Is house sharing safe? Make money by renting rooms to strangers in your own home

Don't Waste Your Money

Have some unused bedrooms in your home or apartment?

More and more home owners are renting out those rooms to make some extra money.

It's a hot new trend known as house sharing, or couch surfing. But is it safe? And legal?

Sleep in a Mansion

It looks like a British manor house, perhaps even James Bond's Skyfall estate.

But this seven-bedroom mansion -- called "Bella Note" -- is just the latest place where you can stay for a night, in the growing trend of home sharing.

"We've had people from all over the world: Italy, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Canada," said homeowner Michael Caporale.

Caporale is a film director with some extra time and a lot of extra space.

So he's turned his home into a bed and breakfast thanks to the home sharing site Airbnb.

As he cooks up a gourmet spinach and egg breakfast, his cell phone is receiving text alerts about his next guest. who made a reservation through Airbnb.

Website Handles all Details

Airbnb takes care of booking, payment, and provides protection against fraud. Guests have to pay up front, to prevent them from bailing out, but the owner is not paid until after they spend a night.  

"They protect the host, they protect the guest, they have insurance for me, a million dollars in insurance," he said.

Each bedroom has its own theme, an old fashioned key, and full bath. Some are extra-luxurious.

"I call this the old timey rich man's shower," he explained, "because it's got seven shower heads."

You get the private room, bath and hot breakfast for less than $90 a night.

Controversy Growing Over Legality

But brewing along with the coffee is controversy.

Cities from New York to New Orleans to Malibu and even Grand Rapids are cracking down on Airbnb, and what the hotel industry calls "unlicensed hotels."

Hotel owners want home sharers to pay hotel taxes and be subject to inspection, licensing and regulation.

What are Caporale's thoughts on that? He says, "I understand. But I think there's a place for everybody, hotels have things I can't offer."

He says if you want the Hyatt, that's great. He says he is not trying to be a hotel.

But he says if you want good company, a great breakfast and a quiet room in someone's house, you should have that option too.

The Bottom Line

For now, home sharing is legal in most areas outside New York City (where it is illegal to list rooms on Airbnb), but new communities are imposing laws and taxes every month.

One other issue: Your neighbors, who may not want a B&B next door. Some of them are going to city hall, demanding regulations.

So check the rules in your area, before you start renting out your bedrooms, so you don't get in trouble, and you don't waste your money.

Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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