Should you rent out your basement?
Mother-in-law apartments can be a great source of income or household help if done right. Here are 6 questions to ask before installing that separate entry.
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As we now know all too well, many Americans are struggling to make their mortgage payments, while others are in desperate need of affordable housing. Enter the so-called mother-in-law apartment, which can fix both issues: Homeowners can fetch extra cash and in the process provide decent, below-market rentals.
"For someone who has surplus space in their house it's the most cost-effective way to get added income," says Patrick Hare, the owner of Hare Planning and a leading expert on "accessory dwelling units" — aka the in-law apartment, granny apartment, guest cottage or carriage house.
While reactions to this type of rental can vary widely by community, it has for the most part risen above its undeserved reputation as the neighborhood bad seed, proponents say, and will only grow more popular as suburban baby boomers age.
"We have a lot of one- and two-person households," says Arthur Sullivan, permit manager for A Regional Coalition for Housing, a government partnership in Washington state focused on developing affordable housing opportunities. "The housing doesn't fit the profile of the households."
Elderly couples, divorced single parents, young, new homebuyers — how are they to afford and maintain the large houses we've designed? Accessory apartments are the answer, advocates say. They can provide:
- Income: In-law units typically rent a bit below other apartments on the market but can still cover much of the mortgage. Hare, who also is a longtime landlord, and his wife covered their entire mortgage by renting out the lower half of their Washington, D.C., house.
- Child care: Also known as an “au pair apartment,” it can be rented in exchange for baby-sitting services.
- Health care: The same applies to nursing care, an increasingly popular option given the high costs of health care facilities combined with an aging population.
- Maintenance: Develop a rent deduction for hours worked and you've got an on-site helper.
- House- and pet-sitting: Even in strict cash-rental arrangements, homeowners say they appreciate having a reliable person to call on to watch their house and animals.
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When you install a rental unit, Hare says, "You're setting up a sort of social shock-absorber system, so when families need it, they can use it."
Communities, meanwhile, can continue to thrive by drawing on a diverse, vibrant population. "This is a way to take neighborhoods and help keep them viable," Sullivan says.
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Unfortunately, not all communities are as open-minded about rentals. As the housing market has made it increasingly tough to sell and homeowners look at renting out their unsold houses, some homeowners associations have started banning rentals.
Still, most people today probably live in neighborhoods that do allow them, Hare says. But the tensions make it more important to add one of these rental units properly. Here's how:
First, make it legal
Installing a rental apartment involves quite a bit more than punching out a basement door and buying a stovetop, unfortunately.
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But you can start, experts say, by asking the following questions:
1. Is an accessory dwelling even allowed in my neighborhood?
The first piece of advice from experts: If you're interested in building a rental unit, go by the book. If you don't, repercussions can include fines, lost rent and potential issues with your lender. (Read more on the ramifications of illegal apartments here.)
Even if your actual mother-in-law moves into the in-law apartment, and even if she pays only with baby-sitting services, you have still, by law, created a multifamily building, says Janet Portman, a housing lawyer and author of "Every Landlord's Legal Guide." "You need to find out first if your neighborhood is zoned to allow multifamilies."
Some neighborhoods allow units only for relatives. Others restrict the number, location or size and dictate parking requirements. All can affect whether a renovation is feasible.
One recommendation: Hire a design contractor who can check the city codes and provide a cost estimate for a legal renovation to fit your needs. Using a licensed contractor is the best way to assure that any installations will meet code and receive a certificate of occupancy, says Michael Hydeck, the third vice president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
"The first thing we have to do is abide by local laws," says Hydeck, who also is a certified remodeler with Hydeck Design Build in Pennsylvania. (A Regional Coalition for Housing also provides a homeowners manual on “accessory dwelling units.”)
thank you so much Lord kalifat, here is the email address that turn my pains, sadness and sorrow into joy: firstname.lastname@example.org
from heather Australia
They destroyed all of the hardwood floors, kitchen floors, destroyed 2 toilets, left a filthy mess behind, kids took black magic marker to closet doors and walls, there was dog feces in the bedrooms, destroyed window coverings and window screens, left behind tons of their junk. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. I had to call in the pest control for mice and ants. They caused plumbing problems beyond belief. Had to hire a professionally cleaning company (took 3 full days to clean), hire people to remove all of the debris (took a day and a half), installed brand new flooring, toilets, painted, cleaned carpeting, etc, etc.)
