How To Rent Out Your Basement

If you own a home with an extra room, you could be sitting on a potential easy income stream. The proposition of taking in a boarder could be especially attractive to those who have basements, since the relative privacy of the bottom floor makes renting the room out less intrusive.

In a two part series, Young And Thrifty suggests things to consider when putting your basement up for rent.

Before you get going, you need to step back and evaluate your financial situation and household dynamics, as well as goals that renting your basement could help you reach. If you decide to proceed, the first step is to make your basement an attractive rental by decking it out with all the accouterments that someone living there would want.

Next you’ll have to decide whether or not to include utilities in the rent. When posting ads for your rental, the post recommends putting up a lot of pictures to give prospective renters an idea of how your place looks. Be prepared to host plenty of tours and in-depth interviews with potential boarders in order to make sure you’re a proper match.

Check out the posts for in-depth advice.

How to Rent our Your Basement Suite: Part I [Young And Thrifty]

How to Rent our Your Basement Suite: Part II [Young And Thrifty]

Comments

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  1. wellfleet says:

    This is a Canadian website, but I can’t stress enough the tip in part I about making sure it is legal for you to rent out your basement and that the extra room is up to code. Depending on your state, illegally renting a room that isn’t up to code is a pretty big deal. Also, if you have trouble with your renter, it may become tricky to take them to court if you then have to admit you have an illegal rental unit.

    • rekoil says:

      +1. In San Francisco, for instance, a renter in an illegal apartment can sue his/her landlord for all of the rent they have paid to date if the landlord is cited and forced to evict.

    • ole1845 says:

      There’s a big difference between getting a roommate and turning part of your home into an apartment. Getting a roommate (boarder) is always legal. Creating an apartment in an area zoned single family is not.

      • masterz says:

        In many cases it is illegal to have anyone living in a basement. You may not be allowed to have a kitchen below ground, and will need two means of egress.

        • Conformist138 says:

          Tell that to people around here. TONS of basements have legit bedrooms in them. The only thing is windows- they must be large enough for a grown human to escape through them.

  2. sven.kirk says:

    This post should have been fleshed out more. There is a lot more than just that. How about talking to a real estate lawyer first to find out if you can do this legally. Some cities have laws against this.

  3. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    I’ve tried this before, but my ad offering to rent a room to a “20-something bisexual exhibitionist stewardess with with a whipped cream fetish and several hot girlfriends” has so far gone unanswered.

    So…I should include utilities?

    • Quirk Sugarplum says:

      Ageism!

    • TasteyCat says:

      Did you try Craigslist?

      • stinerman says:

        Oddly enough, that’d get him in trouble as well. If you put a sex preference in your listing, it’ll be taken down as not compliant with the Equal Housing laws/etc.

        • Clyde Barrow says:

          Trouble with the EEO? Nah,,,not if the EEO office has the woman that is a “20-something bisexual exhibitionist stewardess with with a whipped cream fetish and several hot girlfriends”.

          He’ll be good to go!

        • kelcema says:

          It doesn’t actually state that the applicant needs to be female. You’re possibly assume that from “stewardess,” but it doesn’t actually come out and say “Looking for a FEMALE bisexual etc”

  4. deathbecomesme says:

    Sooo…..I gotta clean out those dead bodies then?

  5. Darrone says:

    “the first step is to make your basement an attractive rental by decking it out with all the accouterments that someone living there would want.”

    SO WRONG. How about checking the legal of the structure for rent? Does it meet, or an it be brought to meet, fire codes? Does your neighborhood ordinance allow for renting out a basement?

    This article takes the broadest strokes, and ignores the most crucial points. DO YOUR RESEARCH, and don’t read this article.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      EXACTLY. One big thing that if you turn a basement into a rental that doesn’t apply to just having a basement as a living area is you need a means of egress from the basement to the outside. I.e. The windows and window wells need to be large enough for someone to use them as an exit if a bedroom exists in the basement. If you aren’t handy enough to do this on your own, you are going to spend a bit in renovation costs. And that’s just the one I knew off the top of my head from watching DIY and HGTV.

