Author Topic: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?  (Read 5987 times)

Evie

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Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« on: July 28, 2016, 04:51:10 PM »
I have a small 640 sq ft rental. My preferred tenant is one person since it's a back unit attached to my house, there is only one parking space, and the way it is laid out it is SMALL.  Maybe not by NY standards but for this market it is tiny.  We also live on site.

I could list it really low to make it affordable for a single professional, but then I get couples applying for it and I legally can't chose not to rent to more than one person and the wear and tear of two people makes it not worth renting it at too low a rate. 

I've tried marketing it with "live without a roommate!" to highlight that it is a good bet for someone who wants to live alone, and I advertise on Craigslist and through the University, but I wasn't sure if anyone else had any tips or ideas. 

We also offer shared wifi with a repeater, so in the event two people move in I think that will just not be sufficient.

Thoughts?  I'm in CA if it makes a difference (which it does as rental rules vary by state). 

hoodedfalcon

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2016, 05:04:54 PM »
You may want to look at the Mrs. Murphy exemption to the Fair Housing Act, the federal law that covers housing discrimination. Of course, you will need to see that your local/state law also has the exemption. But basically the FHA doesn't apply to rentals where there are 4 or fewer units in a structure and the owner occupies one of the units. You still cannot publish a discriminatory advertisement though. You should consult a housing attorney in your area for legal advice pertaining to your specific situation.

yddeyma

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2016, 06:20:17 PM »
I think word of mouth would be the best bet in this case.  Do you work in an office or know anyone who does?  The University is a great idea, but I would try to network there a bit.  Know anyone who goes there, had kids that go there, teaches, etc.?

Or, post your rental on all the regular sites (I use Rentlinx.com, which publishes listings to everything except craiglist and the pay sites), and just state that the max occupancy is one person and max parking is one spot.  I would re-think the single occupancy thing, though, are you SURE you wouldn't want to rent to a professional couple trying to save a few bucks?

Finally, put a sign in the yard that says something like Single Occupant Rental Available, you'd be surprised at how much interest it may generate.  Have a printer do it, a cheap one should only cost about $20.  Or if you're artsy you can do it yourself, but make sure it looks professional.

I also 2nd the suggestion you read the FHA, but even the FHA can't dictate that you have a dozen people is a space meant for one.

rothwem

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2016, 11:20:43 AM »
are you SURE you wouldn't want to rent to a professional couple trying to save a few bucks?

I'm with this one^^, I'm not sure why you're resistant to having a couple live in your unit, I doubt much wear and tear would exist.  I live in 720 with my girlfriend and dog...

Finally, put a sign in the yard that says something like Single Occupant Rental Available, you'd be surprised at how much interest it may generate. 

Agreed with this, also try zillow rental manager.  I got a lot of calls just from my sign though. 

hoodedfalcon

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2016, 12:51:18 PM »
Finally, put a sign in the yard that says something like Single Occupant Rental Available, you'd be surprised at how much interest it may generate. 

You may want to be careful with this. Familial status is a protected class, and the above could be seen as a discriminatory advertisement.

rothwem

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2016, 01:55:07 PM »
You may want to be careful with this. Familial status is a protected class, and the above could be seen as a discriminatory advertisement.

You could probably carefully word it, "Perfect for single occupant!"

hoodedfalcon

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2016, 02:22:27 PM »
You may want to be careful with this. Familial status is a protected class, and the above could be seen as a discriminatory advertisement.

You could probably carefully word it, "Perfect for single occupant!"

Still a potential problem. Now, would someone make a fair housing complaint? Maybe. Maybe not. There are other ways to get to your ultimate goal, especially if you fall under an exception to the fair housing act. But the exceptions don't apply to advertisements.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2016, 02:34:25 PM »
Can you find words that suggest singleness without actually saying it, like nest, cozy, cocoon, retreat?