It took from June 1 through mid August to repair and get the house back up to where it was before they moved in (actually it looks BETTER now). My property mgr has had it up for sale / rent since end of August (I know, bad time to list it) and some calls do come in, but people are really flakes.... they either don't show up or they don't call him back. So, don't feel bad, here it is November and I'm in debt and I'm paying the mortgage pmt while the house sits empty. (I live 350 miles away), hence the property mgr. Thank God I have a trustworthy handyman that winterized it for me, because of the extreme weather conditions (cold). Cross your fingers that the pipes don't freeze. I'm fortunate that I have him and also the water department keeping an eye out on the house.
I have rented my house twice and both times have had tenents from hell. first ones drilled holes in the house and brought electrical wires out from inside, Left in the middle of the night , the coldest weekend of the year and had the electricity turned off on friday and EMAILED me they moved out on Sunday night!!!! not only did everything freeze up in the house but the took everything that wasn't nailed down.... didn't leave a forwarding adress,,,and were supose to be friends. Re plumbed the whole house, gutted the bathroom and totally redid and this renter came in and put big nails in the new woodwork. ask her if she wanted curtin rods and never got an answer, just bigger nails in the woodwork. She is over weight and neglected to tell me she couldn't walk so she sits in an office chair and wheels all over the house. she has been there 6 months and has ruined the not only the new vinyl flooring in the bathroom ( not to mention she has removed the new shower fixtures) but the vinyl in the kitchen and the hardwood floors in the living room and dinning room. Oh yeah lets not forget the Big satellite dish she had installed on my bran new roof !!!
anyway I am not liking being a landlord and figure will not renew this lease and just gut the house redo it and sell it!!!
After my husband left, I started renting out rooms in my home. I rented out the basement to someone who has been my friend for about 6 years. She lived there for about 11 months.
I asked my tenant to move out. Things had been bad for a while, we got in an argument and I asked her to find a new place to live.
Then the hell started.
Fist she put the padlock back on my shed. I was going on business trip and needed to get into my storage shed to get my suitcases. I asked her to open it and she refused. I had to call the police. They talked her into opening it for me.
Then she was furious with me after the police left. She kept me up until three in the morning, slamming doors, turning on every light in the house and pouring water all over my house. I would wait until she went back downstairs, clean up the mess, turn off the lights and try to go back to sleep. She would run back upstairs and do it all over again. Even kicking my door open and flipping on my light while I was in bed attempting to sleep.
After the third time she did this, I was livid. It was three in the morning and I was exhausted. I thought for a few minutes about what I could do to make it stop. She HATES cigarettes, so I lit a cigarette in the house just to irritate her... This was probably a bad idea, but it seemed to stop here, she called me a name and ran downstairs.
Then I went out of town the next day.
While I was away she had a garage sale and sold my possessions. Lots and lots of my possessions. She sold my pots and pans, She sold a knife collection that my ex-husband was storing at my house, worth about $300, heirloom bowls that his mother gave me that have been in his family for five generations, my really nice rafting tubes, a lamp, three stand up fans, my new vacuum, an air conditioning window unit, camping supplies, my chef’s knives, my coffee maker, dishes and utensils, some of my linens, and many, many more items. I keep finding new things missing every day.
She also poured dirt, animal feces and cigarettes in my bed, (not just in the linens, but in the pillows and mattress as well, potting soil and varnish on my couches, marred my hardwood floors (she took a hammer to them), poured fingernail polish remover on my coffee table and scarred my dining room chairs with a screwdriver. She stole my cable box, remote controls, poured some smelly chemical into my TV and my daughter’s computer, and cut the cords to everything in my entertainment center (snipped them in half).
And (you are not going to believe this) but light-bulbs and toilet paper.
