What You Might Want to Stipulate in Your House Rules
Your house rules will be based around what you previously discussed with the lodger - remember, once the lodger has moved in, it will be their home too! The points below are not necessarily all to be included, but simply things to consider when drawing up your rules, if they might apply to your situation:
- 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 also be downloaded for free from here.
- If your new lodger likes to cook a lot, perhaps you need a kitchen rota? Perhaps you might need to ask them not to cook anything too pungent - unless you have a very efficient extractor and/or you cook the same kind of food too. Also ask the lodger to wash dishes and wipe work surfaces after they've finished (unless you don't clear up the kitchen after yourself either!).
- Will you share food, and perhaps the cooking, or more likely, will you each supply your own food and cook mostly for yourselves? What items are OK to share (e.g. coffee, milk, condiments, toilet rolls etc). How will these items be paid for and replaced? Are there any food items that you might find objectionable (e.g. if you're a vegetarian how do you feel about raw bloody meat being stored in your fridge)? In some lets, the landlord might be providing meals for the lodger.
- You might want to stipulate which kitchen cupboard(s) they can use and fridge and freezer space, plus any other storage space (outside their room) and on what basis (for instance, they can store a piece of furniture in your garage, but only for the first month).
- Does someone need access to the kitchen and/or bathroom at certain times (especially if your kitchen is small)?
- What are the parking arrangements? Will someone need to regularly move their car to enable access for the other person? Even if the lodger doesn't have a car, his visitors might.
- Will the lodger be using the lounge and/or dining room a lot? Again, do access times need to be agreed (e.g. if one of you is having guests around? Or perhaps one of you can't live without watching their favourite soap, and there isn't another TV in the house?)
- What about a cleaning rota? Cleaning of the common areas is normally shared, unless the lodger is paying a bit extra for you to provide this as a service.
- Access to the lodger's room: will you be providing clean sheets and/or towels, or perhaps just bringing in the lodger's mail? (Though again, the Agreement might cover as "Services")
- Overnight (and other regular visitors) - most Agreement templates will cover overnight guests (usually along the lines of, "Not to allow overnight guests without the landlord's permission, not to be unreasonably withheld") but you might want to stipulate what you consider a reasonable limit - in most house share situations, the consensus is usually anything up to 2 nights a week, on average. You might also want to state that no one stays without informing the other house mate, or better still, pre-agree nights on which partners can stay, and if it's a new relationship, the new partner is properly introduced to the other house mate before they stay over (yes, the landlord's new partner too!). It's also a good idea to have a clear agreement about the partner's use of the common areas during visits - especially the bathroom. And are you happy for your lodger's partner to be hanging around your lounge all morning after they've stayed the night? You could agree that when partners stay, that house mate (whether the lodger or the landlord) has priority over the lounge and/or kitchen the following morning, or you might want to state that live out partners must be gone by a certain time next day.
- This might sound trivial, even petty, but I've come across plenty of house shares where this has been a real issue. It's not so much partners staying overnight itself that's the issue, it's their use of the house the following morning, and perhaps their continued presence later still. Many live in landlords believe it's visitors' use of food and utilities where the problem lies, but it isn't (unless they're around all the time, eat a lot of the landlord's food, take lots of long baths etc); it's their presence in someone else's home where the issue lies. It's not really fair on your house mate (whether landlord or lodger) if they can't relax on the weekend because a stranger (your boyfriend or girlfriend) is constantly sitting in their lounge, using their kitchen and wondering around their home. This goes for the landlord's partner too! I once lived in a house share with the landlord (who had been a friend of mine previously), who wouldn't allow my boyfriend to stay the night, and wasn't particularly happy about any (rare) visitors I had during the day either, but had her own boyfriend (who lived nearby) in the house almost every waking minute she was there. As you can imagine, this did absolutely nothing for our friendship!
- Smoking - where (if anywhere) they can smoke.
- Pets - whether you are allowing a pet and the type of animal, or if you're not, the Agreement is likely to contain a clause, but you might want to include it in the rules just to be clear. For advice about pet insurance and lettings involving pets, see LetsWithPets . If you allow your lodger to keep a pet, there is obviously some chance (albeit small with a responsible owner) of the pet causing damage to your home, and there is likely to be a bit more wear and tear. Your lodger should therefore be prepared to meet your additional insurance costs and provide a larger deposit to mitigate this. While tenants with pets can get special cover, I am not aware at the time of writing (February 2016) of cover for lodger's pets - that is, a typical lodger scenario where the lodger only has a room to themselves and shares living accommodation (not a lodger in a granny flat type apartment). It might therefore be necessary for you, the landlord, to get home insurance that provides cover for pets.
- If you think (from the interview) that your lodger might be a night owl or plays a lot of music or a musical instrument, you might want to include a rule saying no loud activities after a certain time, and noise to be kept to a reasonable level at other times (if you don't mention this in the rules, again, the catch all "Not to do anything to cause nuisance or annoyance" phrase in the Agreement will cover this - but it's a good idea to mention in the rules if you think it's likely to be an issue).
- Bills - especially if they will spend a lot of time at home - though this should ideally be covered by the rent, or you might want to just cover yourself in case their lifestyle changes and they spend more time at home - to pay any excess over your normal bills that they have run up (as long as you can be sure they are responsible - be very careful here - see Dispute Resolution...Incompatible) or to pay their share of the bills if these are separate from the main rent. If this clause is to be included, state what your average bills normally are, and be prepared to show your lodger the bills. Note that by law, if you charge bills separeately, you can only charge for the units they actually use (taken from the meter or the bill) plus the VAT added by the provider and a fair proportion of any Green Deal finance costs you might be paying. If you charge the lodger Green Deal contributions, you MUST warn the Lodger in writing before they sign the Agreement and move in.
For the record, it is not good practice to put a copy of the rules on display, unless you're running an HMO...
And finally, a bit of light relief - here's a fine example of how not to set and reinforce house rules...