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Should COVID-19 Make You Rethink Sharing an Income Property With Your Tenants?


May 05, 2020 by Maurie Backman

If you own a home you're looking to rent out, you have a couple of choices: You can find a tenant (or multiple tenants) to occupy that space, or you can choose to occupy that home along with a tenant or multiple tenants who pay you rent every month.

There are plenty of good reasons to pursue the latter arrangement, which is known as an owner-occupied property. If you live in the home you use as an income property, you won't have to pay for a separate living space of your own that's apt to cost you money. And you can then use the money you save for all sorts of things -- to improve your current rental home, buy a second income property down the line, or meet other personal financial goals, like retiring early or putting a child through college.

Also, with an owner-occupied property, managing tenants and enforcing rules becomes a little easier. Your tenants will be less likely to violate the terms of their lease agreements -- say, have a pet when it's not allowed or smoke inside the property when that's clearly prohibited -- if you're right there on the premises watching over them. And if problems arise -- say, there's the need for an immediate repair -- you'll be on site already to deal with it.

But despite these perks, some landlords may now be hesitant to enter into owner-occupied arrangements. And we can blame that trepidation on none other than COVID-19.

Will COVID-19 change living arrangements?

There's already talk that COVID-19 will cause people to change the way they think about certain common living arrangements, like having a roommate or dormitory-style co-living setups. But the current crisis may also change the way landlords think about sharing a living space with their tenants.

Health officials have made it clear that the best way to stay safe in the face of COVID-19 is to limit contact with the outside world and socially distance. But that's easier said than done if you're a landlord living under the same roof as your tenants. Even if your homes have separate entrances within the property, there's apt to be some overlap under that type of arrangement -- say you share the same front door, use the same mailbox, or park in the same driveway. And that could set the stage for added exposure to a virus nobody wants.

Of course, if you're currently in an owner-occupied situation, you can't exactly kick your tenants out for fear of falling ill. But what you can do is rethink the idea of signing those leases again once they come to an end. Or, you might renew those leases but find a different place to live yourself. This especially holds true if you have your own family living in that home that you want to protect. After all, the one main drawback of living in an owner-occupied home is having less privacy as a landlord. And in these crazy times, privacy and personal safety easily go hand in hand.

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