Sometimes an elderly person decides to rent a room in their home to a younger person who is looking for a place to live. The elderly person may rent or own the home, and they may receive either money or help with household tasks from the younger person. Typically, the younger person will be someone who does not have much money but has free time to help someone else. They might be a student or someone who lives on a fixed income. Homesharing allows a senior to preserve their independence when they otherwise might need to move into an assisted living facility. They should be aware that their younger housemate cannot provide them with regular care and likely will not have medical knowledge, so a homeshare arrangement will not offer a solution for someone who is dealing with serious physical or mental conditions.
If an elderly person is struggling financially, the rent can provide them with financial security. Non-monetary ways in which a housemate can help include providing transportation to the elderly person. Safety and security based on having a younger person in the house, as well as assistance with chores like cleaning and cooking, can make a big difference to the elderly person’s health and peace of mind. The younger person also can boost the elderly person’s spirits just by providing them with regular interactions.
Setting Up a Homeshare
Homesharing programs require each side to submit an application, and each side may need to go through an interview with program staff. This can not only determine whether someone is a good fit for the program but also provide insight into personalities and preferences that can help make a stronger match. While the younger person may need to submit references, the older person may need to prepare for a home visit by program staff. The extent of staff involvement will vary according to the program. In some cases, staff may even get involved after the situation has been finalized if the housemates have a dispute.
Once an initial match has been made, the homeowner and the potential housemate will meet at the home. They will decide whether they are a good fit for each other. (Sometimes a program will suggest a trial period of a week or so before each side makes a final decision.) If everything goes smoothly, they will work on a written homeshare agreement. This will outline the rent and services that the housemate will provide to the older person, as well as any requirements and restrictions that the older person wants to impose. The homeshare agreement should contain a notice provision. In most cases, either side will be able to terminate the relationship with 30 days’ notice. It also may contain grounds to terminate the relationship immediately for cause, such as failing to pay rent.
If you are the landlord in this relationship, you may need to strike a balance between meeting your preferences and being flexible. If you have certain requirements that are non-negotiable, you should not consider a match who cannot meet those requirements, and you should clearly state your requirements in the application. You may not find a match immediately, but you should continue to be patient. Also, you should be candid about any personal characteristics that may not appeal to everyone. This will avoid any unpleasant surprises that end a relationship soon after it begins. If you like a prospective housemate, but they have certain requests or preferences, you can try to accommodate them. You should not expect your housemate to treat you as a parent, even if neither of you has family members in the area.
Not every state has a homeshare program, while some states offer multiple options to consider. A homeshare program may offer match-up homesharing, group homesharing, or a combination. A match-up program involves a single housemate, while a group program involves several people living together in one home. The National Shared Housing Resource Center can be a good place to start because it provides a listing of homeshare programs, organized by state. Regional housing agencies and non-profit organizations in your community may provide referrals and sometimes may provide services directly. If your city, county, or state has an office dedicated to assisting senior citizens, this may be a useful agency to consult.