The Essentials to Consider Before Taking in a Lodger

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

"I want to be a good live in landlord, but I want a good lodger too!"

Resident Landlords often make the mistake of not doing their homework before the lodger moves in. Along with your own general attitude (and the lodger's too!) this will inform the whole let, from the kind of person you end up with, to the terms of the let, whether they will practically become a member of the family, or keep themselves to themselves - in short, your whole relationship with your lodger - from before they move in, to the day they leave and possibly afterwards. You could also find yourself in hot water with the authorities, or your mortgage provider or your own landlord, if you try to skip any of this process.

For example, as of 1 February 2016, landlords are legally required to carry out Right to Rent checks against all new tenants, lodgers and occupants, who will live in private rented accommodation anywhere in England, as their main home.

First of all, you need to decide if you are ready for a lodger. But, if you haven't lived in a house share (either as landlord or lodger, or even with equal housemates) before, or not for a very long time, you may not be aware of what will annoy you or even a potential deal breaker until you've experienced it. As an example, when I first had a lodger, I assured her that we had an easy going attitude to housework and cleaning. However, I found that having someone else in the house encouraged me to become much more house proud, and I found myself getting annoyed when she didn't clear up after herself - making for a tense atmosphere for the poor girl to live in!

If you think you are ready to share your home (NB not just provide someone a room to sleep in!) you need to decide on the sort of person and let you want and can attract in your area - try Spareroom - e.g. a midweek Lodger, a student. Interview them, then run a check against them, once you've decided you'd like to offer them the room.

Set up a written Agreement - get an Agreement for free here (a written agreement is not necessary from a legal viewpoint, at least under English Law, but essential as a foundation for peaceful co-existence and as evidence of the let). If you really can't bring yourself to draw up a formal legal agreement, or you don't want to attach any house rules to it, this could always be in the form of a follow up email, along the lines of - "ok, so when we talked last Friday, we agreed that when you move in on (such and such a date)...". At least this leaves some concrete record of the original understanding (which even if only verbal, is still a legal contract).

Don't want to do any preparation? Don't see the point? Can't afford it? So how will you deal with the stress and expense of a rogue lodger? A problem lodger is very likely to have left a trail of unpaid bills, County Court Judgments etc in their wake, or to have no audit trail at all - a red flag unless the person is very young (under 18 or not much older) in which case, you need to ask for a character reference from a professional who knows them in that capacity, which you will need to cross check. A full tenant check will also cover references from employers and previous landlords, so if they pass you can be reasonably assured that they're reasonably responsible with money and have a good character. Just remember, you will not only be depending on this person for part of your income, but will be living with them! It's also a good idea to speak to any previous landlord too. Please see How to avoid a terrible lodger.

In addition, the Immigration Act 2014 became law throughout England on 1 February 2016. This makes all landlords, including resident landlords, legally responsible for ensuring that all adult occupants who will have their main home (but not holiday or part time rented accommodation) at the rented property must have at least a temporary right to rent in England.

Likewise, an Agreement and some clear but reasonable house rules lets you both know where you stand, and provides a frame of reference and a set of expectations from the start. While these rules definitely shouldn't be too proscriptive (e.g. you should never tell a lodger they can only have 30 minutes using your washing machine, or 10 minutes in the shower - although it's perfectly reasonable to agree access times for the bathroom and kitchen etc), it is much, much better to disallow something at first, than to allow your lodger to do it and you later come to regret it and/or drive a good lodger away!

You can always relax the rules once you're more comfortable with the lodger being there.

A large proportion of landlord/lodger conflict could be avoided if the groundwork was done before the lodger moved in, and both parties made their expectations clear beforehand. These prelims are essential insurance against future problems, and with some lodgers, will be the only way you will avoid trouble!

Further questions?

       The Landlord

@The_Landlord has kindly featured many of my answers to landlord's and lodger's questions on his Taking In Lodgers- ‘Rent-A-Room’ Scheme Guide on his comprehensive (and very entertaining!) popular landlord advice site and blog, Property Investment Project. Topics covered include how rent from a lodger affects benefits, lodger running a business, rent, tax and serving notice.

Next - First step - who to inform (in the UK)