By Alyssa Abkowitz
About a year ago, we wrote about homeowners renting out rooms in their mansions to earn a bit of cash and potentially stave off foreclosure. Now there’s an easier, less intrusive way to pimp out your residence: rent your driveway.
In early March, ParkatmyHouse.com will launch in the U.S., debuting in Northeastern cities like Boston, Philadelphia and D.C. The service helps match homeowners with drivers seeking parking in all types of locations – near commuter train stations, large sporting venues and conference centers. The site is already a hit in the United Kingdom, where more than 20,000 property owners earned money off their concrete. “We’ve all spent too much time driving around the block for half an hour trying to find a space,” says founder Anthony Eskinazi, who got the idea after circling streets for a spot at a San Francisco Giants game.
Drivers can rent parking spaces by the hour, day, week or month and pricing varies on proximity. The company suggests a fee but ultimately lets the property owner decide. Eskinazi estimates that a home acouple blocks away from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, for example, could earn about $1,000 during the LA Lakers season. To sign up for the service is free, but once a space gets rented the property owner gives a cut to ParkatmyHouse.com. Though the company hasn’t announced what the cut will be in the States, it’s 15% in the U.K.
A variety of people use the service across the pond. One woman, for example, pays about $1.50 for 15 minutes to park her car and walk her daughter to school every day. And a church that’s near the bustling King’s Cross Station earned $180,000 a year renting out spaces – half of the church’s yearly income, Eskinazi says. Based on historic parking prices, some homeowners could make a pretty penny; in Fairfield, Conn., for example, people have been known to camp out overnight to get a $300 annual parking pass along the Metro-North train line. And that’s chump change, compared to private lots in the area that charge more than $1,200 a year.
But there are plenty of wrinkles that could prevent a homeowner from becoming a parking king. Pia Trigiani, a community association lawyer in Alexandria, Va., says homeowner associations sometimes restrict leasing out parking spaces if they’re common elements of the property. If the spaces are considered actual units, there’s more flexibility. The issue becomes stickier if you’re not a homeowner. Some renters have negotiated with their landlords to rent out their parking spaces in apartment garages – as long as the landlord gets a cut of the profit.
Landlord and HOA snafus aside, the city could prevent renting out your driveway. In Fairfax County, officials put an ordinance in place a decade ago preventing residents from parking their vehicles in their front yards, after a rash of folks actually paved some of their property to create extra parking space.
Eskinazi says he hasn’t run into any issues with city officials yet and that the company is currently figuring out how to bundle public liability insurance into the fee it charges property owners – so that homeowners don’t get sued if the renter slips on an icy patch in the person’s driveway and breaks her hip. “We haven’t had one lawsuit against the company or a property owner,” Eskinazi says. “But the U.S. is more litigious.”