She took all of the lights out of the fixtures and stole them. She also took about 20 rolls of toilet paper, including the one on the roll. She also called the police and told them I had threatened her, and she was afraid to get her remaining possessions. The escorted her in my home, while she pointed out all of the damage, claiming I did it. She also claimed I stole possessions from her. This is all while I am out of town. I arrive home to a destroyed home (mine) missing possessions and to top it off, a citation for destruction of personal property! (She convinced the police escorting her through my home that the couches, computer and televisions were hers and I had destroyed them!)
She started a small flood in the basement, tore out a whole in the wall, broke every single light fixture and poured and enormous amount candle-wax on the carpet.
She also vandalized every single item of food, opening every jar, box or can in my pantry and spilling them everywhere, including all of my spices, freezer and refrigerator items
After four court appearances, the citation was dismissed and I was granted a permanent restraining order against her.
I have been renting out both my own house's basement and a
different house for years.
In both cases, I have had both good and bad tales to tell.
I have had the GOOD:
-Wonderful family who baked for me often.
-A women who had pre paid for the year.
-a single father who’s children loved to play with mine.
-A young man who kept an eye out for us, when we were away.
My list goes on and on….
I have had the BAD:
A teenager killed himself in my basement.
A mother left her young children in my basement alone often.
Young children in trouble with the law and having cops come by all the time.
A family taking my stove on moving day.
Late rent, some times no rent.
Drinkers and smokers.
My list goes on and on.
Nevertheless, it is all a mindset.
For example, if u made $1000 per month which is $120, 00 a year. On a family that lived like animals, therefore at the end of the day, u may need to do some patchwork, and wash the rugs. It is just lots of manpower to fix the place up; but it will not cost more then a few hundred to fix. Therefore, most often u will benefit.
If you do not mind the drama then it is great.
May make life times friends in the deal.
With renting your house, you may get the good or the bad, but in the end you will always make some (lots) extra $$$$$.
Need to have mindset, it may work out great, but if it does not then u move onto the next.
My parents had great luck renting a part of their home or a small house in back on their large home in exchange for house cleaning (by the female) and farm/yard work (by the male). It was a win-win situation for my older parents and young couples could sock away money. Their luck was NOT very good with renting an adjoining farmhouse they also owned but which was out of sight. I have childhood memories of cleaning up after bums who left the house a mess after departing in the middle of the night! Another warning regarding allowing younger family members to live at home again: This is common, and I'm sure usually short term & amicable. HOWEVER, I have heard that this scenario often occurs: The older couple eventually wants to move into a retirement setting and need to sell their home to do so. Thus they have to tell the younger folks they will HAVE to move out. The sad news I've heard is that the younger folks have been taking their parents' generosity for granted, are NOT understanding, and actually never speak to their parents again when they have to move out!! Not a heartwarming story--so size up the "kids" beforehand.
Back when I was single, I rented my basement to a "cute" single girl with 2 dogs and a 7 year old boy. I wasn't supposed to have renters in my neighborhood so did not have a standard contract set up. I was travelling most of the time. Soon after she moved in one of the dogs had nine puppies. She was also supposed to take care of my dog when i was travelling but didn't let him out so he peed all over the curtains and carpet. Her dogs and lack of housekeeping or maintenance skills pretty much trashed the basement. To make a long story short, she quit paying rent and I ended up getting the sherrif to "help" her move out, during which she stole one of my beds and left the basement even more trashed than before. I ended up getting a judgement against her for $5K, but as soon as I started garnishing her low wage she moved out of state. That was 5 years ago, and I haven't seen a penny since and have hired a collection agency that says she knows how to hide her assets.
My mistake was taking her in in the first place, and not kicking her out sooner! Beware of "cute" people with baggage! Oh, and we never dated. I ended up marrying a truly nice, good, responsible woman!
My husband and I were taught from childhood to leave things better than we found them. It may be a bit old fashioned that if our car is in the shop and we have to borrow someones for a few days...we returned it clean and with a full tank.
My husband and I choose not to own a home. We rent and we treat each home we have rented as if it were our own investment. We keep it clean, make small repairs at our own expense, and keep the interior and the exterior presentable. We make a strong effort to pay on time and if for some reason an unexpected expense gets in the way we contact our landlord immediately, explain the situation and set a date on when we will get the payment to them and then pay when we say we will. That has happened twice in 10 years and we paid within one paycheck or two weeks. We treat them well, they treat us well.
