Room for rent

Room for rent

With record unemployment and foreclosure rates, many homeowners are scrambling for creative ways to make ends meet.

Medford resident Roy Wall has been subletting his living space off and on for years. In years past, he rented bedrooms to offset costs for renovations and to minimize his monthly bills.

"I'm in construction, which is dead right now," says Wall. "It makes things a little easier if you can find someone you don't mind living with."

In the case of roommates, Wall says there are more than a few bases to cover.

"I have two rental houses, and there is a huge difference between renting your property to somebody else and living with someone you just met," he says.

Ashley Franklin bought her first house, got a divorce and needed to rent two bedrooms to keep up with her mortgage. The Medford resident and Rogue Community College student agrees with Wall on the compatibility factor for roommates.

"There's no way I can keep my house and not have roommates," says Franklin.

"What's hard is that you have to go through a few roommates to find one who works. If you take long enough and you know what you want — and what you don't want — you can make it work. It's obviously not as convenient as having your own space, but if you decide to do it, put the time in to get someone you can deal with."

Franklin and Wall offer a checklist of ways to navigate the process of choosing a roommate.

Get to know potential tenants

Compatibility of roommates is key. Meet more than once and spend longer than a few minutes getting acquainted and asking questions. Food or pet allergies, music preferences, hobbies and work schedules all are issues to discuss.

Is the potential roommate a nudist? Does he or she have four dogs that go unmentioned until you ask? Remember, first impressions can be misleading.

Legal ways to check on a person's character include checking with his or her employer — with permission, of course — doing a background check and asking for at least three non-family references.

"I rented to a young guy once who came with his mom to look at the room. He seemed easygoing, so I figured he'd be fine, so I gave him the room," says Wall.

"One day I came home, and he's got all these gothic friends around tattooed and pierced through their nose having a party at my house! I was like, 'Holy cow, you have got to move!' "

Have reasonable expectations

Cohabiting with anyone takes effort and compromise. Consider that roommates usually aren't planning to live in someone else's back room for the rest of their lives.

"Usually people renting rooms are looking for a place to be to get on their feet," says Franklin. "I've had people stay in a room for a few weeks and people who stayed most of the summer. I think, once, I had someone almost make a year."

Check local laws and legal requirements

Check with your landlord, property manager or mortgage holder to see whether contracts in place specifically prohibit subletting or sharing the space for profit.

Some municipalities have ordinances governing residential dwellings. Some cities prohibit subletting while others don't specify what's allowed.

Charge deposits and get everything in writing

Agree to a detailed contract and get everything in writing before any money changes hands or moving boxes are dropped off.

Franklin and Wall both agree that charging a reasonable deposit and monthly rent can weed out less-than-responsible roomies and keep things going smoothly.

"I had a gal here one month, and the next month rolled around and she was like, 'I don't have my rent.' I was like, 'Do you think I'm running a homeless shelter here?' " says Wall.

"I would have to say it's been more good than bad," says Franklin. "It's helpful to have the extra help making the house payment. And if I do it the right way, the company is nice, too."

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