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Advice on Renting Multiple Rooms in One Apartment

I was presented with a good opportunity to rent out a 5 bedroom apartment that my landlord was using for his family, but they decided to move out because they bedrooms have no windows. Since he bought the property intending to use it for his family, he is going to have trouble renting it out on a monthly basis and it’s not ideal for office so I presented him with the idea of AirBnB. He said I could rent out the property from him and do AirBnB (which I know is rare). The space is in a good location, Chinatown, Philadelphia and I feel I’m helping the landlord out and he is helping me out since it’s an odd space. I live in the unit above it so it would be easy to manage

My question is:

  1. How much does it affect house guests and profits for them to share a common area but still have a private room.
  2. Not having windows in 4 of the 5 rooms. Obviously it would effect someone living their long term, but someone just needing a private bedroom to sleep would be a different story. I can’t find information on the legality of it. It’s vague for some reason.
  3. I’m paying $2000 for rent and ideally would like to profit profit $1000 - $2500 charging $50 per room with 5 rooms and 40-70% occupancy.

Thanks a bunch!

Are these rooms already furnished?

No windows is a terrible fire hazard. I don’t believe this would be legal code anywhere. Are you in the US? I do not believe you will get a permit or license from your local authorities.

This is from the International Residential Code: “EMERGENCY ESCAPE AND RESCUE REQUIRED SECTION: R 310.1 Basements and every sleeping room shall have at least one operable emergency and rescue opening. Such opening shall open directly into a public street, public alley, yard or court. Where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required in each sleeping room, but shall not be required in adjoining areas of the basement. Where emergency escape and rescue openings are provided, they shall have a sill height of not more than 44 inches (1,118mm) above the floor…” You can get the whole thing here: https://www.nachi.org/non-conforming-bedrooms.htm

We had a family in our area - all 4 of them perished because they were renting a room with no windows. The location of the fire made it impossible for them to exit the house.

I see listings on airbnb for basement apartments, such as I have. The rooms have tiny little windows way up high and I shudder. Can you imagine trying to get your family out through such a window in the event of a fire?

I. Would. Not. Do It.

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Rooms aren’t furnished, but apartment is furnished with refrigerator, stove and it’s a new renovation.

Yes I’m in the US and looked up the codes, but their wasn’t one per se for our city and I lived in another apartment that only had a skylight. This apartment is on the first floor and has a door and window in the living room if that would help matters. Thanks for the info dcmooney and I would not want anything tragic to happen under my watch.

The furnishing of 5 bedrooms is a big expense.

What a great opportunity! I stayed at a four bedroom in SF that was all private rooms. They had two full bathrooms one labeled mens another womens and each room had one shelf they could use in the refrigerator! Each room had a keyless entry system that automatically locked so my stuff always felt super secure and was really busy so I never saw anyone. If you did 5 rooms at $100 a night you could clean up big time. It’ll turn into a full time job with reservations, cleanings, and coordinating keys etc. but worth it! I would also agree with other’s here, if the rooms doesn’t have a window its not a bedroom and you’ll be liable 100% for negligence like this. I’m involved with political stuff here in Boston so not sure of the G’s involvement down there but Phili charges occupancy tax already so may need to register your rooms etc. I would do some research about city requirements too.

@phosho Hey! I know I just wrote all that stuff about being a great idea but here’s a better one. The cheapest private apartment in that area is $200, furnish it very tastefully, make it super clean, charge $250, rent it out 25 nights and your profiting over 3K after paying cleaners, and not killing yoursel or putting guests at risk with no windows.

I have my 4br listed and 2 of the rooms are basement level with small windows. I will say although people see small windows on the listing they will still complain about the lack of light. I have multiple doors downstairs in case of a fire, does this places have alternative exits?

Everyone at my listing shares the kitchen. I just mark what’s free for use and where people can store their food. I haven’t had any complaints about this, but I do need to be very aware of food spoiling because people like to buy things and leave it.

I was looking at expenses at 5 full frame beds, linens, pillows, towels and pictures to be around $2000. Would be an initial investment and was going to ask the landlord to do a pro-rated rent until I recouped the $2000.

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SouthEndHospitality: Sounds like it works out pretty well especially since it’s near the convention center and the DNC rolling into town in July. I always see listings in NYC for people living in monthly rentals with no windows and they are supposedly strict on everything. Go figure. Thanks for your input on how you liked the experience of staying in a multiple room apartment.

ehv5002: Probably better to have your basements listed as no windows than the small windows seem a lot bigger than, ha. There’s just the front door and one window that leads right onto the street on the ground level. How is your occupancy rate and net profits with those multiple private rooms. I have to see if it’s worth the initial investment of about $2000-$3000 to furnish on top of $2000 per month rent + utilities. Thanks

I do a 4 bedroom with 2 out of two no windows. NOBODY CARES. As long as you provide guests with pics and tell them no windows people will book it, especially for that low rate. Well worth it and legalities are based per township check your city hall.

