sign of a scam.
And never send anyone any money electronically before viewing the place in person, Hill advises. That could be a big mistake if you're dealing with somebody shady. So be careful; when you're going through the process of finding a room for rent, there's plenty of room for error.
Renting is in, and so are amenities.
More people than ever are renting rather than owning, with more than 35 percent of Americans living in rented housing as of 2014, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. To compete with the growing number of rental opportunities in the U.S., many apartment communities are upping the ante with luxurious amenities that make living easier, more convenient and more fun. While resort-style pools, movie theaters and recreational spaces are becoming the standard, many places are going above and beyond to appeal to residents looking to rent in the area. Here are eight apartment amenities you never knew you needed – until now.Making fitness fun
Making fitness fun
Full fitness facilities, complete with treadmills, weightlifting machines and free weights, are quickly becoming standard for many apartment communities. Even buildings without space to accommodate a small gym often offer discounted memberships to nearby gyms. But at The Lorenzo in Los Angeles, residents get to take advantage of more recreational fitness options, with a rock wall and indoor soccer field on the premises. As off-campus student housing for the University of Southern California, The Lorenzo's student residents don’t have to worry about reserving on-campus facilities for a pickup game or quick climb in their free time.Water features for everyone
Water features for everyone
Pools are quickly becoming a staple for even midsize apartment communities. And while some aim for terrific views and lap lanes, others are reaching beyond their own walls. The Villages of Parklands in the District of Columbia, owned by property management and development company WC Smith, includes a splash park that's open to community residents and the surrounding neighborhood. “It’s something that’s not just a high-end amenity for people with lots of disposable income,” says Anne Marie Bairstow, vice president of marketing at communications at WC Smith.Tuneup space for two wheels
Tuneup space for two wheels
Particularly in major cities where parking can be expensive, residents take to bicycles for their commute to and from work as well as pedal around the city for recreation and exercise. AVA Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, owned by AvalonBay Communities Inc., helps its biking residents stay on two wheels with bike storage and a repair station, which includes a lift to make it easy to work on your bike and any tools you might need to make improvements and repairs. Residents take full advantage of the facility, says Juan Rodriguez, sales and service supervisor at AVA Little Tokyo. “The storage itself is pretty much always full,” he says.Pets as a priority
Pets as a priority
Pet-friendly apartments are in high demand for renters who want to ensure comfort for the furriest members of their family, but at 2M apartments in the District of Columbia, also owned by WC Smith, pet residents get their own representation. Emmy, an English bulldog owned by the property manager, is the official “pet ambassador.” She regularly draws residents into the management office for a quick pet and playtime while also highlighting the building’s pet-positive attitude and private courtyard for dog walking. “Dogs just make friends, and so everybody that has a dog knows the other dog owners, and it really helps to build the community,” Bairstow says.Living in a luxury hotel setting
Living in a luxury hotel setting
If you’re going to live in luxury, why not live like you’re in a high-end hotel? Residents at The Atlantic Midtown in Atlanta can opt to purchase concierge-arranged services, from housekeeping to dog walking to room service. While anyone can hire similar services themselves, the added hotel-like concierge service removes items from your to-do list and relieves the stress of finding the right vendor.Swinging for the greens year-round
Swinging for the greens year-round
Luxury communities throughout the country have been tapping into their residents’ love of golf. While some add small putting courses and even a sand trap or two, others go a little further. At AMLI River North in Chicago, owned by AMLI Residential, golfers don’t have to put away the clubs once winter hits. The community has a golf simulator for golfers to practice their swing whether it’s snowing outside or it’s tough to get a tee time at nearby courses.Facilities for your fruit of the vine
Facilities for your fruit of the vine
Forget wine bottles lining your countertop or even a wine cooler in your kitchen. Lincoln Property Company's Highgrove apartments in Stamford, Connecticut, appeals to wine aficionados with a private space for each residence in a climate-controlled wine cellar. The community confirms most residents take advantage of the wine cellar, which offers space for roughly 30 to 40 bottles per household. Thanks to this free amenity included with renting in the community, wine lovers avoid having to go elsewhere to store their favorite wines that are best served with a little extra care.An eye for art
An eye for art
As amenities like fresh coffee and business centers with free Wi-Fi draw residents into common areas, property managers and owners know they have to make the spaces as appealing and entertaining as possible – which is one reason curated art collections are popping up in luxury communities around the country. Communities like Jasper in San Francisco feature art throughout their lobbies, mail rooms and other common spaces. The art displayed in Jasper "tells a story of a contemporary San Francisco 21st century style with a nod to its film noir history," according to a statement from Jasper's art curator, Maria Di Grande. The collection includes commissioned collages as well as street photography.Read More
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Williams got his start working in entertainment reporting in 1993, as an associate editor at "BOP," a teen entertainment magazine, and freelancing for publications, including Entertainment Weekly. He later moved to Ohio and worked for several years as a part-time features reporter at The Cincinnati Post and continued freelancing. His articles have been featured in outlets such as Life magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cincinnati Magazine and Ohio Magazine.
For the past 15 years, Williams has specialized in personal finance and small business issues. His articles on personal finance and business have appeared in CNNMoney.com, The Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes.com and American Express OPEN Forum. Williams is also the author of several books, including "Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever" and "C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America"
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Williams lives in Loveland, Ohio, with his two teenage daughters and is a graduate of Indiana University. To learn more about Geoff Williams, you can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow his Twitter page.