Choices

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2016, 02:51:08 PM »
Keep in mind that not all singles stay single. What's your plan for a significant other that stays over more often than not? Would you rather have that or a married couple who are both invested in being respectful and keeping your place nice?

undercover

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2016, 05:54:15 PM »
Ultimately, it's your call as to who or who doesn't live in your place. Can't you still just let tell any families that apply that there are multiple applications and you're going to choose the best fit? That's not really a lie. It's still up to you to find the best fit for your rental. Housing isn't meant to be first come first serve, and I don't think anyone expects it to be. That said, 640sqft is plenty for a respectful couple.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2016, 06:09:48 PM »
Ultimately, it's your call as to who or who doesn't live in your place. Can't you still just let tell any families that apply that there are multiple applications and you're going to choose the best fit? That's not really a lie. It's still up to you to find the best fit for your rental. Housing isn't meant to be first come first serve, and I don't think anyone expects it to be. That said, 640sqft is plenty for a respectful couple.
There is your opinion of what housing should be, and then there is the law. If the federal housing laws apply to OP's unit (it's not clear whether it does but let's assume it does), doing what you just described could land OP in big trouble.

OP must pick the first applicant(s) that fit her criteria. Landlords who comparison-shop their tenants are not only being dicks, they are breaking the law.

bobechs

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2016, 06:11:20 PM »
Can you find words that suggest singleness without actually saying it, like nest, cozy, cocoon, retreat?

Fully furnished.  One 25" bed.

undercover

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2016, 06:56:41 PM »
Ultimately, it's your call as to who or who doesn't live in your place. Can't you still just let tell any families that apply that there are multiple applications and you're going to choose the best fit? That's not really a lie. It's still up to you to find the best fit for your rental. Housing isn't meant to be first come first serve, and I don't think anyone expects it to be. That said, 640sqft is plenty for a respectful couple.
There is your opinion of what housing should be, and then there is the law. If the federal housing laws apply to OP's unit (it's not clear whether it does but let's assume it does), doing what you just described could land OP in big trouble.

OP must pick the first applicant(s) that fit her criteria. Landlords who comparison-shop their tenants are not only being dicks, they are breaking the law.

It could, but likely won't. Craigslist is riddled with phrases such as "prefer females" or "no couples" - you literally can't go through two or three postings without seeing this. Is it legal? Technically, no. Is it understandable? Probably. When you're living in close proximity to your tenants, the reality of the situation changes.

Just saying, I've been through this when I was looking for a roommate. I was not going to live with couples. I carefully responded to applicants that I knew wouldn't work out and simply told them that I already had a potential tenant and I would call them if it didn't work out. Sue me. No one is ever going to know that I don't want to live with couples or people that don't mesh with my personality. It's a fine line. At the end of the day, the people that I didn't live with are not losing out because I would've either not rented the room or rented to persons who best melded with the personality of the house.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2016, 07:02:33 PM »
Roommates are not subject to the same laws. You can discriminate all you want.

undercover

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2016, 07:04:17 PM »
"The Fair Housing Act covers most housing. In some circumstances, the Act exempts owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, single-family housing sold or rented without the use of a broker, and housing operated by organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members."

This should apply to OP's situation as well - he meets the definition of "owner-occupied building". But at any rate, I would still use as little discriminatory wording as possible just in case. Who knows what "in some circumstances" is supposed to mean.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2016, 02:37:11 AM by undercover »

marty998

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #15 on: July 29, 2016, 08:57:05 PM »
Ultimately, it's your call as to who or who doesn't live in your place. Can't you still just let tell any families that apply that there are multiple applications and you're going to choose the best fit? That's not really a lie. It's still up to you to find the best fit for your rental. Housing isn't meant to be first come first serve, and I don't think anyone expects it to be. That said, 640sqft is plenty for a respectful couple.
There is your opinion of what housing should be, and then there is the law. If the federal housing laws apply to OP's unit (it's not clear whether it does but let's assume it does), doing what you just described could land OP in big trouble.

OP must pick the first applicant(s) that fit her criteria. Landlords who comparison-shop their tenants are not only being dicks, they are breaking the law.

I would hardly think a family of mum dad and 4 kids is going to want to live there in a somewhat small space... so it's really going to come down singles and couples anyway.

Would the rules be different being a unit attached to her house? I would think you are perfectly within your rights to dictate who and who doesn't have access to your property (depending on how attached to the house this unit is).

mskyle

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2016, 08:54:59 AM »
I could list it really low to make it affordable for a single professional, but then I get couples applying for it and I legally can't chose not to rent to more than one person and the wear and tear of two people makes it not worth renting it at too low a rate. 

