Having a long-term guest

There are times when someone we care about needs a roof over their head for a while and comes to stay. But living with someone is different from welcoming them as a visitor, so you need to be fully prepared.

Long-term guests are often family or close friends, possibly visiting from overseas or having gone through a bad break-up, bereavement or illness. To make the experience happy for everyone it’s best to enter such arrangements in a practical way to help avoid arguments.

Set boundaries from the start

Before someone moves in, have a discussion about arrangements and how you would like things to work. Be clear from the start that they’re not a weekend guest and you won’t be treating them like that (unless of course you want to). Explain that they’ll be a member of the household and are expected to pull their weight during their stay.

You should find out roughly how long they’re planning to stay – and if possible agree an absolute latest leaving date. Weeks can easily turn into months and, unless you’ve talked about it in advance, it’ll be really hard to ask them to move out without sounding unfriendly.

House rules

Make sure you sit down together and establish some house rules that you’re all happy with. It’s much easier to do this at the start rather than find yourself in a situation where you’re upset and annoyed about something and feelings can be hurt. The sorts of topics to cover include:

  • noise levels, for example agreeing on a quiet time from 11pm to 7am
  • cleaning duties
  • visitors and other people staying
  • sharing the bills
  • breakages

The last two might sound a bit cold but you don’t want to end up out of pocket at the end of their stay.

Sharing a kitchen

Don’t forget to clear a shelf in the fridge and some kitchen cupboard space for them to store their food and drink. If you’re sharing food costs, decide what you’re prepared to pay for together – you might have very different ideas about budgets and treats.

It’s also an idea to find out what they’re expecting at mealtimes. They may think you’ll be having a cooked dinner together nearly every night, but if that’s not your style or you’re out most nights they need to know.

Council tax

If you’re claiming a single person’s discount for your council tax, you should speak to your local council about whether having someone to stay will affect it. Normally, if the person has another main residence it doesn’t.

What to do about your insurance

Having someone stay in your home for an extended period can also affect your contents insurance. Like having a lodger or tenant, a long-stay guest in the house is an extra risk so you need to tell your insurer about this change in circumstance or any claim you make could be rejected.

Remember, any claims for theft will only be accepted if there is evidence of a break-in, so make sure you fully trust the person you’re allowing to stay in your home for free. Keep your home protected by showing your house guest:

  • how to lock the windows
  • your security set-up like alarms

Don’t forget to tell your guest that they will have to sort out insurance for their possessions as your policy won’t cover them.

You might also want to think about adding Accidental Damage cover to your contents insurance if it’s not already included – but make sure it covers people staying for long periods. After all, you don’t want a bit of red wine on the carpet or a broken ornament to ruin your relationship.