A Rent Hacking Guide. Live Rent Free.

Live rent free without owning a house. Get paid to live in someone else’s house with Rent Hacking. This is the ultimate life hack, especially if you cannot afford or do not want to be a property owner. You can rent hack anywhere in the world, and it is especially effective in large metropolitan areas where home ownership isn’t affordable, and I recommend it for high-cost-of-living areas (HCOL). In fact, in those HCOL markets I recommend Rent Hacking over House Hacking. Sometimes it’s better to rent than to own. The idea of ‘Rent Hacking’ is where you rent a house or an apartment and then rent, also known as a sublet, a portion of the property out. The proceeds from these rented spaces in the property are then used to cover the cost of the rent, and in some cases can exceed the rent you pay the landlord.

Yes, I am telling you that you can rent a property, get a few roommates, and cover the entire cost of your living situation with Rent Hacking. There are many other alternative rental hacking options such as:
1) offer to be an AIRBNB co-host manager for a landlord. In fact, most will pay you or at least let you live for free if you take care of check-ins and the property.
2) Offer to house-sit a property while folks are traveling abroad or what not. Often you can live for free in these situations.
3) Barter a service or your time in return for free accommodation or even get paid to live for free.
4) Airbnb an addition bedroom you aren’t using or sublet that room (on kijiji or craigslist) in a property you currently rent already.
…the list of options goes on. Be open, creative, and flexible to rent hack your way to free living!

Why Does Rent Hacking Work?

Landlords want to maximize their time to value. They don’t want to rent rooms out by the bedroom. They don’t want to be bothered with replacing tenants frequently. They don’t want the stress of having to worry about conflicts between tenants. They want one tenant, on one lease that pays rent each and every month. Ideally this tenant bothers them as little as possible, unless there is an actual issue, such as a water leak. It’s a win-win. The tenant gets lower rent for more hassle & effort and the landlord gets a lot less headaches. Win-win situations are the best!

Create a Win-Win Scenario

As a Landlord with a lot of experience I can personally vouch that I have offered rental houses at or below market value to one group over trying to maximize value with several by the room tenants. If a good quality tenant with a consistent job approached me to rent one of my houses and proposed the idea of Rent Hacking I would definitely take them up on it. I would let them do the hard work for filling the rooms and finding roommates. I’m not saying you need to do explain to the landlord your entire plan, although you could, all you need is permission to sublet and in many areas it’s allowed whether the landlord allows you to or not).

How do you Rent Hack?

1. Select a location.

Decide where you want to live and rent.

  1. Consider factors like proximity to your work, proximity to the grocery store, and other amenities. Ensure the area is rent-able. The last thing you want to do is a pick a location in the middle of no-where that no one else wants to sublet from you.

2. Find THE place to rent.

  1. Look for private listings in the area you want to live. Narrow down that focus and sift through message boards, local boards, kijiji, and the like.
  2. Go and see every property you possibly can in the area as if you were looking to buy a house.
  3. Select the best cash-flow positive potential property you can stomach. For instance, a 5 bedroom house might make the most sense financially, but, if you can only handle having 2 or 3 other roommates. In that situation, it might make more sense to find a different property with a nanny suite basement unit you can live in while renting out the rest for slightly less cash-flow but a better overall fit.

3. Negotiate the best rental deal you can find.

  1. Often landlords will budge a little on their rent price if you ask, or they might throw in utilities/internet. Remember, you are a quality tenant and you have a few roommates who will be joining you. Including utilities can be a huge bonus to ensuring you come out ahead.

4. Sign the Lease.

Pro-tip: Consider taking a 2-year lease agreement for a lower rent cost. Inflation will be on your side as sublet rents increase per room and your price is locked in.

  1. Make sure you get the landlord to agree to subletting on your lease.
    1. Landlords will often agree to allow a sublet if they are added to the lease as an occupant (as a worst case scenario) upon their approval
  2. Often you are required to put up first and last month’s rent, however, if can’t carry the whole amount you may need to find a roommate or two on craigslist or kijiji before you start your search. Make sure they are on board with Rent Hacking.

5. Rent the spaces you aren’t living in out, on a sublet.

(Typically by the bedroom)

  1. Screen, screen, screen. Screen your potential rommates like your life depends on it. To save you time I’ve linked to the Biggerpockets Ultimate Tenant Screening Guide.
  2. Run the house like a business – it isn’t a hobby. If a friend can’t pay they can’t stay! No Pay, No Stay.
  3. Consider AIRBNB as an alternative. Put one of the rooms up in the space on Airbnb. I’ve had quite a bit of success with AIRBNB myself and I think it’s a great way to make $25-50/night if your landlord or municipality rules allow for it. Sometimes even offering one bedroom that is fully occupied on AIRBNB can cover all of the entire house’s expenses. I’ve seen it first hand. I have even seen people put coaches in living rooms up for rent at affordable rates on Airbnb.
  4. Create systems and processes that’ll make your life easier as the “pseudo-landlord.” You don’t want to create problems or headaches for the Landlord. You want to manage this property like it’s your own. It’s great experience and not that much work if you want to get to live for FREE.


A Real Example from London, Ontario, Canada:

Let’s look at an example from my own local area:

I found a listing on kijiji for a 5 bedroom house renting for $1500/month all inclusive of utilities that is 6 minutes from downtown (a nice walk to work is bonus points to save on transportation). It seemed average, but clean inside.

Great area, check. Great location that is close to all amenities, check. Lots of cash-flow potential, check. Walking distance to work to eliminate the cost of transportation, check. Easy to rent out to other roommates on sublet, check. Affordable rent, check.

I’ve done the market research already, as will you by now, so we know that the market rent for a bedroom of the size within this house is about $450-475/month all inclusive in this area. Therefore, the Rent Hack would be to rent this 5 bedroom house with say one of my best friends who also works downtown and then sublet the remaining 3 rooms to folks through a private listing like kijiji. Your roommate pays $495 for the biggest room right off the bat, he isn’t as frugal or FIRE focused as you are. You take one of the smaller rooms. You rent the remaining rooms for 450, 460, and 475. You are collecting total rent of $495+450+460+475 = $1880/month. Your rent is $1500/month. You are not only living for free, but you are making $380/month to live here. This is the beauty of Rent Hacking.  The above example is a REAL example and it works.

It works even still on a 3 bedroom apartment. At a minimum, it comes down to a philosophy to live with less. We don’t need a whole apartment to ourselves. We don’t need to have an entire 1 bedroom apartment, we could just as easily share a place. Or better yet, you could rent a property with a nanny suite basement apartment that you live in and rent the other bedrooms on the upper floors to pay all of the rent. It is about being creative and flexible. Creativity and flexibility are vital to success if you want to be financially independent and successful in any business venture. You have to create value if you hope to extract value. Nothing in this world is truly free, we all have to barter something for something.

It is about being creative and flexible.

Note: There are other alternative rent hacking options where you act as the caretaker of a home or “house-sit” and get to live for free, but in these situations it’s often very short-term. Further, there are options where one can rent a house that isn’t up kept and renovate it during their stay. I’ve seen landlords rent these properties for “at cost” and the benefit is the Landlord is that the property is improved by the tenant over the time the tenant lives there. At the end of the day it’s about creating win-wins. In everything I do, I try to create win-win scenarios.


Is anyone else out there rent hacking? Do you have roommates? How has your success been? Any particular questions on the method? Feel free to post the answers or further questions below in the comments section.

2 Replies to “A Rent Hacking Guide. Live Rent Free.

  1. This exactly what I was looking for. Thank you so much for putting this together! Have a great year ahead 🙂

Comments are closed.