New website allows Columbia residents to rent their houses for game days, graduation

Thursday, April 26, 2012 | 7:09 p.m. CDT; updated 9:32 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 26, 2012

COLUMBIA — A new website lets residents rent their homes to people coming into town for game days and graduations, when Columbia's hotels are usually full.

The site, Columbia Football Rentals, aims to "provide people with other options" when hotels fill up on game days, said Mike Doyle, the managing partner for the parent company Rent Like a Champion. The company was started in 2001 in South Bend, Ind., to deal with a similar issue on Notre Dame game days, Doyle said.

Mark Hughes, marketing director of the Columbia company, said the way the website works is similar to other home rental services. Renters browse listings by price, number of people staying, distance to campus and general location. The site keeps exact addresses confidential until the renter has booked the property.

Typically the properties are rented from Friday evening to Sunday at noon, Hughes said. Although the homeowners usually leave the property for the duration, there is flexibility in staying.

"That's completely between the renter and homeowner," he said.

Doyle said that after a couple weekends of renting out their homes, homeowners become comfortable with it and typically re-list their property every year.

Most of the renters are families, which makes the homeowners more at ease, he said. The families want to stay closer to campus and not be split up into separate hotel rooms.

Related regulations

Because Columbia Football Rentals is essentially a listing service, Doyle said that finding out if city regulations allow a property to be rented is up to the homeowner.

Leigh Britt, the city's neighborhood services manager, said people renting out their houses could have potential zoning issues. The city is currently looking into whether this program would cause zoning problems.

As for insurance, Doyle said homeowners should check their own policy.

Often a homeowner is covered for weekend rentals with their normal policy, but if not, they can usually purchase additional coverage from their provider to cover it, he said.

"The insurance can be a little extra per year, but the income from the rentals more than covers it," he said.

According to the IRS tax code, homeowners also don't need to worry about federal taxes on the income from renters as long as they rent their primary residence for 14 days or fewer per year, Doyle said.

"You could potentially make an extra $10,000 of tax-free income," he said.

The company also operates similar programs at major university towns in other states, Doyle said. 

The programs are meant to alleviate problems with hotels which, on game day weekends, can sometimes require minimum nightly stays and may have increased rates, Hughes said.

"It's definitely no secret that hotels fill up pretty quick during game day weekends," he said. "This is a program that’s going to open it up for more fans and families to watch games."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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