The Legal Difference Between Renting a Room Versus House Hacking

mouse hole with 'room for rent' sign

The Legal Difference Between Renting a Room Versus House Hacking

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House hacking: also known as, does this count as a fraternity? In serious terms, house hacking is when you are not renting out a property as a whole, but bedroom by bedroom. In a four-bedroom house, you may have four renters sharing the common areas but having private bedrooms, possibly private bathrooms if there’s an en suite. In an already complicated industry, renting out a singular room means the laws are about to get more hazy. That begs the question, how exactly do the laws change?

Renting Out Your Spare Room

There is a huge difference between renting your property out and renting out your singular spare room. Renting out a single room in a home that you currently live in gives you a lot of sway when it comes to standard housing laws.

House hacking: also known as, does this count as a fraternity? In serious terms, house hacking is when you are not renting out a property as a whole, but bedroom by bedroom. In a four-bedroom house, you may have four renters sharing the common areas but having private bedrooms, possibly private bathrooms if there’s an en suite. In an already complicated industry, renting out a singular room means the laws are about to get more hazy. That begs the question, how exactly do the laws change?

Renting Out Your Spare Room

There is a huge difference between renting your property out and renting out your singular spare room. Renting out a single room in a home that you currently live in gives you a lot of sway when it comes to standard housing laws.

With standard renting, you have to abide by discrimination laws, the ADA, etc. Everyone needs to be screened fairly and through governmental legislation. This isn’t the case with someone renting out the spare guest bedroom. When looking for a roommate, you’re allowed to be nit-picky. You may select the specific gender(s) you want to live with, say no dogs allowed despite being a support animal, and whatever else you may feel, according to law.

bedroom
bedroom

With standard renting, you have to abide by discrimination laws, the ADA, etc. Everyone needs to be screened fairly and through governmental legislation. This isn’t the case with someone renting out the spare guest bedroom. When looking for a roommate, you’re allowed to be nit-picky. You may select the specific gender(s) you want to live with, say no dogs allowed despite being a support animal, and whatever else you may feel, according to law.

“Because we find that the FHA doesn't apply to the sharing of living units, it follows that it's not unlawful to discriminate in selecting a roommate. As the underlying conduct is not unlawful, Roommate's facilitation of discriminatory roommate searches does not violate the FHA.”

There are still rules that need to be applied, however. Draw up a legitimate lease with proper signage. Give them thirty days of notice when it comes time to end their stay by your decision. Make sure they have a habitable space, with a bathroom they can use and full access to the kitchen.

Renting Your Property Room by Room

If you are not living on the property and just renting room by room to different people who are living together, then all laws apply. At that point, you are not looking for a roommate, as seen in the statement above. You are a landlord with multiple tenants, that’s all. You must follow all the legal requirements of a landlord.

“Because we find that the FHA doesn't apply to the sharing of living units, it follows that it's not unlawful to discriminate in selecting a roommate. As the underlying conduct is not unlawful, Roommate's facilitation of discriminatory roommate searches does not violate the FHA.”

There are still rules that need to be applied, however. Draw up a legitimate lease with proper signage. Give them thirty days of notice when it comes time to end their stay by your decision. Make sure they have a habitable space, with a bathroom they can use and full access to the kitchen.

bedroom with arched ceilings

Renting Your Property Room by Room

If you are not living on the property and just renting room by room to different people who are living together, then all laws apply. At that point, you are not looking for a roommate, as seen in the statement above. You are a landlord with multiple tenants, that’s all. You must follow all the legal requirements of a landlord.

bedroom with arched ceilings

One markedly difference between being a standard landlord with one family per property and a landlord who rents room by room is that your tenants will be dealing with each other on a day to day basis, and they can stir up quite a bit of trouble. Most of the time any roommate versus roommate arguments won’t truly be your concern until it comes to property damage, but the lines may get fuzzy fast. Once you sort that out with the tenants, things may get easier, though it may not stop them from calling you.

 

One markedly difference between being a standard landlord with one family per property and a landlord who rents room by room is that your tenants will be dealing with each other on a day to day basis, and they can stir up quite a bit of trouble. Most of the time any roommate versus roommate arguments won’t truly be your concern until it comes to property damage, but the lines may get fuzzy fast. Once you sort that out with the tenants, things may get easier, though it may not stop them from calling you.

