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I’m considering subleasing rooms within a single family home. I expect that one of my potential tenants will have their significant other boarding with them. It was originally expected that only one person per room.

Is it logical to charge an additional fee of the sorts for this extra person? I would already be factoring in the additional utility fees that would incur; so this fee would be on top of that. How could I make it convincing and legal to the person(s) renting the room? What would one call this type of fee?

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    Are utilities included? It definitely is reasonable to charge both by the number of rooms taken up (which doesn't increase for a second person) and by the number of people using utilities. – Ben Voigt Jan 13 at 3:50
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    I suppose a component of the cost of renting is reasonable wear and tear. This cost is effectively doubled when there are two tenants instead of one. If total upkeep is 1% of property value per year, and the house goes for $200k withfour rooms, and interior upkeep is half the total... $200k / 100 / 4 / 2 = $250/yr or $20/mo at least. Use above the biggest numbers you reasonably can. Perhaps there are other factors besides wear and tear to consider. – Patrick87 Jan 13 at 16:16
  • @Patrick87 Interior upkeep would include furnace replacement which doesn't wear out faster by having three people live in the house instead of two. I don't think it's reasonable to say the cost is effectively doubled. OTOH, more people does mean more wear on the water heater, so I agree that some extra is warranted. – Brian Jan 14 at 21:26
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It may be reasonable but if you're going to go down that path, I'd encourage you to talk with a lawyer to ensure that your rental agreement and advertising comply with the Fair Housing Act particularly with respect to familial status. Here is a useful white paper from the National Multifamily Housing Council which includes in the summary

Occupancy restrictions similarly cannot discriminate based on familial status. Although the Keating Memo—an often cited HUD internal guidance memorandum—provides for a two persons per bedroom policy as being reasonable, courts consider this a rebuttable presumption to be analyzed with respect to a totality of factors including the size and configuration of the bedrooms and unit as well as the age of the children occupants. Single room occupancy units present a particular challenge with respect to restrictions on renting to families with children

If you want to restrict tenants to having a single occupant per bedroom, you would likely need to do some additional analysis to ensure that you are in compliance.

Another fair housing organization lists some warning signs of familial status discrimination which include a surcharge for adding a child or imposing overly strict occupancy limits

Examples & Warning Signs of Familial Status Discrimination

  • Refusing to rent to families with children.
  • Charging a higher security deposit to families with children even if the family has a good rental history.
  • Overly restrictive occupancy limits. In California, the occupancy guideline is two people per bedroom, plus one additional person (i.e., 5 people in a 2-bedroom unit). Steering families with children to downstairs units or to certain buildings or areas in a development.
  • Restrictions on children’s outdoor recreation activities or use of common areas, including “adults only” pools or pool hours.
  • Interference with a resident’s right to operate a licensed in-home daycare facility or to have foster children.
  • Increasing rent (called a “rent surcharge”) because a resident brings a child into the household.

From a practical matter, I'd also strongly encourage you to figure out how you would determine "occupancy". Presumably, a tenant is allowed to have a significant other over periodically including overnight stays. At what point does a tenant owe an additional fee-- if they stay overnight 3 times every week? 4? 5? What if they're coming over, staying until 2 or 3, and then heading back to their place? Are you going to be living in the house as well so that you can monitor this sort of thing fairly?

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    Your reference discusses landlord policies prohibiting certain occupancy, not surcharges based on occupancy. A prohibition can be seen as the special case of an infinite surcharge, but is it clear that "reasonable" surcharges are subject to the same regulations as prohibitions? What if it were framed as a discount for low occupancy? – nanoman Jan 14 at 0:54
  • @nanoman - Hence the suggestion to talk to a lawyer to make sure you're doing everything by the book. Since familial status is subject to script scrutiny, it is very easy to run afoul of the law. You can run afoul of the law by advertising an apartment as "single friendly" because it might discourage a family from applying. Adding a surcharge is going to be problematic in general though it may well be possible to make single occupancy reasonable depending on things like the size of the bedrooms, zoning regulations, etc. – Justin Cave Jan 14 at 1:50
  • It would be interesting to know if a per-person rental surcharge (not depending on the age or relationship of the persons) has ever been ruled unlawful in the US. – nanoman Jan 14 at 2:25
  • @nanoman - It would clearly discriminate against families (in the same way that it would if you charged more based on race or gender). It's likely that it could be legal if done in the right way-- you can rebut the presumption of discrimination. But it could be problematic if it's done incorrectly. – Justin Cave Jan 14 at 2:43
  • This article suggests it could be unlawful when intended to account for usage of included utilities -- which is not OP's case. Confusingly, that article says counting children the same as adults is discriminatory because it "will mean that most families will have to pay higher rent to live in the same apartment than tenants without children would." ... – nanoman Jan 14 at 2:53
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Yes, it's reasonable and normal. Additional occupancy is charged by hotels and long term accommodation providers (such as myself).

Be clear in the written agreement that the price you are charging is for single occupancy, and that any additional tenants will occur an additional charge. It's up to you what you want to do with occasional sleep-overs. We've had a rule of "no guests on consecutive nights" in the past, though it didn't become an issue.

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Yes. You create the rules in this situation. You don't really need to provide explanation beyond what your rates are. So if your rent is $400 for 1 person to rent a room, then $400, $500, $600, $700, and $800 per month are all reasonable amounts for 2 persons to rent the room. - You set the rate based on: How quickly you want to rent the room, How much you want to rent to 2 people. - Wear and Tear, Utilities, Etc. are all reasonable explanations if someone feels they need more explanation.

As another user suggested you might not want to 'exclude' additional occupants, especially in advertising. - In most locations you can be as choosy as you want for someone renting a room in your own residence. (BUT advertising still can't be discriminatory.) Personally, I would probably charge a 'per person rate.'*** - This would likely eliminate any more than 1 occupant without directly stating it. (Why choose your place for '$800' if they can find somewhere else for '$500-$600?')

Best Advice you'll ever get: Don't ever rent to someone that can't put down first month's rent and deposit (As applicable for renting a room. We never charged a deposit for renting a room in our own house. Never really had an issue, but did regret not having a deposit when roommate moved out the last day of the month with no )

Better Best Advice you'll ever get: Don't rent to anyone with pets. - No exceptions.

***Note: This isn't exactly what I am suggesting above, but I do have a relevant example: I knew 2 single guys that lived with a Married Couple they were friends with. (Everyone same age) In their case, the per person rate was fair because they were sharing a 3 Bed 2.5 Bath house. The Master bedroom (Married Couple) was roughly double the size of the other bedrooms and had it's own bathroom. The smaller 2 bedrooms shared the other full bath. - So cost basically everything was fairly split right 'down the middle.' (Or split in fourths if you'd rather look at it that way.)

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    Room size will be roughly equivalent. So your recommendation is to put rental fees on a per person/resident basis? Would this work with the legal system? – Anilla Jan 14 at 0:51

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