  6. RandomHookup says:

    Not legal where I live unless you have zoning and code approval, but I have rented out storage in the basement and I used to have a band practicing there.

  7. balthisar says:

    From the FA: “My mother (she is quite the nonassertive individual) has a tenant in one of her rental properties who plays the radio for most of the day for his pet birds. Her electricity bills are pretty high because of this.”

    I kind of doubt the writer’s credibility at this point. How much energy does a radio consume? If it’s for birds, I’m doubting that we’re talking about 7.1 x 1000 watt speakers here.

    Okay, I can’t doubt all of his/her credibility. If it’s legal in your area, then most of those are good tips. It’s just that, uh, stupid logic (assigning high bills to a single radio) drives me nuts. This is the type of person who would complain about high bills because I buy a 55″ plasma instead of an LCD television, or runs a desktop processor instead of a mobile processor.

    • caradrake says:

      I also laugh at people who freak out if a light is left on for a few extra minutes and claim their bill is hundreds of dollars higher because of lights left on.

      Unless you are growing something you probably shouldn’t be, there is something very wrong if your lights have that much of an affect on your bill.

      • thompson says:

        The only way to significantly impact your electric bill is to address the things that get hotter, or the things that get colder. Water heaters, home heating, clothes dryer, fridge, freezer, A/C.

        In lighting, you can probably see a decent percentage benefit by switching to all CFL lighting. But yeah, leaving a light on for a few hours isn’t going to be a major percentage of your bill. Even leakage from chargers / standby devices isn’t likely to be significant, at least in comparison to the hot/cold stuff.

        • smo0 says:

          I was told that off items still plugged into the wall drain electricity, is that true?

          • GoldVRod says:

            You should ensure your wall drain is free of plugs. Or it won’t drain.

            /Rimshot.

          • TheMansfieldMauler says:

            Yes and no.

            Most electronics nowadays do have some kind of standby mode that they’re in when plugged in. Your regular old blender probably isn’t using any electricity when plugged in, but your DVD player is. An older washing machine doesn’t use any, but a new one with a digital readout does.

            Having said that, there was a study done in the UK I believe after some nanny state authority started telling people to unplug all their electronics, and it found that the typical home leaving a couple of TVs, DVD players, cable box, a couple radios, etc. plugged in on standby used something like $8 worth of electricity for an entire year.

            • zz9 says:

              The UK “nanny state” doesn’t make you get a licence or permit to let out a room or basement. It’s your house. You can rent part of it out. It’s none of the local council/town/city business.

              • It's So Cold in the D says:

                Wrong. You have to apply for a HMO license for properties where any common areas exist. It is the local council and governments business, and they are able to assess and inspect as necessary.

                • zz9 says:

                  Wrong actually. This article is talking about owner/occupier landlords. No HMO licence is needed to rent out a room, annex or basement to up to two people as long as the landlord lives at the property as their main residence.

              • misterfweem says:

                How ’bout them TV licenses?

                • zz9 says:

                  Great BBC TV channels with no adverts? That’s great thank you very much! An “hour long” programme on the BBC lasts 59 minutes compared to the 40 minutes a US “hour long” show lasts.

                  And compared to many of the other countries that have a TV licence ours is very reasonable. Germany’s TV licence is $300 a year, Switzerland’s is $470! The UK one is $220.
                  Quite a few countries even make people buy a broadband licence or a smartphone licence if they don’t have a TV.

                  • shepd says:

                    Sounds like a great idea. Personally, I have a penchant for watching really bad B-movies at the theater. I don’t watch BBC. I figure you don’t mind paying $220 a year for me to do that, yes?

                    It’s only fair!

                    • zz9 says:

                      If you like watching classic or rare movies then the BFI receives taxpayer subsidies to support its cinemas, at a far higher cost-per-customer than the BBC. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Film_Institute
                      Ballet, opera and the arts also receive subsidies, again far more than the BBC on a cost-per-view basis.

                    • shepd says:

                      Unfortunately, that the opposite of what I enjoy.

