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To make your mortgage more affordable, consider temporarily renting out an extra bedroom or garage apartment to a tenant. Having a housemate can be a wonderful experience or a frustrating one, depending on how well you vet candidates, communicate your expectations and protect yourself with a written legal leasing agreement.   

Begin your search for a housemate by asking friends, family, coworkers and church or professional organization members for referrals, or visiting online roommate-seeking sites. Set the terms of the lease and screen potential tenants by credit-worthiness, personal references, pets, smoking and other criteria, but you must follow Fair Housing laws to avoid illegal discrimination and to protect the tenant’s rights. As you interview potential tenants, discuss key issues such as schedules, habits and other living preferences. 

You can minimize disputes with a detailed rental agreement that covers rent, deposits, responsibilities, house rules and which items can be shared, such as food and living spaces. You should also include a dispute resolution method agreeable to both you and the tenant. 

Should you need to evict your tenant for not paying the rent, damaging your home, making too much noise or other violations of their lease, you’ll have to take the tenant to court where an eviction can be approved by a judge. Hopefully, it won’t come to that if you diligently check your tenant’s credit report and references and confirm their employment in advance. In the best case, you’ll make a new friend instead.

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