Apartment Guru: Spare Rooms Into Spare Cash

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apartment guru renter issueDear Apartment Guru,

I've been posting Craigslist ads for vacationers to stay with me for the past few months. I live in a city that is a popular vacation spot and am able to charge enough so that I don't have to replace my roommate who moved out seven months ago.

Recently I told a friend who lives in our building and she mentioned it to our landlord. Now he is really pissed and told me he wants me out.

It says in my lease that I can have anyone stay here for a week and no one has stayed longer than that. I always pay my rent on time and all of my "guests" have been happy staying with me and respectful of the neighbors.

So what's the big deal? Can I get in legal trouble for what I've done? And can he seriously kick me out?

-- The Bed and Breakfast BanditDear Bandit,

Well, the simple answer here is yes -- yes he can, and yes you could.

"The tenant is using her apartment as a 'hotel,'" says Gary S. Dunn, a real estate lawyer in Garden City, New York, "and I believe that might violate her lease."

The truth is, running a bed and breakfast almost universally requires permits. And that is essentially what you are doing. On top of that, there are about 9,000 reasons I can think of off the top of my head that say you are putting yourself in grave danger with this behavior -- including (but not limited to) getting sued by someone who slips in your shower and getting murdered by a sociopath.

In short, what you are doing is very dangerous on a number of levels. If you are unable to pay the rent on this apartment by yourself, I suggest you find a place where you can. Or fill the room with a permanent tenant. Studies show that people who need people are the luckiest people ... and also that people living with others live longer. Not only is this alternative far safer, but it also takes up a lot less of your time washing the dirty sheets of strangers.

If you don't want to be evicted while you sort out your living arrangement, I suggest you tell your landlord that your friend/neighbor misunderstood what you were talking about. Claim that you aren't charging tourists to stay in your place and you certainly won't be ever again -- if you ever did. (But you probably shouldn't get into the sticky wicket where you allude to your guilt). Back-pedal like you've never back-pedaled before.

Tell your landlord that those "guests" were friends who came to town. Maybe even get a few of them to corroborate your story in writing. Hopefully your landlord will find himself wondering if you could possibly be so stupid as to invite strangers into your home for days at a time off of Craigslist, and then wait for him to convince himself that it's possible you are not that dumb.

After that I suggest pulling your ad, calling an old friend who has a job in which they travel a few times a month and offering him a great deal on your extra room.

The Aparment Guru is Joselin Linder, co-writer of The Good Girls Guide to Living in Sin and Have Sex Like You Just Met. Having rented apartments and houses in Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Brooklyn, Columbus, OH and abroad in Prague, CZ, she knows what it means to live in home you don't own and still make it homey. Anything she doesn't know, she isn't afraid to ask.
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