What To Consider Before Taking In A Lodger
What To Consider Before Taking In A Lodger

What To Consider Before Taking In A Lodger

If your children have moved out or you want to make good use of a spare room, a lodger is a great way to boost your household income – especially during the current cost-of-living crisis. From finding a suitable candidate to understanding your rights as a landlord, Daniel McCarthy of Oxfordshire estate agency Amelies told us everything you need to know.

What’s the most important thing to think about before getting a lodger?

A lodger is someone who lives with you in your home and shares living space with you, such as the bathroom or kitchen. The most important thing is to find the right person to ensure you both get on and can live together in a shared environment. These days, it’s very easy to find lodgers – you can place an advert on websites such as Lodgers.com, Spare Room or Gumtree. Speak to friends and colleagues to see if they know of anyone looking to rent a room and post about it on your social media, as recommendations are always a good thing.

Can you have a lodger in a rented property?

If you’re on an Assured Shorthold Tenancy, then having a lodger would be seen as subletting. In order to have another person live in your rented home, you would need either the landlord’s or letting agency’s permission (dependent on who you deal with) and the proposed additional person would need to have background checks and ‘right to rent’ checks carried out. Once completed, they can be added to the Assured Shorthold Tenancy as a tenant, not a lodger. Most lodgers live with homeowners.

Should you draw up a contract or ask for a deposit?

You do not have to sign a contract; however, I would always advise on having a lodger’s agreement which is signed by both parties so that you always have a document to refer to, should you need to. It’s also a good idea to take a small deposit – normally around one month’s rent – in case there are any breakages or any rental arrears at the end of the agreement. As a live-in landlord there are no legal obligations to protect the deposit, but it is good practice to keep the money in a separate account – as you do still have to return it to your lodger when they move out. I would also ensure that the deposit is listed in the lodger’s agreement together with a list of any possible charges against the deposit as and when the lodger vacates the property.

What about an inventory?

In my opinion, yes. This can either be in the form of a written document that is signed by both parties, or photographs that you have both signed. If you have this in place, then you can deduct damages from the deposit if needed. 

Does your property need to meet any requirements?

In the first instance, I would suggest you advise either the freeholder of your property (if you own a leasehold property) and/or your mortgage company that you intend to rent a spare bedroom, as well informing your home insurers that you have a lodger. Also, according to Citizens Advice, if you live alone you need to bear in mind that you will lose the 25% single person discount on your council tax. There are some exceptions – for example, if the lodger is a full-time student.

In terms of safety measures, the room needs to be fit for human habitation. Also, a landlord’s gas safety certificate (if applicable) must be carried out to ensure that the gas appliances are safe for use, and all soft furnishings and upholstery must meet fire safety requirements. In addition to this, all electrical items provided by the landlord must be considered safe for the lodger to use, and a fire or smoke alarm on each habitable floor of the property must be in working order.

What rights does a lodger have?

A lodger has fewer rights than a tenant as they are considered an excluded occupier. However, all the below points need to be documented in the lodger’s agreement:

  • Rent and receipt
  • Right to the room rented by the lodger
  • Living condition and repairs
  • Eviction agreement
  • Leaving before the end of the agreement
  • How a fixed-term agreement would end
  • How a periodic agreement would end
The most IMPORTANT THING is to find the RIGHT PERSON to ensure you both GET ON and can LIVE TOGETHER in a SHARED ENVIRONMENT.

What are your rights if you want your lodger to leave?

As a live-in landlord, you can evict your lodger without going to court. However, I would advise that a relevant notice period is documented in the lodger’s agreement, so you can follow this if you need to.

What are your rights if you want to sell your property? 

You would be able to sell your property, but I would suggest you provide notice to the lodger in accordance with what is documented in the lodger’s agreement. Your solicitor, whilst processing the sale of your property, may require a document to be signed by the lodger (if they are still residing at the property at this point) to ensure that they will vacate the property at the point of exchange/completion of the sale.

Do you need to check the immigration status of your lodger? 

Yes, to ensure that they are able to live in the UK for the period you are agreeing for them to reside in your property. This can be done by checking their visa or government share code. Should the visa expire prior to the end of their stay, you need to be aware of this as they will need to apply for an extension. 

Does taking in a lodger affect universal credit or housing benefit?

Yes, having a lodger would affect this as the rental money paid to you by the lodger would be seen as additional income, so you would need to advise your local authority of your change in circumstance.

What about other benefits or tax credits?

As with the above, additional income would affect any other benefits you are in receipt of, so I would always advise on being honest, upfront and doing things in a correct manner and, by doing this, you won’t face any consequences at a later date.

How can you make it a safe experience?

You can do referencing background checks on the proposed lodger for peace of mind. This could involve things like a previous landlord reference, credit checks and proof of employment. Perhaps also have a look at their social media accounts which will provide an insight into their daily lives and what sort of a person they are. However, above all, go with your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right while a proposed lodger is viewing the room, then listen to your gut.

Are there any resources or helpful websites you recommend? 

Gov.uk provides a lot of information, as does Citizens Advice. You can also ask your local letting agency if you have any questions.

For more information, visit AmeliesOnline.co.uk and CitizensAdvice.org.uk

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