8 Ways to Live Rent Free

live rent free

Want to live rent free? Housing costs take away the biggest chunks of personal incomes, especially if you happen to live in a rented facility. Rising demand in the rental market has pushed rents up by 3.5% per year, the fastest in over 30 years [1], while the real wage has remained relatively stagnant [2]. At the same time, budgeting advice about rent expense seems to be that it should be no more than 30% of one’s income [3].

These figures show how tough it is for millennials to create personal budgets with room for rent, along with a comfortable lifestyle these days. Some rent hacks can help cut your rent expense in half, but there are also a few legitimate ways you can live without paying rent altogether and basically live rent free (without having to buy a house) and that is what we discuss today.

Ways To Live Rent Free

Become a House Sitter

When homeowners go on vacations or have to leave their houses unattended for some other reason, they will pay you to live on their premises in their absence. You may be responsible for basic upkeep of the house, such as watering the lawn, taking care of pets, redirecting the mail, and of course, keeping burglars at bay. Depending on your contract, this may be considered a full-time or part-time job that has the perks of free accommodation.

Live in a Van or Caravan

Unlike the house sitter option, this rent-free accommodation requires a bit of investment and engineering abilities. We’ve seen movies of entire families living in recreational vehicles (RVs) but those are simply beyond the financial reach of a vast majority of millennials. A van, or even a caravan, however, is a lot more attainable.

You can buy an old van and restore it in a way that makes it habitable, adding a bed, storage space, a basic lighting system (solar panels, perhaps), a toolkit, cooking utensils, including a stove, eating area and anything else you fancy and have space for.

Many people get hooked to the freedom that comes with living in vans but this kind of arrangement has obvious downsides too. Your vehicle is your home and you need to know intricate details about maintaining both systems so you do not get stranded in the wrong place at the wrong time. Plus, living conditions are extremely cramped and can get unhygienic without proper upkeep. Lastly, what about the restroom and parking? These are all details that have to be carefully pre-planned, but it’s not too big a task for the adventurous at heart.

For a bit of interesting reading, check out the story about Ken Ilgunas, the college student who secretly lived in a van on campus to make ends meet.

Make a boat your home

This rent free living option is a lot similar to the previous one. Instead of a home on wheels, you have a home with sails. Of course, you need to purchase a small sturdy boat and find an appropriate place by the pier to ‘park’ it, making sure the spot is sheltered from strong winds and waves. This idea is not suitable for everyone because there are many issues to contend with:

  • Motion sickness – even though you’re not sailing in the open ocean, your boat is going to gently rock 24/7 during calm weather. When the wind picks up, the waves get stronger and may float your boat down the canal or river if the mooring pins get loose.
  • Proximity to town – needless to say, this option is not going to work out if you don’t live in a town with a river or canal passing through it.
  • Routine work – you may save money on rent but you still have to buy fuel for the engine and lighting system. The batteries need to be maintained regularly, the deck needs to be swept clean every day, waste from the toilet must be drained daily and water pumps have to be serviced on a regular basis.

There is a lot of hassle involved for the sake of living rent free in a boat, so obviously, the motivation needs to be stronger than just saving money so you can truly enjoy the experience.

Live with relatives

In many cultures around the world, it is completely acceptable to live with your parents beyond the age of 18, or to reside with your relatives in another city or country for extended periods of time. Sometimes, offering to pay rent may even be considered offensive because there is a strong sense of community in these cultures. You would probably feel like helping out around the house to show your gratitude and can always chip in with groceries, maintenance, chores or actually pay rent, provided your relatives are okay with it. This is a convenient way to save money while you try to get on your feet after high school or college.

Get a job that comes with free accommodation

There are many kinds of jobs that offer free accommodation as a perk. Certain jobs in the real estate sector, like property managers, are allowed to live on site as they handle daily operations of the property. This job can apply to both large scale real estate projects (like housing communities and apartment complexes) as well as small scale projects (like motels or hostels). The perk comes with a fair bit of responsibilities, such as tenant management, lease arrangements, rent collection, maintenance and so on, depending on your salary and terms of the contract.

Jobs from other sectors also offer similar benefits. For instance, if your work takes you to a foreign country, your expat employee package is likely to include free accommodation, where the company agrees to reimburse your rent expense or allocates money separately within your salary for this purpose.

Do chores in exchange for rent (Barter roommate)

I mentioned this tip earlier when discussing how living with your relatives can eliminate your rent expense, and how you may wish to help around the house with chores to show your appreciation. If you decide to share an apartment with others, offer to help around the place in exchange for not paying rent. You could cook food, do the laundry, buy the groceries, or anything else that your roommates agree upon.

Barter roommates are also called roommaids, and while the title doesn’t sound glorious, your wallet will certainly feel happy as it fattens over the months.

Recover your rent through extra income

This isn’t an entirely rent-free living option but it does help you reimburse your rent expense. You can list your space on Airbnb or sublet your apartment or home at a rate that offers a full recovery of your rent cost or a slight profit. If you’re having trouble finding tenants that can stay for 6 months to a year, try experimenting with short term leasing to tourists and holiday makers via online marketplaces. There are two things to consider here:

  • Ensure sub-leasing is not against the terms of the contract with your landlord,
  • Rent income is taxable so the tax amount should be factored into the rent you charge your tenants.

These just a few of the most common ways to live rent free. Have you ever followed any of these? Tell us how that worked out for you?


[1] Joint Center for Housing Studies (Harvard University) – 2015

[2] Pew Research Center

[3] Affordable Housing Guidelines by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Top Money Hacks

Editor at Top Money Hacks
Fehmeen is the editor of Top Money Hacks, a blog which shares simple yet practical personal finance tips to help everyone save and earn more money.

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  1. I have a friend who is a leasing agent and they get to live rent free in the apartment complex where she works. She seems to like it, I mean, who wouldn’t want to live rent free?

  2. I’ve thought about housesitting when traveling abroad. I’ve been an au pair and volunteer, which gave me free housing, but I love the idea of having an entire house to myself!


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