                      I’m more into sci-fi schlock. Last movie that I really enjoyed was “Skyline”.

                      I suppose the BBC did create Doctor Who and Red Dwarf, but oddly enough, I never really enjoyed them all that much (Nothing to do with my distaste for state media, just honestly didn’t enjoy them). I’ll give them another go someday, I suppose. I was going to give “The Prisoner” thumbs up for BBC, but turns out BBC didn’t have anything to do with it.

                • DarthCoven says:

                  I’d gladly pay a “telly tax” if it meant PBS and NPR could put out the same quality goodness that the BBC puts out.

                  No American version of Doctor Who, though. The US Top Gear is atrocious enough…

                • Kate says:

                  You have free cable?

                  • DarthCoven says:

                    Let’s clarify. The “telly tax” license being discussed is levied on any home that owns a television. Doesn’t matter if you have it plugged in to cable or taking over the air signal via rabbit ears.

          • Megalomania says:

            usually it’s about 2-3W of draw per item, which is roughly $2-3 per year. Basically, if it plugs in and you don’t physically switch it off, it’s probably drawing idle power. Odds are you’re paying a couple extra dollars on each month’s bill, but probably not more than $100 a year.

    • GoldVRod says:

      To be fair a plasma does draw quite a bit more than an LCD – probably 2-3 times as much. A big plasma draws the equivalent of three to five 100w light bulbs, or half a microwave if you like. So 500 Watts IS a lot compared to 200 or so from an LCD.

      But it’s still not that much unless you leave the TV on 24/7 and if you do it’s a wash as you’ll save money on heating because a) a plasma TV puts out some heat and b) it probably will have caught fire by month two.

      • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

        Newer plasmas are much less thirsty. My 59 inch Samsung draws 183 watts. That’a less than two 100 watt bulbs.

        • Clyde Barrow says:

          @”maltboy wonders if zombie possums play dead”; I bought a new 55″ Samsung plasma back in August and it hasn’t increased my total light bill very much. I agree.

  8. CosmosHuman says:

    I once lived in a small apt building that contained five units. I lived in the basement (aka English basement) apartment; which was just fine with me. The landlord was the cheapest SOB I have ever met. He was there everyday and kept a log book of the water usage. They were all 2 bedroom apts with only one person living in each unit except for me as I had a small child. The only utilities that were included were water, sewage, hot water, and garbage removal.

    He then decided to sell the building and decided to get rid of all the tenants, so he raised the rent by $100.00. So I had to move. One lady there was a tenant for over 15 years. The law states he needs to give me 24 hours notice to show the place; which never happened. I was half naked when he barged in with someone in a suit. He also decided to turn off the hot and cold water at times, without notice. Someone living above me was completely scalded when he shut off the cold water when they were taking a shower.

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      Apparently his time wasn’t worth very much, if he chose to use a chunk of it every day monitoring the water usage.

      • CosmosHuman says:

        he was a cratchity old man.

        • Kate says:

          He was an insane old man.

          • MrEvil says:

            More like an incredibly stupid old man. He could have just taken out the included water when leases came up for renewal then taken the water bill for the entire building and divide it by square foot and charge each tenant every month for water usage based upon their square footage. That’s what my complex does for water and gas since they can’t sub-meter.

            I don’t understand why people have to be such tightwads when the can easily solve their issues with a little arithmetic.

    • tinmanx says:

      If it was me, I’d become a bad tenant real quick. Not sure where your from, but in NYC it takes a year in court to kick out a bad tenant.

  9. Ablinkin says:

    This is all fine and dandy if you get a good renter. Then there is the tenant straight from Hell who will make your life as a landlord a nightmare come true. This type uses all the renter protection laws to live rent free in your basement and doesn’t give a rip that he/she is costing you money.

    To include utilities is just ridiculous. I once rented a house with a mother-in-law house in the back yard. The smaller house was attached to the larger house’s electricity. The landlord used a reasoning of “well you’re the bigger house so you should pay 75% of the bill”. Well after a couple months of that stupid reasoning and seeing HUGE electric bills I moved out. He wouldn’t budge on his calculations or convince the family in the smaller house to shut some things off. It probably was an illegal rental to begin with.

