Accidental landlord

But I'm not really a landlord, right?


You may not be letting out a house, but you still have legal obligations!

NB this page contains some general legal information which is for guidance only and is not legal advice see - Disclaimer

As a live in landlord (also known as a lodger landlord or resident landlord) you are under less obligation legally than a landlord letting out a self contained property (for example, you aren't subject to repairing obligations, and are able to end the arrangement much more easily if it isn't working).

However, there are still some pieces of legislation you must comply with; the main ones being income tax, health and safety - up to a point; discrimination law (in your selection process) and since 1 February 2016 in any part of England, Right to Rent and of course you must inform the DWP or your local authority if you claim benefits, even if you simply get a single occupier's council tax discount.

In addition, if the agreement runs from week to week, by law in England and Wales you must give your lodger a rent book, regardless of how the rent is actually paid. It is advisable to give them a paper copy. A legally compliant rent book, for all types of weekly let, including room lets to lodgers, can be downloaded for free from Wrinq.

Get legal advice from a barrister, dealing with many legal matters, including landlord and tenant, for £25 a month with Litigation Warranty - includes 15 minutes free legal consultation.

As well as complying with the law, you must also inform other third parties such as your mortgage provider or landlord (if you rent), and your insurance provider, otherwise you will be in violation of your contract and could face serious consequences as a result.

Further, if you let more than just one room in your home, your property could require licensing as a home in multiple occupation (HMO). Some local authorities require licensing of even very small HMOs (e.g. a two bed flat shared by 3 unrelated single people). Licensing also applies whether the occupiers are lodgers, or tenants (with a live in let, the resident landlord and his/her family are counted as one of the households sharing) - the stipulation is that separate households are living in shared rented accommodation.

If all this sounds rather daunting, you could consider taking a midweek lodger.

There are many advantages; you are under even less legal obligation as the lodger is staying in your home, not living there. You also retain a lot more of your own space and privacy.

Management and people skills

Although you have fewer legal responsibilities than other landlords, the management and people skills involved can be much more demanding.

First of all, you need to consider whether you are really comfortable sharing your home with another adult - note, sharing, not simply letting. You might be fine about it at first, but can you honestly say that after three months, your lodger's mess in the kitchen, not always having your own bathroom free, your lodger's partner staying nights, the general loss of some privacy and some personal freedom, won't grate on your nerves?

Some live in landlords try to get around this issue by setting out a whole load of stringent rules for the lodger, restricting their personal freedom, as they want the rent money but are not prepared to compromise - taking the stance that it's their home and they will have things exactly as they want them. This causes much unnecessary misery and tension between landlords and lodgers. Read this for a lodger's perspective!

Although the law (in most countries) takes the view that it's your home and you can impose whatever restrictions (within reason) you think fit, putting this into practice will not only cause tension and resentment on the lodger's part, but will ensure that a good lodger - who will always have other options - won't stick around for long. You may therefore find yourself stuck with someone who has no respect for you or your home, and certainly not your rules, and is thick skinned enough to shrug off any disagreement between you. Failing that, someone who is otherwise desperate enough to accept your stringent rules and the tension in your home - as again, another landlord (live in or otherwise) won't touch them. This could be someone who can't pay the rent, or has some other serious issues in their life (which will almost certainly find their way into your home).

The only way to avoid this is to do your homework and prepare the ground beforehand. See What you need to consider first.