It is called the 'golden rule'...treat others the way you wish to be treated.
Nightmare yes. We purchased a house to live in after my spouse's retirement from a position which provided a 'dwelling'.
We in turn rented our dreamhouse to friends from church who had recently lost their home in a flood.
Not only did they not pay rent for the 6 months we let them stay there, they fr____ing bought a St Bernard, IN TEXAS, to live in the backyard. needless to say when all 3 of the losers were evicted, we had to replant grass, as well as repairing our home to be.
I've had  tenants !
All three left me with outrageous utility bills, late on rent and lets pets & children damage the walls and floors! Any furniture became theirs, because it was ruined through abuse!
And I did screen and ask for references! The problem is; Few will give you a negative report...I have too much space, but it seem cheaper to just not use it!
I agree with the lawyer. People will do what they want. That being said, I didn't when I rented. But that was my problem. I spent 10 years trying to find someone who would be the kind of renter I was and it never happened. It got to the point where after a year, I would let them know that I was thinking of selling the house so they would look for somewhere else because cleaning up one year's mess was a lot easier than trying to clean up 3 year's mess and they nearly always used me as their personal molly maid. I learned a lot about the absence of family pride in those days. Never again. I feel very sorry for the children born to this ME ME ME generation.
co-workers knew i lived alone in a 3 bedroom house.
one of them said his son's wife had just kicked the son out and he needed a place to stay for a week or so until he could find another place. silly me, i said ok.
little did i know the guy was a schizophrenic and also obsessive compulsive , not to mention an alcoholic and he took a cocktail of psychiatric drugs daily. nor did i know at the time that his dad picked him up that day at the state psyco ward and brought him straight to my house.
i kept my perscription diet pills in a well hidden place. one day i went to get one and the whole bottle was empty.
twice i came home from work to find my kitchen standing in water. he had stayed in the bathtub all day long with the hot water running out the overflow. so much water ran under the house that it seeped up into the kitchen and flooded it.
my utility bills skyrocketed.
another day i came home and found 10 tv dinners in the garbage. he had heated all 10 of them and eaten the one item he liked out of all 10 and threw the rest away at my expense.
another time he opened every can of food i had in the pantry and mixed it all in a huge roast pot . he said he was a gourmet cook and i was stuck eating this mess for a week because i could not afford to buy groceries again.
the final blow was when i got a phone bill where he had made a 298.00 phone call to the psychic hotline on my phone on top of long distance calls to his sister .
another time , he locked himself out and broke out my kitchen window to get back in. no one ever offered to pay for the broken window.
keep in mind, his dad gave me 150.00 per month for room and board. he didn't work and felt entitled to everything i had because his dad was paying me ALL THIS MONEY FOR HIM TO STAY HERE.
the morning after the phone bill arrived in the mail, he was asleep. i walked into his room, took the housekey from the top of the dresser, then proceeded to take the bedroom door off the hinges. as he walked out the front door to go for a walk, he said he had misplaced his key and if i went anywhere , i should leave my door unlocked so he could get back in.
i closed the screen door and locked it behind him . then i told him, he would not be coming back and his belongings would be left at the street where he could pick them up.
at that point he threatened me by saying he would tell everyone that the reason i kicked him out because he wouldn't have sex with me.
i told him to feel free to tell everyone whatever he wanted to tell them. people who know me would know better then that.
i left a message on his dad's answering machine that he had better keep his nit witted son away from me or else, also to please pick up the son's belongings off my property at the edge of my driveway.my phone call was never returned.
it was unpleasant having to go back to work and face the co-worker everyday after that. of course everyone at work was aware of exactly what was going on. i feel sure he felt embarrassed.
he knew he had tried to dump his problems off on me and i took it for as long as i could.
within a couple of months both of them packed up and moved across country to mooch off of the father's sister. good riddance!
never again will i let anyone move in on me and take over . a week turned into 3 months and if i had kept putting up with it, he would still be here mooching off of me all these years later .
my peace of mind and my privacy mean more to me than having others think i am a nice person for taking in a needy person. i'd rather pinch pennies than to have another deadbeat move in on me. -----never again!!!