Growing ‘couch surfing’ practice spotlighted

On September 18, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times
A couch is not a home, as far as Alderman Courtney O’Keefe and several area landlords are concerned.

A couch is not a home, as far as Alderman Courtney O’Keefe and several area landlords are concerned.

By Harry Kane

Call it hard times, call it the economy, but more and more people turn to couch surfing for shelter.

Landlords will be instructed by the Director of Communications to prohibit couch surfing following an order submitted by Ward 5 Alderman Courtney O’Keefe during the BOA meeting on Sept. 12.

Couch surfing is a popular lodging method among college students, which allows someone to sleep on a couch for a minor fee or sometimes for free. Until recently, couch surfing has remained under the radar, but a growing practice of renting couches through niche websites has landlords up in arms.

The couch surfing concern was brought to Alderman O’Keefe’s attention by a landlord who owns property on Highland Avenue.  A renter was allegedly allowing numerous visitors to sleep on their couch, and the Highland Avenue landlord became suspicious.

After doing some digging, the landlord discovered that the renter under suspicion belonged to a dedicated website that rented couches for a nightly fee, according to Alderman O’Keefe.

“This website says to renters: this is a great opportunity to make a little extra money by renting out your couch,” she said.

The landlord was unaware of the couch renting operation. “To this woman’s horror, she realized that not only was her address on there, but photographs of the front of the home, photographs of the inside of the home,” Alderman O’Keefe said.

When potential “couch renters” saw the bargain, they leaped at the opportunity. Couch renting fees range in price, but $25 is average for a night’s stay.

One of the tenants living in the Highland Avenue apartment, who took part in the couch fiasco, has allegedly been evicted.

Alderman O’Keefe stressed that couch surfing is a public safety issue, especially after the front porch couch fire at 85 Bromfield Road on Aug. 28.

To prevent similar couch-related predicaments, Alderman O’Keefe asked that the Director of Communications urge landlords to include language in the leases that prohibit similar transgressions.



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