House Hacking and Roommate Rental Tax Guide

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The term “house hacking” was coined by Bigger Pockets, and it basically just refers to buying a residential real estate property and living in part of it while renting out the rest of it. It’s also called “home sharing”, or an “owner-occupied rental.” It’s a popular way to get started in rental real estate, or just a great way for anyone to generate extra income.

These are some examples of ways to do house hacking:

  • Buy a multi-unit property like a duplex or triplex and live in one of the units.
  • Buy a house and have roommates.
  • If you don’t want to share common space with roommates, you can buy a house and subdivide it and just rent out some of the rooms separately. This can work if the layout of the house makes sense for it, such as if there is a separate entrance and a way to section-off one or more rooms (with a bathroom). For kitchen facilities, you can just set up some space with a small fridge, microwave, and a toaster oven, and that is adequate for people who don’t require a full kitchen.
  • There is also “co-living”, which is essentially just a house with roommates, but usually on a larger scale with more than a few rooms (often involving sub-dividing large rooms into smaller rooms).

Renting for 14 Days or Less

If you rent out any property for 14 days or less in total for the year, you don’t have to report the income or pay any tax on the income. But if you rent any property, including part of your home, for more than 14 days, then you have to report that income on your taxes.

Dividing Your Expenses

The first step is to determine what percent of your home is designated for personal use and what portion is the rental. Treasury Regulations section 1.280A-2(i)(3) suggests a couple of ways you can proportion the rental portion of a property, but the most common method is using the square footage.

Under section 280A of the tax code, common areas that you also use are considered part of your personal space and unfortunately aren’t counted as part of the rental space in the proportion calculation. It may make logical sense that you could count half of the common space when you’re splitting a two-bedroom house with a roommate, but unfortunately the tax code doesn’t allow that.

Calculating Expenses

The rental percent you calculated above will be used to calculate what portion of your home expenses can be deducted on your Schedule E as rental expenses. Your tax software may ask for the percentage of rental use of your home and do the calculation for you, or you may need to do the math yourself and then enter the result. Expenses that are proportioned for the rental percent of your home are called indirect expenses, and expenses that are entirely just for the rental are called direct expenses.

For example, if you’re renting out 50% of your home and the utility bill is $100, then you would be able to report $50 as a rental expense on your Schedule E. By the way, if you charge your roommates for utilities, you would still report that same amount as an expense. But you also have to include the amount they pay for utilities in your total reported rent income amount.

You can deduct the rental percent of most expenses related to your home including mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities, landscaping, and cleaning products. Note that if you use itemize deductions (Schedule A), and you claim a tax deduction for your mortgage interest, you can’t “double-dip” and also claim a tax deduction for the mortgage interest that you are partially claiming as a rental expense. So you would have to enter only the personal portion of the mortgage interest for your personal tax deduction.

You can’t deduct an expense if it applies only to your personal portion of the property (such as landscaping for a backyard that you don’t share with tenants). And you can fully deduct expenses that are entirely for the rental portion of the property (such as supplies you buy for the rental).

Deductions Limited by Personal Use

There are limits on deducting rental expenses if you have a property that you use for personal use part of the year, and as a rental during other times of the year. If you use the rental space for personal use more than 14 days in a year (or 10% of the days if you didn’t own it for the whole year), then the deductibility of your rental expenses are limited to the amount of your rental income (so you can’t report a rental loss). See IRS Publication 527 for the specific calculations on worksheet 5.1. Any days before you first started renting it out for the first time don’t count as personal use days. Any time a rental is rented below market value, that is also considered personal use.

If you’re renting out rooms in your home and the rental portion isn’t a separate dwelling, because you have personal use of the same dwelling, then the personal use rules also apply, and the expenses you can deduct are limited to the amount of rental income you receive. Any additional tax loss is does get carried forward to future tax years as a “carryover of unallowed expenses,” where it can potentially offset future income from the same property if the future income exceeds the expenses in that future tax year.


When you use part of your home as a rental, you claim part of the cost of the house as “depreciation,” which means you get to deduct a portion of the cost of the house from your rental income each year, which reduces the amount of taxes you have to pay on that rental income.

The basis for claiming depreciation is the fair market cost for the portion of the house that you are renting out (just the building itself and any land improvements, but not the land itself). So if you are renting out half of your house, the basis for claiming depreciation would be half of the fair market value of the house (without the land). If you don’t have a recent appraisal, you can use values from your county’s property tax records if they report the building and land separately, as many do. For more information, see our article on depreciation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I still take the home office deduction? Yes. That space just can’t overlap with the portion you are designating as rental space, it would have to be allocated from your personal portion of the home.

Is it different if I rent out part of my home as a short-term rental (Airbnb)? The tax treatment of it is mostly still the same. One difference is that if the average stay is less than 30 days, then the depreciation schedule is 39 years instead of 27.5 years.

Can I use the short-term rental loophole with house hacking? Only if the rented portion is a separate “dwelling unit”. If you have multiple separate units (such as a duplex), and you live in one of the units, you can use the STR loophole for the rental portion. If you’re just renting out rooms in your house, you can’t use the STR loophole because your rental deductions can’t exceed your rental income in that case.

This article is part of The Ultimate Real Estate Investor Tax Guide.

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David Orr

I am a credentialed tax professional with a primary focus on tax preparation and advising for real estate investors. Have tax questions or want me to do your taxes? Contact us.

This article was written or updated in 2023 or 2024 and is current for the 2023 and 2024 tax years.

The information presented here is meant for guidance purposes only, and not as personal legal or tax advice.