Taking in boarders

Private Property South Africa
Sarah-Jane Meyer

If you have a large home and your income could do with a boost, it may be worth considering taking in boarders to augment your earnings.

Many home owners are regularly adding to their incomes by offering accommodation to boarders or lodgers. The difference is that lodgers pay for use of a room only, whereas boarders pay for a room as well as meals and possibly other services such as laundry.

Lodgers and boarders live with you as part of your household, sharing some of your accommodation, such as the bathroom or kitchen. Problems often arise when home owners share premises with others. Although there is no legal requirement to have a formal written agreement with your boarder, having everything in writing clarifies what both parties can expect in the arrangement. It also provides a reference point should any dispute occur in the future.

So, whether you’re renting a room to a friend for a month or two, or want a long term boarder, there are practical and legal advantages of having the rental terms in writing.

The agreement should include:

  • A full description of the property, with details of the room to be occupied.
  • The rental period, the amount to be paid each month, and the date on which rent is due.
  • The notice period required from both parties to terminate the agreement.
  • Parking – specify dedicated parking bays, carports or garage space.
  • The services the boarders should expect to receive, including:

Room cleaning – specify how often the room will be cleaned and what is expected of them. For instance, they may need to make their own beds and put away clothes so that the cleaners can get on with their work;

The provision of meals or use of the kitchen to prepare their own food;

Dedicated space in the fridge and freezer;

Use of the washing machine, tumble drier and washing line

DsTV and wifi connectivity.

  • All likely provisions for restrictions on what the boarders may do in the property. These could include:

Use of the indoor and outdoor lounge areas during certain times;

Television and radio volume control – noisy boarders can be a real nuisance;

Keeping of pets – no pets is the general rule, but you may be prepared to make an exception if the pet is a caged bird, for instance.

Visitors – specify whether or not they are allowed, and when they may visit. You don’t want to regularly be woken during the night by visitors coming and going.

  • Be sure to specify that you have the right to enter the room rented to your boarders at any time. They may have their own room, but they live in your home with your permission and don't have the right to exclude you from their room or any part of your home.

Boarders can be less pleasant once you’ve given them notice, but a short term agreement will make giving notice easier. You can mention that you don’t plan to renew the agreement, rather than saying you want your boarder to leave.

With careful planning and some give and take on both sides, living with boarders can be financially rewarding and could even bring an agreeable new atmosphere to your home. This is particularly true for older people who may welcome having younger people around the house.

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