Author Topic: Duplex questions  (Read 5638 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Duplex questions
« on: March 05, 2015, 09:51:49 AM »
Thinking of buying a duplex for owner occupied/rent the other unit and I'm starting to go down the rabbit hole of questions about it.

Say in the future I had a couple kids and wanted to expand to use BOTH units for the extra space. Do many duplexes have a locked door between the units or would you usually have to install one? Would that layout just suck anyhow and  make you want to rent both units and move your family to a standalone single-family home?

Do you usually include insurance in the rent or would the tenant buy their own insurance like how with apartments you have to buy your own renter's insurance?

What utilities are normally shared/split from one bill? I've seen some duplexes say they are separately metered which sounds great, although maybe complicated if you decide to occupy BOTH units yourself later on.

If a duplex is already occupied on both sides is it a really bad situation to try to get one of the tenants to volunteer to leave? I guess you inherit their leases from the last owner and you can simply not offer one of the tenants a new one. They might not be happy about it but it would be your property. I guess if they were month to month you could be nice and give them a couple months notice that they need to find a new place? Maybe you could ask them both if either of them were already looking to move or would volunteer to leave, then if nobody wants to... flip a coin?
« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 10:10:20 AM by Midas »


  • Stubble
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Re: Duplex questions
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2015, 10:58:27 AM »
Great questions, Midas.

My wife and I bought our duplex when we didn't have kids.  The location is decent, but the layout is what sold us.  It's on a bus line, first floor and basement are one unit, second floor and loft are the second unit.  It also has separate laundry facilities.

Each duplex is different.  Ours has one front door that opens to a foyer area with a stair case to upstairs.  So, in this case, yes there are two locked doors one to each unit.  When we had kids though, we decided to buy another single family place and rent out both halves of the duplex.  In our market at the time, this made us more money (both cash flow and depreciation wise) than what we pay per month for the single family place.  Other duplexes have separate outside entrances (two front doors for example).  Some of these may or may not have a shared staircase in the rear for access to the basement.

Insurance on the property covers the structure and your belongings.  It DOES NOT cover the renters' possessions.  I encourage, but do not require, my tenants to purchase renter's insurance.

Utilities depend on the unit too.  Our duplex has shared water and trash (which is owner paid) and separate electric, gas, phone, cable, etc. billing.  I had friends who lived in a place where everything except phone, internet, cable was covered by the landlord.  They paid a premium for that place though (I think they could have done better paying on their own).  There is also no incentive to conserve utilities, so there's that side of it too.

Regarding existing tenants, yes you typically inherit the leases if the unit is sold.  However, there isn't often a provision that only one party can terminate the lease (i.e. not renew).  You could also raise the rent and see what happens.  Maybe you come out ahead renting another place and charging a bit more at your duplex.  If you do end a lease, be careful not to do so in a way that may be considered discriminatory particularly if that unit's tenants could be considered a member of a protected class in regards to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Duplex questions
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2015, 01:20:24 PM »
A lot of these questions will answer themselves when you have a specific property in mind. Duplexes are wildly diverse in layout/setup and your best solutions will need to be creative and appropriate to the situation.



  • Bristles
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Re: Duplex questions
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2015, 02:50:48 PM »
A lot of these questions will answer themselves when you have a specific property in mind. Duplexes are wildly diverse in layout/setup and your best solutions will need to be creative and appropriate to the situation.



Regarding getting rid of a tenant, this shouldn't be too problematic as you can always be flexible on terms and/or provide a small cash incentive to move.  Or you could have a MTM tenant and you could ask them to move just because.  Depends on the property like Walt said.


  • Bristles
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Re: Duplex questions
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2015, 09:18:32 PM »
It also depends on the state. In my home state, if a tenant is paying rent and not breaking any rules, you pretty much can't give them the boot. Of course you can offer them cash to leave, but forcing them to is pretty much not going to happen unless they're not paying rent or are causing serious problems.

Anyway, you may want to be wary of connecting two duplex units and using them as a single house. This could conceivable result in zoning problems and stuff like that, especially if you decide to sell later. If


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Duplex questions
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2015, 11:26:01 PM »
Two of our multis have had connecting doors in their distant past. I do wonder if an owner at one point had extended family living with them. It is clear that the doorway was sheetrocked. In one case the door exists on the outside landing and is sheetrocked inside.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Duplex questions
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2015, 03:29:18 PM »
To each their own, but where I live there are duplexes converted from single family homes with the second level converted into its own apartment. I would personally would avoid those, unless it has been done very well with its own heat, gas and electric meters etc.