Renting Out A Spare Room – For Extra Cash

BY  |  Tuesday, Feb 05, 2013 7:13pm  |  COMMENTS (15)

room rentalsegment that aired last night on ABC’s World News looked at a Montclair family’s efforts to rent out a room in their lovely Victorian home to help pay their mortgage. “We’re really underwater, and may have to do a short sell,” says Mia Riker-Norrie, a voice teacher and the general director of the new Opera Theatre of Montclair. “I’m hoping we can get some renters in here to save it.”

Riker-Norrie was disappointed with the television segment. “I agreed to the shoot because they promised to fix up the room nicely. I got really excited,” she says. “But then they just slapped an ugly, ill-fitting comforter on our day bed, partially painted the room, and threw a bowl of fruit on the table.” She says once the crew entered her home, the focus seemed to shift from the rise of airbnb and the trend of renting out a room, to the interior designer.  “It was a weird experience,” says Riker-Norrie.

Like the Norrie’s, several Montclair homeowners are picking up extra cash by renting out space in their homes. From a simple room for $80, to a lovely one-bedroom apartment for $100 a night, see what’s currently available in Montclair on

It had us wondering — Is all this legal?

“It’s an interesting, challenging topic. Without knowing more about a particular situation, I couldn’t say whether it’s allowed or not,” says Rich Charreun, zoning technician for the Montclair Township. “It’s a judgment call. Nothing in the zoning ordinance addresses whether it includes transient or long-term boarders. It would require a legal interpretation from the township attorney.”

Here’s the section of the ordinance Charreun refers to:

One or more persons living together as a single, nonprofit housekeeping unit whose relationship is of a permanent and domestic character, together with no more than two boarders or roomers who are tenants of the family occupant and whose rent shall be paid to the family occupant. Accommodations for boarders or roomers shall not include cooking or kitchen facilities.

It’s easy to see why there’s demand for these informal rental arrangements. Charreun says no one has proposed opening a local hotel or official B&B in Montclair for more than a dozen years.

Would you consider renting out a room in your home?


  1. POSTED BY taint  |  February 05, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know how the law applies. One thing to consider are the safety concerns. Not only for the boarders, but the firefighters who may enter the home. There have been countless firefighter deaths due to illegal boarding situations. What happens is people do minor construction without permits because much of the time the construction is against building and fire code. The firefighters who study the types of buildings and homes they have in their response areas are familiar with general layouts. When you have single room occupancies, you add several challenges… Dead end corridors, egress issues, people where you don’t think people should be, etc. There is a couple who owned a building in the Bronx, who illegally modified their building, and now they’re in prison. Six firefighters became trapped and had to jump from windows because they way the building was constructed. Black Sunday.
    You also run into people living in unsafe conditions, in basements next boilers, no egress, etc. there is a correct and safe way to do it.

    Anyway, something the Montclair officials should take a very close look at.

  2. POSTED BY geoff gove  |  February 05, 2013 @ 10:33 pm

    There’s also the typically Montclairian idea of Border Apartments. Are they still legal?

  3. POSTED BY PAZ  |  February 05, 2013 @ 11:28 pm

    Wow Geoff…..That was a blast from the past, 2005!

  4. POSTED BY caphilly  |  February 05, 2013 @ 11:58 pm

    My husband and I rented out 2 rooms for several years. Have no idea if it was legal. Great experience and it really helped with expenses.

  5. POSTED BY bebopgun  |  February 06, 2013 @ 6:35 am

    Sometimes Montclarions even drive over 55 mph on the GSP, least that’s what I heard.

  6. POSTED BY arch  |  February 06, 2013 @ 7:58 am

    I have a tenant on my 3rd floor – it is legal (see Richard Chareun’s reference above). As for safety concerns, having a tenant or a bread/breakfast person is no different from using the attic space your self. You should still have smoke detectors.

  7. POSTED BY hrhppg  |  February 06, 2013 @ 9:41 am

    Growing up everyone seemed to rent out rooms to students from Montclair State.

  8. POSTED BY frankgg  |  February 06, 2013 @ 10:05 am

    Before the mid 80s Montclair was a town of big old houses (several boarded up) and boarders. It was just the Montclair thing to do. Most carriage house apartments were rented too. There were tragic fires in big old house with boarder situations…. I remember. Then the laws changed to prevent the unsafe conditions….but the laws made renting to boarders disappear.

    The most characteristic feature of Montclair is the fine old houses. Laws must be made to promote adaptive re use of the fine old houses otherwise, because of high taxes and huge expenses, the situation becomes unaffordable and unattractive… and the fine old houses will disappear from the landscape and the desirable characteristic feature will disappear….forever.

    The codes must change to allow bed and breakfast and boarder situations so that the irreplaceable fine old houses of Montclair can survive.

  9. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  February 06, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    I agree with frankgg. Montclair is an excellent place for boarders – mass transit, things to do,etc, extra income for homeowners. (As long as they have a quick way out in case of fire, that is.)

  10. POSTED BY me1004  |  February 06, 2013 @ 11:36 am

    Actually, this airbnb thing is an inconsiderate and insulting affront to all the neighbors. It is illegal under the zoning laws in most places. Short term tenancy under 30 days is generally prohibited in most residential zone. And it generally requires a special short-term occupancy hotel license to do it.

    If people wanted to live in a hotel with different transients coming and going every day, they would live in a hotel. Same for people in a neighborhood, if they wanted an unstable transient neighborhood, they would move to one. Regardless of the laws barring it in residential areas, it is insulting and an affront to your neighbors for you to impose that on them.

    If you want to bring in a longer term renter, that is generally legal and acceptable. But of course, it also will go for a lot less rent. And that is the key here: gouging.

    We have people here renting out daily rooms at up to maybe triple what they could get if they rented on a longer term basis. Meanwhile, they are not getting required licenses for transient occupancy hotels and paying the fees, and having the background checks that requires, and paying their hotel taxes. They are generally not getting other business licensees that are required.

    And who knows what crooks are getting into this and scamming the tenants too — without proper background checks, the worst kind of people will be doing this.

    This is VERY bad. I noticed it starting to get going in my neighborhood. One tenant actually rented a unit here, and rather than live here, was renting it out via airbnd for triple what she was paying in rent! Different strangers kept moving in and out the the place every couple-few days — who nows who they were! Meanwhile, a rental unit was taken off the market for this, making the rental market that much tighter. We told the landlord, and he evicted her. Next time I will tell the code enforcement people or prosecutors. It is a crime to be doing that without the proper licenses.

    Renting a room for long term tenancy is not at all the same as doing it on a daily basis over airbnd. Airbnd has set up a system for people to skirt the law and insult their neighbors.

  11. POSTED BY walleroo  |  February 06, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

    This is an outrage. It is illegal, immoral, inexplicable and indefensible. It is an affront to decency and neighborliness, and it offends my sensibilities. It should be restricted, conflicted, redacted and subtracted.

  12. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  February 06, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

    Doesn’t Liz allow you board under her porch roo?

  13. POSTED BY idratherbeat63  |  February 06, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

    me1004 You are just the neighbor we all dream of. I am sure you are so loved by all those around you.

  14. POSTED BY walleroo  |  February 06, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

    Actually, I’m on the lease.

  15. POSTED BY trisha  |  March 10, 2013 @ 10:31 pm

    I’ve been renting for years and all was good. Many seeking a single room actually want a house share for the price of a room and want lots of house privileges. It’s a difficult call. The market has changed.

Featured Comment

I'm struck by how much attention is being paid to the details of a parking lot, as opposed to the attention paid to the future impact of the monstrous projects being planned.

Tip, Follow, Friend, Subscribe