That’s what I would think if they are staying short term.

We had another forum member at one time ask us about renting out a room with no windows. I would not do this. It’s really not safe at all. You have to have ventilation for rooms, and as DC pointed out, your house is in strict violation of fire safety codes.

I find myself asking why would you think a windowless room is not okay as a long term rental but okay as a short term? The possibility of someone dying is the same. Whether they rent from Air or on a lease.

I really think that you are not going to make the killing you think you will. Especially once you disclose the lack of windows. You really must disclose the lack of windows you know. Don’t try to “paper it over.” If you don’t, guests will arrive and be pretty shocked that they’ve been stashed in what amounts to a large closet.

Does your landlord know that your Airbnb renting exposes him to a huge liability? If someone dies or gets injured on his property (perhaps due to fire code violations or ventilation issues) his homeowners insurance won’t cover it?

You asked. I answered. I think it’s a bad idea.

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Well I bet if you called Airbnb yourself and asked if you can set up five rooms without windows you would get a great big no,

But maybe you should just read it in their guidelines yourself:

From the Safety section of Hosting Standards:

Creating hazardous situations
You should not keep unsecured weapons, disease risks, or dangerous animals in your listing, nor should you create conditions that increase the likelihood of a fire or impede escape in the event of emergency.

In another section:

Climate:

Ensure your home is properly ventilated and that temperature control is clearly marked and functional. Ensure guests are clear about how to safely use the heater.

And even more:

Fire Prevention:

Ensure you have a functioning smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, and that your property meets government safety guidelines for your area (e.g., International Building Code). Ensure you provide a functioning fire extinguisher and complete required maintenance.

Exits:

Ensure you have a clearly marked fire escape route, and post a map in your home.

You guys renting windowless rooms should stop. It’s wrong and unethical.

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I appreciate your input (as I’m looking at all angles of this situation if I move forward.). I’ve seen rentals in Philadelphia and NYC with no windows and rented an apartment with only skylights in the apartment and no windows. I couldn’t find any fire code’s specific to Philadelphia hence asking around. The apartment is on the ground floor and the door and window in living room lead right out to the street and it’s the only unit besides mine which is above it. I would definitely disclose and anything else if they are no windows in my description and wanted to know from anyone’s experience if lack of windows deterred people from renting if they are really just sleeping there (mostly convention going types).

Thanks again for taking the time to chime in and giving me your viewpoint.

You seem like a nice person, but you should really rethink this. As a mom, I have heard that one before–“well everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I?”

DC above just quoted the international code, which is also mentioned in Airbnb’s own safety standard documents I quoted above. That should trump (pardon the pun) any lack of code about fire violations that Philadelphia may or may not have. And if you can go down to the planning department and get their blessing with what you want to do, I’ll stand aside corrected.

You should also be aware that Air takes a hard line on hosts with multiple listings and will sometimes delist all of them without warning or explanation. Your guests could also turn you in. They could stay at your place and then ask for a refund due to you being not in compliance. Even if you disclose all the way to Sunday in your listing that there won’t be windows or ventilation, there will be a certain percentage of guests who don’t read a single word of your listing and will arrive surprised and disappointed.

In my first job as a writer, I was placed by my jealous female boss in a windowless claustrophobic closet when there were plenty of offices with windows in the building available. She wanted to make sure the new person was put in her place. I guess I still have a bad taste in my mouth all these years later about spending hours a day in a room with no windows–and no air to breathe if I wanted to close the door.

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Renting out rooms without windows are common and you should be OK.

phosho,

Yes, some people may not care there are no windows because they are getting a cheap price. But like the old saying “it’s all fun and games until someone gets their eye poked out.” My partner and I had this very same argument. I have a basement and we were turning one section into a third bedroom/bath. The ceiiling fan was put in…cool hanging lights from the ceiling, etc. - until I just happened to read a post about how crazy illegal this was.

So I checked into it and called the county building inspector. Look him in your area and just call. He verified that there must be at least one egress exit. What was so confusing to me is I didn’t understand the definition of “egress” and kept thinking in my head that there is one door exit. He didn’t care that we were even going to put in another door exit as a second escape route that would lead to the stairs. Neither one led directly to the outside, and an egress exit must go to the outside and be large enough for a fireman with all his gear to be able to carry someone through the window.

My partner still wants to put a bed in the room and just not advertise it as a bedroom. I still stand by “no…not happening.” - I can imagine a lawyer having a field day with that one. I think I even read it may not be legal to have the room set up as an office or something too. But I can live with maybe being illegal and providing desk space, etc. if that’s what the room gets turned into. I can sleep at night with that.

I was a bit crushed at the time because the 3rd bed/bath was going to be ensuite. It was going to be great that everyone could spread out and have privacy. But the bathroom space will most likely turn into a storage closet and maybe the bedroom space will be a gym.

Call your building inspector!

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