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Renting a Mother-In-Law Suite in Your Cumberland County, PA Property

You may have heard a mother-in-law suite, also referred to as a granny flat, dwelling unit, or secondary suite. Its name “mother-in-law suite” comes from the fact that many people use apartments that are attached to their homes for their parents as they age. However, the purpose of a mother-in-law suite isn’t always for family. Sometimes it’s just an additional living space in one’s home that they rent out. There are pros and cons to renting a mother-in-law suite in your Cumberland County home.

A huge factor in your decision may be the building and construction required to get this space in rent-ready shape. Some homes are available for purchase with basement apartments or already have additional rooms to rent out. Either way, weigh the benefits and drawbacks before proceeding with renting or adding a mother-in-law suite.

Pros and Cons of Renting a Mother-in-Law Suite


  • If you purchased a property that already has an additional unit or suite, you are ahead of the game. If you didn’t, the cost of adding the space could be relatively affordable, depending on the home’s floor plan.
  • Adding a MIL suite to your home will increase home and rental value
  • It can increase your monthly income and can partially subsidize your mortgage payment
  • If you indeed use it as a suite for family members, they’ll still have their independence, and you’ll have your freedom. Most suites have their private entrance to the home. Even if you choose to rent to non-family members, the privacy available is still a benefit.


  • The cost to build it may not always be worth the profit
  • You will have to assume landlord responsibilities
  • You will need to purchase a tenant screening software. Not doing so can result in problem tenants or tenants who don’t pay rent on time
  • You’ll need to be informed on state zoning/occupancy laws and go through the process of obtaining the necessary licensing:
    • Obtain a Pennsylvania Dwelling License if you’re just renting a room. If you rent out the entire property to multiple tenants, you will need to look into getting a rental license.
    • You need to be sure the property is rentable, which includes getting an inspection done, a certificate of occupancy, and zoning approval. Not doing so could result in fines or charges.
    • The rental space must live up to all Pennsylvania Health and Safety codes. To be sure your suite qualifies, you will need to do your research, get an inspection done, and fix anything that could count as a violation. Again, if you don’t, you are opening yourself up to lawsuits and fines.

Tips for Renting a Mother-in-Law Suite in Cumberland County, PA

Once the unit receives approval by the state and is ready to rent, follow these steps:

  1. Marketing:  Schedule a photoshoot for good, quality marketing photos and list your unit for rent on all local and national sites, Facebook groups, and any other available sites. Attempt to get multiple showings per day, or at least one a day. The more exposure, the quicker it will rent.
  2. Tenant Screening:  Experian is an excellent credit screening service to use, though there are plenty of others from which to choose. The screening process should include not only rental history and proof of income but also a criminal and eviction background check. No one with out-standing felonies, seven or more years in jail, drug-related crimes, or domestic violence-related should be permitted to rent from you. Also, anyone with a history of eviction should not be allowed either.
  3. Lease Agreement: The best way to be sure all of your bases are legally covered is to have a real estate lawyer or property management company create it for you.
  4. Collect Funds: Once screening is complete, approved, and the lease is signed, collect the security deposit, first month’s rent, and any other applicable fees. Additional fees may include pet fees and a pet deposit. Then, the tenant may move in based on the date on the signed lease.
  5. Hire a Property Manager: If you are leasing out a room or suite and never have before, this makes you a landlord and responsible for maintaining the property, collecting payments, giving out late fees, and going through the eviction process if needed. Research is excellent, but it’s a complicated industry, and if you have it in the budget, hiring a property management company will save you a lot of trouble and ease your mind. Cumberland County property management companies handle the following items, for example:
    1. Handling the leasing process from showings to drafting a lease, getting it signed and enforcing it
    2. Collect rent payments, send out late notices as needed, and handle the entire eviction process should those unfortunate circumstances arise
    3. A property management company takes care of budgeting and financing to keep all your numbers running where they should be
    4. Have maintenance staff on hand to fix issues as they arise
    5. Handle vacancies and unit turnovers.

If you’re a Cumberland County landlord looking for more tips and advice for your rental property, Bay Property Management Group Cumberland County can help! Contact us for a free rental property analysis.