Room and board differs from “renting” in that the lodger normally has a private bedroom only and shares the rest of the house with the person or persons offering room and board. A renter, on the other hand, pays a monthly fee to a landlord for private living quarters complete with bathroom and kitchen, or in the case of a bachelor apartment, kitchenette. Unlike room and board, the renter lives and works independent of the landlord.
Another type of rental is “room for rent.” Like room and board, this renter only gets a private bedroom in a house where the other facilities are shared. However, meals are not provided, nor is domestic work required. People who offer such an arrangement are simply looking to supplement their income to make a monthly rental or mortgage payment. The only real advantage to the renter is that it is much less expensive than renting an entire dwelling.
Occasionally room and board is offered for free out of the kindness of people’s hearts. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in August 2005, many good Samaritans across the country offered temporary room and board to families in need.
Good will aside, most offers of room and board are made in exchange for work. Before entering into an agreement, it is in the best interest of both parties to talk out the conditions thoroughly and write up a detailed contract. The contract should not only stipulate the duties required of the lodger, but it should also list exceptions — what the lodger is not required to do. Will cooking be required? Laundry duties? Driving? If care for a disabled or elderly person is required, be sure the lodger is qualified.
Room and board can be a very beneficial situation for everyone involved. A lodger can move into a home and be gainfully employed while not having to worry about a place to live. The person offering room and board also gets a good deal, as a spare bedroom is fairly useless, while a lodger can be a tremendous help to a family. When the match is a good one, everyone wins.
If you are looking to secure room and board and get an offer, speak to the neighbors of your prospective ‘employer’ before accepting. Don’t be afraid to ask him or her for a few phone numbers of long time friends or business associates that you can contact for character references. The same is true for the opposite party, especially if the lodger will be caring for children or the elderly or disabled. Be sure to check qualifications, references and previous employers. Background checks are also an option.