 

In the end, how you choose to rent is up to you, whether it be your guest room, room by room in a separate property, or the property to a family. Whichever way you decide, that’s the right answer for you and we’re glad to be a part of your adventure.

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In the end, how you choose to rent is up to you, whether it be your guest room, room by room in a separate property, or the property to a family. Whichever way you decide, that’s the right answer for you and we’re glad to be a part of your adventure.

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Tenant Screening

Can Your Tenant Legally Own An Alligator As An Emotional Support Animal?

When you think of an emotional support animal, what comes to mind? It would be fair to assume the first thought to enter one’s head would be a dog, if not some kind of bipedal mammal — and most likely not a reptilian carnivore with razor-sharp teeth.

In enters WallyGator: a five-and-a-half foot, 70-pound TikTok famous alligator with over 72,600 followers on the platform owned by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Joie Henney. While it is legal to own alligators in Philadelphia, that isn’t the case in many other states — nor is it likely that the majority of pet gators, if any, qualify as emotional support animals. Or is it?

Since Wally’s uptick in popularity on the internet back in August, “alligators” as a related topic to the Google search query “emotional support animal” has seen a 300% increase in search frequency, most likely for the purposes of curious internet users seeing and reading about WallyGator for themselves. However, with the increase in popularity of keeping various species of reptiles as house pets and the common need for emotional support animals, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that people with legitimate mental health conditions, unique cases of PTSD, or related conditions could be looking into obtaining a support gator of their own.

As we’ve previously covered, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided guidance on how the Fair Housing Act (FHA) interfaces with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regarding emotional support animals. HUD classifies assistance animals into two different categories in order to distinguish their roles from one another: service animals (primarily dogs), and other trained animals that do work, perform tasks, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities. Per HUD’s guidelines, because Wally is not a dog, he, therefore, cannot qualify as a service animal – so, how does HUD define Wally and his role, exactly?

HUD states if the service animal status is not readily apparent, to limit inquiries to two questions: “Is the animal required because of a disability?” and “What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?”, and if the answer to either question is no, then following denial of service animal status under federal, HUD states that the animal can still qualify as a support animal or other assistance animal, depending on what needs to be accommodated.

In Wally’s case, Henney received approval to use him as a support animal after expressing to his doctor he did not want to be medicated for depression following the deaths of several family members and close friends in a short period of time, and more recently, his untimely cancer diagnosis. Even before rescuing and adopting Wally, Henney has worked with and rescued reptiles (particularly alligators) for over thirty years, and his vocation is one he is very passionate about – so it stands to reason his support animal of choice would be one he’s so accustomed to working with.

Because the ADA makes the same distinction that an emotional support animal would only be classified as such due to its mere presence providing comfort as opposed to employing any training to respond to a situation, HUD’s guidelines technically, but clearly grant Wally his status as a legitimate emotional support animal under federal law.

While Wally’s status is protected in the eyes of the law, HUD also states that a housing provider can refuse a reasonable accommodation request for a support or assistance animal if said animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of other which cannot be reduced or eliminated. However, before denying such a request due to a lack of information, a housing provider is encouraged to engage in a “good-faith” conversation with the owner of the support animal to gather information about the animal and mitigate any potential misunderstandings regarding its purpose.

Luckily for most property owners, WallyGator is very much an anomaly, and most folks aren’t scrambling to obtain an emotional support gator of their very own, anyway. Henney himself calls Wally a “very special gator” (he’s trained Wally to understand commands and to keep his mouth closed around other people) and actively discourages others to adopt a pet alligator if they’re not actively predisposed to working with alligators, stating “if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get bit”.

Check out ApplyConnect’s HUD guidance breakdown: https://www.applyconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Emotional-support-animals_-HUDs-Guidance-cliff-notes-AC-Version.pdf

Read More »

2 Replies to “The Legal Difference Between Renting a Room Versus House Hacking”

    1. Hi Yvette – I always preface guidance with a note that state or local laws can be different across the country so it’s always best to consult with an attorney specialized in your area’s housing laws. Generally speaking though it’s common that landlords have a right to access the property, as needed, with some requirements regarding how they have to provide notice to you ahead of time so long as there’s no emergency situation to address. With you renting a room within a home the landlord also lives in, the rules tend to be a lot more in favor of the landlord having more access and control for what they can do so it’s entirely possible there’s nothing wrong or illegal with your landlord having access to the room. If you’re concerned about it I recommend consulting with an attorney who could provide more specific guidance for your situation.

