What's a lodger?

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

A lodger (also known in the UK as a "paying guest" or in the US as a "boarder") is someone who rents part of someone else's home (typically just having a bedroom to themselves) although they may not necessarily share living space (kitchen, lounge and bathroom) with the landlord (the person letting the room, who may either own the property or rent it themselves as a tenant). It should be noted, however, that "lodger" isn't a legal term - the legal term will vary, depending on the legal jurisdiction and the rights they have under that system.

Lodgers in England and Wales

In England and Wales (and as far as I'm aware, several other countries and legal systems too), the lodger (or boarder, roommate, renter etc) is typically a licencee, which means that, subject to the lodger/landlord Agreement (or the equivalent in that country or jurisdiction), or failing that, reasonable notice from the live in landlord, he simply has the right to stay as long as the landlord allows it, having just a few more rights than say, a friend staying over. Another example of a licencee in accommodation is a guest in a hotel room.

A lodger letting one room only is normally a licencee because he/she doesn't have exclusive possession of the room - the landlord has the right (subject to the lodger's privacy) to enter at any time or make the lodger move into another room in the property. This is set out in more detail under "Lodger's legal status in England and Wales" below. For anyone interested in the legislation behind this, look up Street V Mountford, the main piece of case law that determined this (in Street V Mountford, it was held that it was a tenancy as the landlord only had the usual landlord's rights and duties over the rooms to carry out inspections and repairs, and was not performing services).

A lodger can either be a licencee (which is more usual) or an excluded tenant. If all or most of the living space is shared with the landlord, then the lodger would normally be a licencee - however, there are situations where this could become a tenancy, even a full tenancy, such as if the property ceased to be the landlord's main home and/or the lodger excludes the landlord from the room (e.g. has a lock, for which the landlord doesn't have a key, and/or doesn't allow the landlord into the room and the landlord allows this). If lodger and landlord live in the same house or flat, but don't share living space (i.e. the lodger has their own bathroom and cooking facilities and doesn't use the landlord's lounge) then the lodger would normally be an excluded tenant. Both types of occupancy are excluded under Section 3A(2) of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 - however, the procedure for eviction differs - if it's an excluded tenancy, a court order must still be sought if the tenant won't agree to move out. For the record, a notice alone is sufficient for a licencee - see Lodger's notice periods for further information.

If, as a live in landlord, you spend a lot of time away from home, please read this.

I have come across situations where live in landlords have been away long term with work, only to come back to find their lodger has taken over their home and locked them out, claiming that as the landlord has moved out, they now have a full tenancy, with exclusive rights of occupation!

Assignment (change) of resident landlord

Although it isn’t likely to happen often, it may sometimes be the case that a live in landlord moves out, to make way for another live in landlord (who could be a new owner occupier or the owner’s tenant), but the lodger remains living at the property. This is more likely to happen with HMOs.

Provided the lodger is given 28 days notice of the change of live in landlord, and the new landlord moves in within 6 months, the renter's status remains that of a lodger, although they have temporary tenancy rights if there is a gap between the old landlord moving out and the new one moving in, so they would become an excluded tenant until the new landlord moves in.

If a resident landlord dies, his/her estate will simply continue as “resident” landlord (as though there had been no change of landlord) until the property is disposed of. However, while the lodger is living in the property without a resident landlord, it would be advisable to assume the lodger has temporary excluded tenant status until probate is settled and a replacement resident landlord moves in.

Further information on change of resident landlord can be found in the government leaflet, Rent a room in your home”.

Lodger's legal status in England and Wales

In England and Wales, a lodger who shares either cooking or washing facilities or both with the landlord's household is not a tenant, unless he/she has exclusive rights over the room.

As a lodger in England and Wales is a licencee, this means the landlord retains rights over the room - the landlord normally has the right to regularly enter the room (in a similar fashion to hotel staff entering a hotel room which is occupied by a guest), subject of course to the lodger's right to privacy! However, as the landlord, you need to ensure that you regularly exercise this right, in order to keep it - therefore, you need a valid reason to regularly enter the lodger's room, such as bringing the lodger's mail or clean sheets. According to The Lodger Landlord website, if the lodger (and his or her guests) are the only people who enter the room on a regular basis, and certainly if the lodger stops you entering, the lodger might under certain circumstances then become a tenant and it could be harder to evict should this need arise. There could also be implications with your mortgage or insurance provider, or your own landlord, if you rent.

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If you live in shared accommodation but NOT with your landlord

Under English law, if it's just a room being rented in a shared house, but the landlord doesn't live there this is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) and the renter will be a tenant with many more rights than a licencee.

Landlord lives there only part of the time

On the other hand, if the landlord only lives part time in the property (where at least one room is let), but it's still his main home, the renter(s) only have a licence, not a tenancy in England and Wales.

Where it differs for Lodgers in Scotland and Northern Ireland

In Scotland (and possibly some other countries too, including Northern Ireland) a lodger does have a limited form of tenancy (in Scotland, this is known as Common Law Tenancy), which gives him a few more rights, such as the right to keep the landlord out of his room and the need for the Landlord to get a Court Order if the lodger won't move out voluntarily after the letting contract expires.

Landlord lives there only part of the time

If the landlord doesn't live in the property all the time, but it's still his main home, a lodger in Scotland or Northern Ireland will still be in the position of being a Common Law Tenant.

If you live in shared accommodation but NOT with your landlord

If your landlord doesn't live there at all then you would be likely to have a full tenancy (similar to English AST) in Scotland, Northern Ireland and in most other jurisdictions.

Further information

For legal information on room lets in England, The Lodger Landlord is a site containing very comprehensive legal advice for lodgers and live in landlords, including a paid for legal advice service, owned by Tessa Shepperson, a qualified solicitor and experienced resident landlord.

For an overview of the legal position in Scotland, please see the Shelter Scotland website which also has an example of a Scottish lodger agreement to download.

For Scotland and Northern Ireland, MyLawyer gives a useful overview of the legal position.

Please see Citizen's Information for advice about letting a room in your home in the Republic of Ireland.

If you're in the States, see US Department of Housing and Urban Development - Tenant Rights for your state.