How Hedging Your Bets With Airbnb Could Cost You
Considering moving in with your significant other to save money? The prospect can certainly be tempting, particularly if you live in a city as notoriously pricey as New York or San Francisco. It can also be scary. What if things don't work out and you're left with nowhere to go? A fellow Cheapist recently suggested an appealing half-measure: Instead of abandoning your place completely, list it on Airbnb, an online service that can help you rent out your apartment or house on a short-term basis. That way, you can earn some extra income to help cover your rent or mortgage payment and still have a safety net for the next big leap in your relationship. Unfortunately, a little digging reveals that the risks associated with putting your home up for rent on a website such as Airbnb, VRBO or Roomorama may outweigh the potential gain.
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In the past we've suggested that frugal vacationers look to sites like those for Spring Break deals and other discounts on houses, apartments, or rooms, with the aim of paying less than they would for a nearby hotel. On the flip side, residents of popular destinations can use their spaces to make a little extra money. Airbnb takes a small cut from the exchange and provides $1 million of property damage coverage for hosts. Even if that's enough to make you feel comfortable letting strangers occupy your home and use your stuff, there's a catch: Renting out your apartment for a few days or a week at a time is against the law in some popular cities. In New York, for example, it's illegal to rent out a unit for less than 30 days if you're not present in the home. Although thousands of Airbnb users seem to flout this law, doing so comes with the threat of fines starting at $1,000. The public radio station WNYC profiled one Airbnb host who faces $30,000 in fines. San Francisco, the home of Airbnb, has similar laws and potential penalties that include jail time.
It's up to hosts to check on local regulations; Airbnb doesn't monitor the legality of its listings. Even if the scheme is permitted in your area, it may not be viable if you don't live in a tourist destination. You really have to reside in a large city, near a national park, or in some other vacation hotspot to consistently command a high rate. And no matter where you live, if you're a renter, this type of arrangement could very well violate the terms of your lease. Be sure to read the fine print before you rent out your apartment on a site such as Airbnb.
If you are eligible to try this idea, you can realize some financial benefit from living with your significant other without rushing into anything. As the saying goes, you don't really know someone until you've lived with them. Cramped quarters can create relationship troubles where there weren't any before. A couple sharing a small apartment may quickly discover they need more personal space and want to revert to their old situation, at least until they can figure out how to move into a larger space together.