In the UK at the moment there is a severe shortage of affordable accommodation. If you have the space in your home, you are unlikely to encounter any difficulty in finding a lodger. Indeed, the government’s Rent a Room scheme – which (currently) allows you to earn up to £7,500 a year tax-free by letting out a furnished room in your home – is a positive incentive.
Before taking the plunge and inviting someone else to come and share your home in return for the payment of regular rent, there are several things you need to consider. Let’s take a look at just some of them.
The first question to ask yourself is whether you have the authority to take in a lodger – and that is likely to depend on the housing tenure you enjoy:
- if you are a homeowner, for example, you may need to check with your mortgage lender, suggests the Essential Guide to Flatsharing;
- if you are a tenant in the private rented sector, check with your landlord; and
- if you are a council tenant, check with the council.
Citizens Advice points out that although the rent you receive from a lodger does not affect the amount of any Universal Credit you receive, the fact that you have a spare bedroom might mean you are subject to a “size criteria reduction” in the amount of Universal Credit you receive (because of the so-called “bedroom tax”).
If you decide to go ahead and take in a lodger, insurance is a particular concern. As we explain on our lodger insurance page, by definition your tenant lives in your home and shares it with you. There are particular risks, therefore, which specialist lodger insurance is designed to protect you against
- because your lodger has access to the rest of your home, theft might be a worry that needs to be addressed by insurance cover that does not insist that any theft is preceded by deliberate acts of breaking and entering;
- the risk of accidental damage to your possessions and the contents of your home is likely to increase when you decide to share that living space with a lodger; and
- as your lodger’s landlord, you may be liable for any injury or property damage suffered by your lodger in your property – with the need for lodger insurance to provide you sufficient indemnity against potentially substantial claims for compensation in the event of such incidents.
That reference to your potential liability as a landlord is no idle warning. If you decide to live in a home that is unsafe, the responsibility is yours alone. The moment you take in a lodger, that responsibility extends to your lodger, too.
You need to make sure, therefore, that your home remains an entirely safe place in which to live.
Choosing your lodger
Unlike other tenancies, there is no arms-length relationship with your lodger – they are living at close quarters actually sharing your home.
The process of choosing a lodger – someone who is going to prove more or less compatible with your own likes, dislikes, and lifestyle – therefore, becomes even more important. At the end of the day, it is an entirely subjective judgment, of course – which is why you might want to consider safeguarding the relationship with something more formal and in writing.
A posting by the Ideal Flatmate emphasises the importance of having a written agreement with your lodger that covers at least the following basics:
- the amount of deposit required – typically, the equivalent of one month’s rent and designed to give you a degree of security against the non-payment of rent, and any breakages or damage caused by your lodger;
- the amount of the rent, when it is due, and how it is to be paid;
- details with respect to payment for the sharing of any bills – such as utility bills; and
- the length of notice required by you and your lodger for terminating the agreement.
Clearly, there is a big difference between a lodger and a tenant (party to an assured shorthold tenancy, for instance). Since the latter occupies self-contained property you own, it may seem obvious that you agree a detailed inventory at the beginning of any tenancy.
It may be less obvious, but no less helpful and secure for both you and your lodger, if you also prepare an inventory for the contents of the room to be occupied by your lodger.
Getting a lodger
If you have the spare room or space in your home, therefore, you might be tempted into earning a little extra cash and getting a lodger.
Before inviting that live-in tenant into your home, though, there are several important considerations worth thinking about now rather than after the event.