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How to Take in a Boarder

Before you rent a room in your home, be sure to take a few precautions.


  • Step 1: Make sure it's legal Check with your city or county clerk's office to make sure that taking in roomers is legal in your area.
  • TIP: The difference between a roomer and a boarder is that the latter's deal used to include meals. Today, the terms are interchangeable.
  • Step 2: Know the score Know what you're getting into. Because a boarder is sharing your home, they are not legally considered a tenant. That means you are not entitled to help in evicting them from either the police or your local housing court. If there's a problem, you'll have to file in civil court to get them legally ejected.
  • TIP: Having your boarder sign a rental license from the landlord and tenant court may offer you some protection should you need help one day in evicting them.
  • Step 3: Seek referrals Contact the National Shared Housing Resource Center to see if your city or state has a nonprofit home-sharing service that will screen boarders for you. If not, ask friends, family, and members of your religious community if they can refer anyone.
  • Step 4: Compare lifestyles When interviewing prospects, compare your lifestyles and expectations. Discuss issues like smoking in the house, entertaining guests, pets, noise curfews, cleaning, and kitchen privileges.
  • Step 5: Practice due diligence Once you've found someone compatible, ask for references. Consider paying for a background check.
  • Step 6: Sign an agreement Write out all the house rules you agreed upon, sign the document, and ask them to do the same.
  • Step 7: Be gracious Be gracious to your new boarder. While it is still your home, remember that they are paying to live there, so afford them the proper privacy and respect.
  • FACT: Actress Carol Burnett grew up in a boarding house in Hollywood, California.

You Will Need

  • Referrals
  • A home-sharing service
  • Due diligence
  • A signed agreement
  • Graciousness
  • A rental license
  • A background check

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