As rents in Central Florida climb to unprecedented levels, a new service is connecting low-income Orlando renters with available rooms.
PadSplit offers available rooms for less than the market rate. Residents share communal living space, including kitchen and dining areas, in a home. Founded in Atlanta in 2017, PadSplit expanded to Orlando in June.
The arrangement offers several benefits for low-income renters. PadSplit residents don’t have to pass a credit check or pay a security deposit. Renters pay a $19 application fee and a $100 move-in fee plus their first week’s rent.
After that, rent is weekly (utilities are included) with a minimum stay of 31 days but no lease.
PadSplit rooms in Orlando start at $150 per week. The average market rate rent in Orlando is $1,799, according to real estate analysts CoStar.
Rooms are required to be furnished by the host and have an interior lock on each bedroom door. Renters must supply their own bedding. The home is cared for by a host, who owns the property but doesn’t usually live at it.
The company also offers telehealth, credit repair and job matching services for tenants.
“This is for renters who don’t have any good options,” said PadSplit co-founder Atticus LeBlanc. “Every single one of them is looking for their next step.”
Richard Rose, 38, moved into a PadSplit room in Orlando’s Englewood neighborhood at the beginning of the month. At $215 per week, he said he’s saving hundreds of dollars compared to the extended stay hotels he had found rooms in.
“I signed up, got approved and was in the following week,” he said.
LeBlanc says that 40% of PadSplit renters just need somewhere safe. “Their next step is stability,” he said.
Others, he said, are college students saving money on apartments or working people saving up for something more permanent.
Saving for a home, “That’s my ultimate goal,” Rose said. A cook with two jobs on International Drive and in Kissimmee, Rose said he’s rarely at his new place, but he likes his housemates and the backyard where he can relax. “Right now, I’m comfortable.”
Letricia Morrow, 41, of Georgia said her experience was less comfortable when she and her son moved to a PadSplit house in Jacksonville while her son was going to school.
“We needed some housing where we did not have to sign a lease,” she said. “That’s the only good thing about PadSplit.”
She said the room she was in didn’t match the pictures she had been shown, the air conditioner was broken, and her room was missing its lock.
“You don’t have a lot of space, but you have a space to lay your head,” she said. “I would not recommend it unless it was a last resort.”
A customer service representative, Morrow said she didn’t learn the address until the day she moved in. She said if she had received it sooner, she could have checked out the neighborhood, which she said felt unsafe.
LeBlanc says that withholding the address is something they started doing after people would get the address without signing up and then show up at the property. “We didn’t come by that [policy] without hard-earned experience,” he said.
He said renters are shown the street of the residence, so they can visit the neighborhood ahead of time.
And residents can transfer to other properties if they don’t like their place and another room is available.
“I fully expect people will move in and, for whatever reasons, will be unhappy with that experience,” LeBlanc said.
PadSplit has 22 rooms in Orlando with another 250 lined up to come online in a few months. Nationally, the company has 4,500 rooms rented or available.
Zoning laws often prohibit dividing homes into rentals, something that limits the amount of property available to PadSplit. In Atlanta, where PadSplit is based, LeBlanc said he is working with officials to make zoning more flexible for his type of rental arrangement.
“PadSplit only operates in jurisdictions where we believe we have a good faith argument for compliance,” LeBlanc said.
A landlord himself who has studied affordable housing since college, LeBlanc said he started by convincing real estate investors to let him rent rooms rather than flipping their properties.
“Flipping houses ultimately creates displacement,” he said. “We educate our hosts.”
LeBlanc said his company is driven by the mission to expand affordable housing options.
“You have millions and millions of people in America who need affordable housing,” he said. “We’re not even close to scratching the surface.”