Should You Rent or Sublet Your Home While Traveling?
Y ou are about to embark on the trip of a lifetime — one where money may be no object — but you still would like to save money wherever possible to at least offset some of the costs associated with travel.
One of the many things you could do is rent or sublet your home, which could potentially save you thousands of dollars; but there are some caveats and potential issues about which you need to know — if you did not already know, of course — before taking on renting or subletting your home.
Should You Rent or Sublet Your Home While Traveling?
Having someone pay your rent while you are traveling can not only offset the cost of your trip entirely; but you could even potentially profit from it if the rent you charge is high enough…
…but you have also entered an entirely new world: once you find a tenant, you have become a landlord — and with that title carries a substantial amount of responsibility.
How Much for Rent; and What Is Included?
How much do you plan to charge for rent? Will you include the use of utilities in the rent which you intend to charge? What will be the terms of the security deposit — which is strongly recommended but may not be legal in some jurisdictions — to at least mitigate any damage which can occur in your home during the rental? Will any extra items be included — such as use of the garage or assigned parking space, if you have one?
Whatever items will not be included in the rental of your property should be removed prior to showing your home to prospective tenants.
If your home is located near a highway, transportation, park, shopping, university or other amenities and conveniences — or if you happen to have a spectacular view of the water or mountains — you may be able to charge a premium for rent.
Finding the Right Tenant for Your Home
Finding a tenant is not an easy task either. Depending on how particular you are, the process can be arduous. You must carefully interview each prospective tenant in detail to ensure that he or she is as close to the ideal person living in your home as possible — but there are other factors to consider as well.
If your prospective tenant happens to be married with children, are you all right with that? If he or she is single and meets the significant other of his or her dreams, is having that person move in with him or her all right with you? Think about the maximum number of people which you will allow to live in your home at any given time during the rental period.
If you are allergic to pets, chances are that a devoted dog or cat owner is not your ideal tenant. Does your potential tenant smoke? Is he or she currently employed — and if so, did you talk to his or her boss in person or via the telephone to ensure that the person is reliable and responsible? Have you performed a credit check to ensure that his or her credit history is satisfactory where you are reasonably confident that he or she will pay you the rent which he or she will owe you? Did your prospective renter provide you with multiple personal, financial and business references?
These are just some of many examples of what to look for when searching for a prospective tenant; so ensure that you ask yourself all of the questions on what type of person will be right to rent your home — and be sure to throughly check out whichever person to whom you are considering renting or subletting your home…
…and if you are unable or unwilling to put in the effort to rent or sublet your home — such as listing it on the Internet and conducting initial interviews — you could always hire a real estate agent to handle much of the work for you; and you can also conduct final interviews with the most qualified people vying to become your next tenant…
…but realize that property rentals do not earn nearly as much commissions as selling houses; so do not expect real estate agents to exert the same amount of effort to find a tenant for you and he or she would to find a buyer for a house. The typical commission for a real estate agent to rent out your home is typically equivalent to the amount of rent for one or two months.
I am not an attorney; but I have been a landlord where I owned a separate property which I rented. Please do your research and contact a lawyer for legal advice before proceeding with the process of renting or subletting your home.
Laws vary between jurisdictions; so thoroughly check to ensure that renting or subletting your home is legal.
Leases can vary as well. For example, you might rent an apartment which you would like to sublet; but read your lease carefully, as there could be a clause which prevents you from doing so. Breaking that clause could mean a penalty such as eviction from the premises.
Assuming that the letters of the law and any legally contractual obligation into which you may have entered have been precisely followed, what if you return from your trip and your home is not the way you left it? What is your recourse?
If you decide to have hidden cameras throughout your home recording while you are away, you may be required to disclose that fact to your prospective tenant — or having them may be illegal in some jurisdictions.
If a burglar broke into your home and stole the belongings of your tenant, who would be liable? If a fire obliterated your home with the belongings of the tenant, who would be liable? What if the sprinkler system suddenly malfunctioned or was activated and flooded the belongings of your tenant in your home?
If you are going to rent or sublet your home, ensure that you are properly insured; and ensure that your insurance policy covers renting or subletting your home so that your claim is not denied should anything happen.
Hire a Property Manager
If you are unable or unwilling to go through all of the time and effort necessary to rent out your apartment, you could always hire a property manager to handle the process of renting and maintaining of your home; collecting rent; paying the bills and expenses; checking up every so often to ensure that all is okay with your home — but realize that it is an added expense which will cut into the savings of your trip.
Preparing For Your Tenant
Once you have chosen your tenant, ensure that the lease which you sign with him or her leaves nothing to question with regard to responsibilities.
As with renting a car, take plenty of photographs and video of your home and belongings before you leave as evidence of what your home was like prior to the rental period; and create copies of them to store in different places. Better yet, lock away or remove as many of your personal belongings as possible to protect them from potential damage or theft. Clean your home thoroughly before taking those photographs and videos.
For your convenience, you can arrange for both deposits of rental payments into your bank account and payments for all expenses to occur automatically so that you do not have to think about them. You can also arrange with the local post office to have your mail delivered to a trusted family member, friend or neighbor designated by you.
If your tenant is not instructed to do so, have a neighbor perform routine rituals at your home — such as taking out and bringing in your garbage can, cutting the grass or shoveling the snow as three of many examples. If you do not hire a property manager, enlist the assistance of a family member, friend or neighbor to manage any problems or issues which may possibly occur — and in addition to yourself, be sure that you give each entrusted person whom you designate to volunteer to be responsible for whatever aspect of your home copies of your keys.
Similar to leaving your home to go on a trip, let the neighbors whom you trust know that you will be traveling and renting your home to someone temporarily. Better yet, introduce your tenant to those neighbors so that there is no mistake that the tenant belongs in your home — and also to subtly let the tenant be aware that the neighbors will be watching. Give your neighbors as many ways to contact you or your local representative — such as a property manager — as possible in case something goes wrong.
Just the mere thought of having a stranger living in my home and using my belongings stresses me. What if the tenant accidentally leaves on an appliance which can burn down my home or mistakenly leaves windows open during a torrential thunderstorm? I would most likely have some sense of worry while I was traveling; and I prefer the comfort of piece of mind so that I may fully concentrate on enjoying my trip.
When I was 24 years old, I was hired for a position at a company in an adjacent state to where I had lived at the time. Deciding that I wanted where I lived to also be an investment, I bought a place to call my home in that state…
…but only a mere few months after the contracts were signed at the closing and the money for the down payment had already been paid, I suddenly started to travel frequently for my job. That was a dream come true for me, yes — but I was away from home more often than not. I found myself wishing that I could have held off on purchasing the place and instead just kept my belongings in storage while living in hotels, as that would have been significantly less expensive and simultaneously more flexible.
The thought of renting out my home did not even occur to me simply because I do not want strangers occupying it. The items where I lived was my property, not theirs; and they would not have a vested interest in ensuring that my property remained untouched or undamaged.
Renting or subletting a home never was, is not, and never will be for me.
Despite the amount of information included in this article pertaining to renting or subletting your home to a tenant while you travel, this is not an exhaustive list; and the advice herein is not intended to be actual legal advice. Every detail needs to be thought out well and covered thoroughly; which is why you are strongly advised to consult an attorney or other professional prior to proceeding with the rental or subletting process, which is by no means is a short or easy process.
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.