Renting your space on AirBnb–when you’re renting

Real estate, Money

You’ve got a couch or even a room to spare, and you could use a few extra bucks. So, you’re thinking about taking advantage of the new economy and earning extra cash as an Airbnb host. Only one problem: you’re a renter yourself.

What are the implications of renting out space in a place already designated as a rental property?

Let your landlord know

Your first priority should be to check with your landlord. While you might assume it’s not a big deal, the fact that you’re in a rental property doesn’t necessarily translate into landlord approval of your plan to re-rent part of your domicile to Airbnb guests. After all, it’s the landlord’s property, and they have a vested interest in who’s living there.

In fact, your lease probably stipulates that you cannot sublet all or part of your premises without the landlord’s consent. The landlord knows you, but may not be keen on a stream of strangers coming and going, regardless of Airbnb’s liability insurance coverage (other short-term property rental sites, like Homeaway, offer similar packages).

Consider the case of Chris Dannen, a renter who got evicted after his landlord discovered he was an Airbnb host. Dannen’s experience, which he blames on a mix of misunderstandings and not getting permission from his landlord, shows that knowing how your landlord perceives Airbnb is a critical first step.

Evaluate your situation

Another key factor is your own behavior as a tenant. How long have you been renting your premises? Have you followed the property’s rules? Could other tenants be affected by your hosting? Can you offer your landlord something in return, such as a percentage of your earnings? It can only help if there’s an opportunity for the landlord to make a little extra money as well.

Also, in addition to the liability coverage provided by the service, you may want to offer to purchase your own vacation rental insurance, to alleviate your landlord’s concerns.

Seek legal advice

If the landlord remains uneasy about your converting part of your space into a rental, you have legal options. A landlord-tenant lawyer can help you make your case, providing legal assurances and some mitigation of the risks involved with hosting.

Of course, you also need to know if and how your community regulates short-term hosting. Many local governments require hosts to obtain business licenses, and some have housing regulations that mandate inspections to ensure minimum habitability standards are met.

And with rents on the rise, some cities are implementing, among other progressive-minded regulations, limitations on short-term rentals, fearing that such rentals will create a shortage of units for regular tenants. Hence, in an ironic twist, regulations that benefit you as a long-term renter could limit what you could earn as a host.

Again, it’s best to get more legal information and/or consult with an attorney to understand your legal options, and, of course, to discuss your intentions with your landlord.