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2 Replies to “The Legal Difference Between Renting a Room Versus House Hacking”

    1. Hi Yvette – I always preface guidance with a note that state or local laws can be different across the country so it’s always best to consult with an attorney specialized in your area’s housing laws. Generally speaking though it’s common that landlords have a right to access the property, as needed, with some requirements regarding how they have to provide notice to you ahead of time so long as there’s no emergency situation to address. With you renting a room within a home the landlord also lives in, the rules tend to be a lot more in favor of the landlord having more access and control for what they can do so it’s entirely possible there’s nothing wrong or illegal with your landlord having access to the room. If you’re concerned about it I recommend consulting with an attorney who could provide more specific guidance for your situation.

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This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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Tenant Screening

Can Your Tenant Legally Own An Alligator As An Emotional Support Animal?

When you think of an emotional support animal, what comes to mind? It would be fair to assume the first thought to enter one’s head would be a dog, if not some kind of bipedal mammal — and most likely not a reptilian carnivore with razor-sharp teeth.

In enters WallyGator: a five-and-a-half foot, 70-pound TikTok famous alligator with over 72,600 followers on the platform owned by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Joie Henney. While it is legal to own alligators in Philadelphia, that isn’t the case in many other states — nor is it likely that the majority of pet gators, if any, qualify as emotional support animals. Or is it?

Since Wally’s uptick in popularity on the internet back in August, “alligators” as a related topic to the Google search query “emotional support animal” has seen a 300% increase in search frequency, most likely for the purposes of curious internet users seeing and reading about WallyGator for themselves. However, with the increase in popularity of keeping various species of reptiles as house pets and the common need for emotional support animals, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that people with legitimate mental health conditions, unique cases of PTSD, or related conditions could be looking into obtaining a support gator of their own.

As we’ve previously covered, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided guidance on how the Fair Housing Act (FHA) interfaces with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regarding emotional support animals. HUD classifies assistance animals into two different categories in order to distinguish their roles from one another: service animals (primarily dogs), and other trained animals that do work, perform tasks, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities. Per HUD’s guidelines, because Wally is not a dog, he, therefore, cannot qualify as a service animal – so, how does HUD define Wally and his role, exactly?

HUD states if the service animal status is not readily apparent, to limit inquiries to two questions: “Is the animal required because of a disability?” and “What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?”, and if the answer to either question is no, then following denial of service animal status under federal, HUD states that the animal can still qualify as a support animal or other assistance animal, depending on what needs to be accommodated.

In Wally’s case, Henney received approval to use him as a support animal after expressing to his doctor he did not want to be medicated for depression following the deaths of several family members and close friends in a short period of time, and more recently, his untimely cancer diagnosis. Even before rescuing and adopting Wally, Henney has worked with and rescued reptiles (particularly alligators) for over thirty years, and his vocation is one he is very passionate about – so it stands to reason his support animal of choice would be one he’s so accustomed to working with.

Because the ADA makes the same distinction that an emotional support animal would only be classified as such due to its mere presence providing comfort as opposed to employing any training to respond to a situation, HUD’s guidelines technically, but clearly grant Wally his status as a legitimate emotional support animal under federal law.

While Wally’s status is protected in the eyes of the law, HUD also states that a housing provider can refuse a reasonable accommodation request for a support or assistance animal if said animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of other which cannot be reduced or eliminated. However, before denying such a request due to a lack of information, a housing provider is encouraged to engage in a “good-faith” conversation with the owner of the support animal to gather information about the animal and mitigate any potential misunderstandings regarding its purpose.

Luckily for most property owners, WallyGator is very much an anomaly, and most folks aren’t scrambling to obtain an emotional support gator of their very own, anyway. Henney himself calls Wally a “very special gator” (he’s trained Wally to understand commands and to keep his mouth closed around other people) and actively discourages others to adopt a pet alligator if they’re not actively predisposed to working with alligators, stating “if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get bit”.

Check out ApplyConnect’s HUD guidance breakdown: https://www.applyconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Emotional-support-animals_-HUDs-Guidance-cliff-notes-AC-Version.pdf

Read More »

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Get Started with ApplyConnect!

The nation’s most trusted tenant screening for real estate agents, landlords, and property managers. No cost background checks available 24/7.

©2018 ApplyConnect. All rights reserved

ApplyConnect marks used herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of applyconnect.com. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.