I'm really not sure how much more wear and tear you get with two people as compared to one! Like, if water is included I guess your water bill will be a little bit higher with two showers as opposed to one? A single tenant who had frequent guests could put a lot more wear and tear on the place than a quiet couple. And again, with the wifi - two people in a 640sqft apartment are generally going to be watching the same movie on the same screen, you know? At least that's the case in my house. I guess once in a while he'll be playing a streaming game while I stream a netflix movie, but again, one heavy internet user could do that herself. Even if it did turn out to be a problem, how much would it cost to throttle or upgrade the wifi? So much that you could justify a significant rent drop/limiting of your rental pool?

The one parking space and the 640sqft will filter out a lot of potential tenant groups of size greater than one; roommates who are willing to share a 640sqft place probably have low incomes or bad credit or keep weird opposite hours, so you can screen them out based on that.

Megma

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #17 on: August 02, 2016, 05:20:11 PM »
If parking is at all competitive in your area sapping there's only one parking space will probably do the trick!

alme

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #18 on: August 03, 2016, 01:19:41 PM »
We have a similar unit -- small, one bedroom/one bathroom, one parking space, in a detached building in our backyard. It does seem best suited for one person because of the one parking space and a combination of a tiny kitchen/living area and large bedroom suite. We've never advertised it for one vs two people, and honestly, if a nice, mustachian couple wanted to save some money and share it, I'd be OK with that. I'm not really sure why you think two people would necessarily be "more wear and tear" than one? Anyways, for our place, we've never advertised it to any group or for anyone in particular, but in 5 years, we've only had singles seriously interested. We HAVE had more turnover on this place because everyone moves out when they find a significant other (although two of those tenants relocated to other cities). So, putting aside discrimination laws, I'd reexamine the pros and cons of couples vs singles-- couples may (or may not) keep the place cleaner, have fewer groups of people over, and be less transient. On the other hand, I always see couples as more likely to ask permission to get a dog, which is more wear and tear.

Ensign1999

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #19 on: August 03, 2016, 02:07:32 PM »
I owned a similar apartment in one of the houses I've lived in.  While I lived there it rented out to two single professionals.  Advertising was done mostly by word of mouth.  In my case I had a friend that was a school teacher and she put out word within her network of teachers.  If you have anyone in that network, then this is a great time of year to find tenants as many schools are finishing up hiring teachers for the fall and there are lots of single new college graduates getting jobs.

As for one vs. two, I think the apartment says a lot for itself with attracting one tenant.  It is relatively small and there is one parking spot.  If you live where a couple would need two cars, then that will really limit who is attracted to your apartment.  While you could bike to quite a few locations in the area where I had the apartment, it was pretty rural and spread out so a car would be needed.  A couple could make do with one car is needed though so I didn't rule them out, but never ended up with any.

Lmoot

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #20 on: August 03, 2016, 04:38:04 PM »
Singles still have SO's and one night stands. If a committed couple wants to move in I'd prefer that. I've rented to both a singleton and a couple. The singleton stayed a year and had 3 different boyfriends (that I knew of); and they always went back to her place (my place really since I lived in a separate building on the same property). The couple was lovely, stayed 2 1/2 years, and got engaged.

Kroaler

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #21 on: August 05, 2016, 10:44:35 AM »
At that square footage,  youve already ruled out family + kids.  IDK why you wouldn't want an established couple. 

Command a really good credit score and forget the other details? 

If anything state that there is only  1 parking spot, and if a couple still wants to move in, thats on them to secure the second parking spot.   

Cassie

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #22 on: August 05, 2016, 12:42:05 PM »
When I lived in WI we had a small studio attached to our house and i wanted a divorced middle aged man because I knew they would rarely be home, etc. As someone previously mentioned there are exceptions or were depending on the # of units and if you lived there also. So I would advertise and then just pick the  person I wanted. If they got together with someone I made it clear that they had to move out.  WE totally furnished the place and didn't allow someone to remove ours and put theirs in. We only put a twin bed in it.  Worked like a charm for 14 years until we sold the house.

NoNonsenseLandlord

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #23 on: August 06, 2016, 06:03:45 AM »
As long as you have solid tenant selection criteria in place, it will not matter.

Require a 700+, or even 740+ credit score.  You will only get solid, civilized, well behaved people.