    • It's So Cold in the D says:

      Wait, first you suggest that utilities shouldn’t be included and then included an example of why tenant-paid utilities aren’t good. Dividing utilities based on use isn’t typically feasible in most scenarios. That means constructing a separate box. Although, I was also in a house where we found out after having a problem with the electricity that a single bedroom next door was wired to our box. Our landlord offered to cover a partial amount until it was corrected, but whose on the electricity really can lead to some scummy practices.

  10. maxhobbs says:

    But don’t you have to kid your 35 year old son out first?

  11. Jane_Gage says:

    Mold, check check check. Noisy washer and dryer, check. Dimly-lit staircase with rotting risers, check. No natural light whatsoever, check. Rodent problem, check.

  12. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I don’t have a basement; I have a crawlspace. I suppose I could rent it to some cartoon mice.

  13. menty666 says:

    You need to look into the exit strategy first to find out how you’d go about removing a problem tenant. Not everyone is the best renter and you may need them out. How much notice can you give? Do you have recourse if they aren’t paying? What actions can they take against you to stall? How much can you raise rent if need be? How often?

    Getting someone in is easy. Getting a problem tenant who suddenly loses their job and can’t pay out is a whole other ball game and the game isn’t exactly stacked in the landlord’s favor.

  14. RiverStyX says:

    Try catering to serial killers, they always need space to bury last night’s evidence. We..I mean They..pay in cash..Provided there are no questions asked, you don’t know how to file a police report, and you don’t let the smell get to you. I can pay extra if you have tools already there..A vice, electric saw, shovels, plastic body-suits, and mason jars. Lots of mason jars..for keeping souvenirs. They keep souvenirs, I dont. I mean if I were a serial killer. Which I’m totally not.

    • RiverStyX says:

      Last note: Would seal the deal if you had low-density polyethylene type plastic bins on-hand..I’ll take care of the rest.

  15. Duke_Newcombe-Making children and adults as fat as pigs says:

    Two words: Pacific Heights. That is all.

  16. Rick Sphinx says:

    First step, make sure it’s legal. Is there proper exits, and are do the windows meed egress. Egress is the minimum window opening, not for you to get out in case of fire, but large enough for the fireman to get in to save you. Many factors, so check with your city first. Also, I always encourage to “Include utilities”, you don’t want people trying to save on the oil/gas bill, using space heaters, just a fire hazard, and have rules, no space heaters, no electric blankets etc. Also, lock up your valuables, as you will not really know this person, people can get desperate, and do things they would not normally do. Take a picture just before they move in, and just after they move out in case you need to use the security deposit for repairs due to destruction of property, not talking about just painting and cleaning, you can’t take the money for that. Hole in wall, yes, stain on carpet, yes.

  17. majortom1981 says:

    You also have to find out if its legal to rent your basement. Some places its illegal. MY town went as far as NOT allowing a kitchen in the basement.

  18. Dallas_shopper says:

    I have a spare bedroom and bathroom, but no basement; we don’t really build basements in this part of the country.

    If I had a basement suite, I might consider renting it out for some extra money. It’d be nice. But I couldn’t have a boarder in the main part of my house, I like my privacy too much.

  19. Clyde Barrow says:

    It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose
    again!

  20. AllanG54 says:

    Here is New York it’s an illegal apartment and if the tenant doesn’t pay and you have to evict you’re first problem is paying the $5000 fine the city will nail you with for renting illegally. But, if you’re really set on doing this, you’ll need an architect to file plans, bring the place up to code, have the C of O changed, have your homeowners insurance changed to reflect one more tenant which will raise the rates and all in all will net you NO money after all the expense.

  21. CiscoKid1984 says:

    Just watch this show and learn – I think that you’d have to rent out your place for at least 7-8 years for a lot of the work they do to true conversions to rental properties (and that doesn’t even consider increased utilities/insurance) – http://www.hgtv.com/income-property/show/index.html