What to consider when you take on a lodger

Taking on a lodger: the ins and outs

If you’re looking for a bit more income or just a little company, taking on a lodger can be a good option. But there could be some restrictions, as well a few basic dos and don’ts.

Check you’re allowed a lodger

Depending on your circumstances, you may need permission to take on a lodger.

  • If you’re a long leaseholder, check the terms of your lease
  • If you’re renting a property, ask your landlord for permission
  • If you own your property but have a mortgage, you’ll need to tell your lender
  • Remember, Council Tax ’Single Person Occupancy’ status can be affected if you take a lodger.

Get it in writing

Even if you are renting a room out to someone you know, it’s best to have a formal written agreement. State how much deposit you need (this is usually a month or six weeks rent equivalent), how much rent, when it’s due and how it is to be paid. (If you’re unsure about how much to charge, find out about the cost of similar lodgings in your area).

The agreement could also have some provision for rent review and increases, for example on a yearly basis. You should state how much notice to leave is needed by either party, what meals and other services are to be provided, what you are both expected to pay for (how you will split bills for example), and which rooms and facilities your lodger is permitted to use.

Make an Inventory Agreement for the lodger’s room before they move in, to make any questions over whether the full deposit should be refunded on moving out more straightforward.

Make sure your home is safe

For your own benefit, as well as your lodger’s, it’s essential that your property is safe. Check out all the safety basics before you rent out a room, such as gas and electrical fittings and appliances, and fire prevention.

Review your home insurance

Let your home insurance company know if you plan to take on a lodger as this is likely to affect your policy and coverage.

There could be increased risk that you will need to make a claim under your policy. For example, if your lodger injures themselves in your home, they might try to sue you.

It’s important to remember that if you have a lodger and there is a theft (but no obvious sign of a break-in), an insurance claim is likely to be refused. Likewise, your lodger needs to know that their possessions aren’t covered by your contents insurance.

Remember, if you don’t tell your insurer that you’ve taken on a lodger, claims on your policy could be rejected.

Check you’re compatible and set ground rules

If you’re going to share your home with someone, it’s important you’re confident that you’ll get on well. Interviews are a good way to gauge the suitability of a potential lodger.

You might want to ask how much time they’d expect to spend in the house, what they tend to do with their evenings, whether they have hobbies or a partner, and whether they’ll want to use the kitchen to prepare meals. Explain any house rules and check your potential lodger is happy to stick to them.

When you’ve found the right person, ask for references from their bank or building society and from their previous landlord. Follow up with a phone call to make sure what has been said in the written statements is correct.

Put it down on paper

Whether you’re renting a room to someone you know or a relative stranger, it’s always best to have a written agreement. This will help you to avoid any misunderstandings and, if something does go wrong, you’ll have the agreement to refer to.

Some of the things to include in your written agreement:

  • A statement of the deposit paid (for example, this could be equivalent to a month’s rent, or six weeks’ rent)
  • Details of the rent required, when it’s due and how it’s to be paid (look online to get an idea of what people are charging for similar lodgings in your area)
  • An acknowledgement that there may be rent reviews and increases, for example, on a yearly basis.
  • Details of how much notice is required by both parties.
  • An outline of what meals and other services are to be provided, if any.
  • An outline of what you’re both expected to pay for and how you’ll split bills
  • Details of which rooms and facilities your lodger is allowed to use.
  • An inventory of your lodger’s room. This will make questions over whether the full deposit should be refunded when they move out more straightforward.

Let people know you have a lodger

If you have ’Single Person Occupancy’ status for Council Tax, you’ll need to tell the council that you’ve taken on a lodger.

You might also want to find out how you could benefit from the Rent a Room scheme by visiting Inland Revenue.

If you have home insurance with us, contact us about your change in circumstances and get advice about updating your cover.