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #24 on: August 06, 2016, 07:13:41 AM »
We have a 815 credit score, $1,400,000+ in an investment account, no kids (fixed), and we always pick up trash when walking roads and parks.  Couples are not ALL bad.

electriceagle

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #25 on: August 08, 2016, 12:31:50 AM »
Ultimately, it's your call as to who or who doesn't live in your place. Can't you still just let tell any families that apply that there are multiple applications and you're going to choose the best fit? That's not really a lie. It's still up to you to find the best fit for your rental. Housing isn't meant to be first come first serve, and I don't think anyone expects it to be. That said, 640sqft is plenty for a respectful couple.
There is your opinion of what housing should be, and then there is the law. If the federal housing laws apply to OP's unit (it's not clear whether it does but let's assume it does), doing what you just described could land OP in big trouble.

OP must pick the first applicant(s) that fit her criteria. Landlords who comparison-shop their tenants are not only being dicks, they are breaking the law.

I don't know about the poster's jurisdiction, but many locations allow a landlord to choose the "best" applicant. An applicant with an income of 3.5x the rent can often be chosen over an applicant whose income is 3x rent.

@Evie: is there a specific reason that you don't want a couple.

Lmoot

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #26 on: August 08, 2016, 06:07:19 AM »
In my area if the landlord owns 4 units or less and lives in one of the units, they can pick tenants on specific criteria. No law can tell you who to live with (unless they're a sex offender and you live across from a school or something), they can only control how you advertise it. Gender preference is allowed to be advertised for shared space rentals.
 

"Federal Fair Housing laws for roommates and shared housing have two components: advertising and decision-making.
•Advertising: Federal Fair Housing laws prohibit discriminatory advertising in all housing, regardless of how large or small the property. However, as discussed below, advertising which expresses a preference based upon sex is allowed in shared living situations where tenants will share a bathroom, kitchen, or other common area.
•Decision-making: Although the prohibition on discriminatory advertising applies to roommate and shared housing situations, federal Fair Housing laws do not cover the basis of decisions made by landowners who own less than four units, and live in one of the units. This means that in a situation in which a landlord owns less than four rental units, and lives in one of the units, it is legal for the owner to discriminate in the selection process based on the aforementioned categories, but it is illegal for that owner to advertise or otherwise make a statement expressing that discriminatory preference."
« Last Edit: August 08, 2016, 06:08:59 AM by Lmoot »

Fishindude

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #27 on: August 08, 2016, 06:47:49 AM »
Do a walk thru and showing while interviewing potential tenants so you can learn about them prior to making a deal.   Most folks will tell you a whole lot about themselves, and if they have a partner they will probably show up at the walk thru anyway.   Tell them you have a couple other folks scheduled to show the place to and that you will get back with them.   Then just rent to the person(s) you you feel will be your best tenant.  Some criteria like credit score is a good idea too.

If you see any red flags, when you get back with them just tell them the place has been rented, end of conversation.




bpleshek

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #28 on: August 10, 2016, 11:33:28 AM »
Unless I misunderstand the anti-discriminatory laws, I thought you could limit the number of occupants based on what is fair for the area with respect to the number of rooms.  So you can't say no children or ask ages of tenants, but you could say max 2 occupants per bedroom because that might cause safety/fire issues to have more.  Of course, maybe that's just Ohio where I live.

Brian

Evie

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #29 on: August 10, 2016, 03:34:34 PM »
Thanks everyone. I had several comments asking why we would not want a couple:

1) We live on the property so we were hoping that with one person they would be home less/less intrusion.  I understand this is totally selfish, but we also priced the apartment low and the person would be getting their own space with separate entrance and we keep it in way better condition than most of the other landlords in town.  The unit also shares a wall with our unit.
2) Our lease clearly states guests cannot be over more than 10 days in a six month period, so if a single moves in the new boyfriend/girlfriend can't just take up residence.
3) Some of the couples had work from home or jobless spouse which meant at least one of them would potentially be home all day.
4) By twice the wear and tear I really just mean that there are two times as many people using everything.  I have two students back there now temporarily and it's just twice the traffic in and out, twice the wear and tear on the plumbing, floors fixtures etc.  It's an older home, so something I am aware of.  Also, I know tons of couples where each streams their own movies and music at the same time, so they don't always watch the same thing.
5) I would totally rent to a mustachian couple, but most of the couples who are interested tend to be people who won't qualify for anything better and have not seemed like the most ideal of candidates.

Anyway, just our preference. Obviously, we are being careful not to violate any laws. 

