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10 questions to consider before renting out a room - PART 3

There are many aspects to consider when renting out a room in your home before posting your vacancy on Airbnb, VRBO or craigslist. Protect yourself by knowing the local ordinances and laws governing your area.

In part one I highlighted occupancy types and use of the property--be sure to review for definitions. In part two we examined rights, care, control and postings. To wrap-up this series we are going to cover insurance, anti-discrimination, taxes and local ordinances.

Who is covered in the event of a loss?

An innkeeper could be held liable for loss or damage to a guest’s belongings, but will have the required insurance in place. A tenant would require renter’s insurance as the landlord is not responsible. A lodger’s belongings is most likely not covered by your homeowner’s policy. Airbnb does offer insurance to a host under the right circumstances. A sticky situation could develop if your lodger’s laptop, camera or cash is stolen from their room.

Does anti-discrimination laws pertain to me in my own house?

Yes. You are not allowed to discriminate for any reason based on race, color, national origin, gender or religion. You may want to extend this to include age, sexual orientation and disability.

In no way would an innkeeper ever consider discriminating and must also comply with federal regulatory ADA requirements as well. Likewise, a landlord must not discriminate, however there are certain circumstances if the landlord is a religious organization as well as other very limited situations. When you consider potential lodgers for your room, you are not allowed to use any discriminatory advertising and will be opening your home to anyone. Be careful as you vet someone to rent from you.

What are your new tax consequences?

An innkeeper is a business and therefore knows their tax position very well. A landlord may have a tax adviser or accountant help complete their tax return as they now must track income, expenses and depreciation. One thing to keep in mind is companies like Airbnb send tax forms to the IRS showing your income--you are now in business and will need to track income, expenses and depreciation.

Do you know your local government ordinances?

A hotel is usually found in a commercially zoned district and has met many building and zoning requirements. A landlord in most cases can rent their house to a tenant for more than 30 days unless there are CCR’s (conditions, covenants & restrictions) or other laws and ordinances prevent her from doing so.

Renting a room in your home and renting your entire house on a short-term basis requires special permitting if it can be done at all. There are usually local government restrictions that must be met in order to be allowed a permit. There can also be CCRs, a homeowner’s association or rules and regulations of your complex restricting the renting of a home or room.

Take the time to fully understand your exposure and the laws in order to have a pleasant and profitable venture.

Burt M. Polson, CCIM, is a real estate broker with ACRES Real Estate Services Inc. Reach him at 707-254-8000, burt@acresinfo.com. Sign up for his email newsletter at BurtPolson.com.

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