RodFoster

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #30 on: August 22, 2016, 07:38:45 PM »
I don't understand your low rent theory. I would rather charge a lot and get a high level professional. One of my rentals is $2k a month and I have a single female professional in it.  It seems to me by lowering the rent you are simply lowering your standards. Go for HIGH rent and then don't worry about it so much.

NoNonsenseLandlord

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #31 on: August 22, 2016, 09:22:03 PM »
I don't understand your low rent theory. I would rather charge a lot and get a high level professional. One of my rentals is $2k a month and I have a single female professional in it.  It seems to me by lowering the rent you are simply lowering your standards. Go for HIGH rent and then don't worry about it so much.

If you are too high, a value conscious person will avoid your place.  You need to be the best value to attract the best tenants.

adamcollin

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #32 on: August 23, 2016, 04:15:49 AM »
Have you considered hiring property management services?

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #33 on: August 23, 2016, 05:19:11 AM »
...The unit also shares a wall with our unit.

...Some of the couples had work from home or jobless spouse which meant at least one of them would potentially be home all day.

Is it nightly noises you are trying to avoid?

Single people can work from home or stay home too.

I'm struggling to see what it is that you are concerned about, or how advertising to a single person would necessarily solve it. It seems like you want to rent the unit to someone(s) but then don't want them to be in it?

Would your area lend itself to a Monday - Friday lease for commuters or AirBnB?

How about trying to advertise it as a perfect base for people who travel a lot for work or are posted overseas but want to keep a base? 'Ideal for storage', 'We can forward your mail and keep an eye on the place.'

BlueHouse

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #34 on: August 23, 2016, 06:32:32 AM »
I totally get it. You want a quiet, grandmother-type who visits her grandkids out of state for long term. Me too!  Nothing to be shamed about.

Can you charge a flat fee for utilities per person? 
For wifi, you can def do that if you're sharing. Make it a good deal for one and no economy of scale for two. Water, heat, elect, wifi, trash, etc.
no idea if that's possible in your situation.

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #35 on: August 23, 2016, 06:48:57 AM »
I totally get it. You want a quiet, grandmother-type who visits her grandkids out of state for long term. Me too!  Nothing to be shamed about.

Can you charge a flat fee for utilities per person? 
For wifi, you can def do that if you're sharing. Make it a good deal for one and no economy of scale for two. Water, heat, elect, wifi, trash, etc.
no idea if that's possible in your situation.

Clever! Could you even offer a reduced rate of utilities for months/weeks/days when someone is away (dunno if you'd want to be bothered about tracking this).

clarkfan1979

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #36 on: August 27, 2016, 11:26:03 PM »
You can have 1 rate for a single person and another rate for a couple. That should cover the wear and tear of another person.

rachael talcott

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Re: Attracting the Roommateless Professional?
« Reply #37 on: August 28, 2016, 02:32:23 PM »
Family status is a federally protected class for housing.  In most cases, this has been interpreted to mean that a landlord can't discriminate against people with kids, but it's vague enough that it could mean you couldn't discriminate against couples.  The usual legal recommendation is to cap the number of people in a unit at two people per bedroom plus one, so if it's a one bedroom, you would have to accept up to three people.  CA law has a specific guideline:  120 sq ft for a one bedroom for two people, and for every additional 50 sq ft, another person can stay there. It is possible that your local government requires that you accept higher density. 

The "Mrs Murphy" exemption clearly applies here, so in most states you would not have to conform to the federal Fair Housing Act.  But CA has separate laws:

"California's Mrs. Murphy exemption only applies to the refusal to rent or lease a portion of an owner-occupied single family house to a person as a roomer or boarder living within the house provided that no more than one roomer or boarder is to live within the household."

It sounds like your place would be considered a duplex, not a SFH, so you're stuck with fair housing laws.  Advertising it as "perfect for singles" is a very bad idea. You don't want any hint in there of discrimination against families.

That said, because you only have one unit, it would be very hard for someone to make the case that you are discriminating against couples/families if you found someone through word of mouth, or even if you had a general ad and chose a single person over other options.

People sometimes get very offended when you tell them they don't qualify for your rental, even when it's for something entirely legal, like not having a job that makes 3x rent, or not meeting a credit history threshold.  One person who decides to sue could be a real pain, and CA law strongly favors the tenant.