Getting a lodger
A lodger is someone who lives with you in your home. They might be a friend or family member, but they can also be someone you don’t know.
Lodgers can stay with you for free or pay you rent, and sometimes other services such as meals, cleaning or laundry.
Lodgers don't usually have exclusive use of a room. This means you can go into their room, for example to clean it. However, you should respect their privacy and only go into their room as agreed.
Before getting a lodger you should consider:
- the space you'll share with your lodger
- the impact on your benefits
- the impact on your finances
- if you need permission
- the condition of your home
- how you'll find a lodger
- the agreement you'll make with your lodger
Check the space you will share
A lodger will share ‘living space’ with you in your home - such as a kitchen, living room or bathroom.
If you don't share living space with your lodger, they'll have more rights - for example, if you've converted your loft or garage into a bedsit.
If you rent your home, the person moving in will be a subtenant instead of a lodger. You can check the rules about subletting if you rent your home.
If you own your home and won’t share living space, you should get legal help.
Check how a lodger could affect your benefits
Getting a lodger might affect your benefits. It depends on which benefits you get.
If you get Universal Credit
How your Universal Credit is affected depends on whether your lodger is a family member.
If your lodger is a family member
Your Universal Credit payments might change. This will depend on you and your lodger’s circumstances.
If your lodger is a family member, you and your family member can talk to an adviser.
If your lodger isn't a family member
If you get a lodger who isn't a member of your family, this won't affect the amount of Universal Credit you get.
Any rent you receive from your lodger isn’t treated as income, so it won’t change how much Universal Credit you get.
If you rent from the council or a housing association and have a spare room, you might already be getting less Universal Credit. This is called a ‘size criteria reduction’ and is often known as ‘bedroom tax’. Getting a lodger won’t change this. Your lodger's room will still be calculated as spare and you’ll still be affected by the reduction.
Rupa lives on her own in a 2-bed housing association flat at a rent of £100 a week. Rupa gets permission to have a lodger from her landlord. She charges her lodger £40 a week for her spare bedroom.
The size criteria reduction for the extra bedroom means that a 14% reduction is applied to the ‘housing costs’ part of Rupa's Universal Credit. This is a reduction of £14. Rupa can use the weekly lodger's income to cover the £14 shortfall.
If you get Housing Benefit
How your Housing Benefit is affected depends on whether your lodger is a family member and whether you rent from the council or a housing association.
If your lodger isn't a family member
You can charge your lodger £20 a week without it affecting your benefits. Anything you charge over £20 a week will be counted as income and it will affect your benefits. If you give your lodger meals as part of their rent, only 50% of what you charge over £20 a week will be counted as income.
John charges his lodger £30 a week, which doesn't include meals. Only £10 of this will be treated as income when the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) works out how much Housing Benefit John would be entitled to each week.
If your lodger is a family member
Your Housing Benefit might be reduced. The amount depends on your relative's income. It might not be reduced if you or your relative claim certain benefits.
If you're thinking about renting a room to a family member, you and your family member can talk to an adviser to see how this could affect you.
If you rent from the council or a housing association
If you rent from the council or a housing association, your Housing Benefit might be reduced if you have 1 or more spare bedrooms. This is called a 'size criteria reduction’ and is often known as ‘bedroom tax’. When you get a lodger, the room will stop being spare and your Housing Benefit won't be affected by the size criteria reduction.
You can check how the size criteria reduction affects you.
If you get any other benefits or tax credits
Income from a lodger might affect how much you get. Talk to an adviser who can do a 'better-off calculation' for you. They can work out if you might end up losing more money from your benefits than you'd get in rent from your lodger.
Check how a lodger will affect your finances
Getting a lodger might have an impact on your personal finances. You should consider how your tax and insurance might change.
If you live alone and want to get a lodger, you’ll lose the 25% single person discount on your council tax. There are some exceptions, for example if the lodger is a full-time student. You can check if you’ll still get council tax discount.
Any rent you get is usually taxable income. However, you might not have to pay income tax on the rent you get from your lodger. This is called the 'Rent a Room Scheme'.
If you have home contents insurance, you should tell your insurer that you're getting a lodger. The insurer might increase your premium, but it's still important to tell them. If you don't, your insurance policy might not be valid - this means your belongings won't be protected.
Check if you need permission
You should check if you have a legal right to get a lodger. It will depend on whether you rent or own your home.
If you rent your home
Check if your tenancy agreement or contract says you need:
- your landlord's permission before you can get a lodger
- to tell your landlord about changes in your household - this could include getting a lodger
In most cases, your tenancy agreement or contract will say you need your landlord's permission before you can get a lodger. Even if the agreement doesn't say anything about lodgers, it's best to get permission.
You might be at risk of eviction if your landlord objects - especially if you have an assured shorthold tenancy.
In some situations you don’t need permission from your landlord to have a lodger. This is if:
- you rent from the council and are either a flexible or secure tenant
- you rent from a housing association and have a secure tenancy that started before 15 January 1989
- you rent privately and have a protected or regulated tenancy that started before 15 January 1989 - unless there’s a condition in your tenancy agreement that says you can’t
If you own your home
Check your mortgage contract. It will usually say you need your lender's permission before renting out all or part of the property.
If you're a leaseholder, or live in a shared ownership property, you should check your lease agreement to see if there are any terms about getting a lodger. You might need to get the freeholder or landlord's agreement first.
Check the condition of your home
You must make sure your home is safe and secure, and that your lodger won’t be injured because of the condition of your home. This includes checking the fire safety of your home - for example making sure there’s a working fire alarm fitted on each floor.
You can find out how to make your home safe from fire on GOV.UK.
You also have to follow gas safety regulations if you have a lodger. This means your gas appliances must be checked every year by an engineer who is registered with Gas Safe.
Check if you need to register with the council
If multiple people will be living in your home that aren’t part of the same family, you might be a ‘house in multiple occupation’ (HMO).
This is when there are at least 3 occupiers in 2 or more ‘households’ sharing a property. A household is classed as a single person, couple or family who live together.
If you own your home, you don’t usually have to count any family members who live with you. This might mean you can have a single lodger without becoming an HMO - even if there are 3 or more people living there.
You’ll still have to count your own family members if you own your home with a lease that’s less than 21 years in total.
Amar lives with their 2 children. Amar owns the home, so their children don’t count towards the 3 occupiers for an HMO. Only Amar counts.
They get a lodger called Jess. 2 people now count as occupiers for an HMO: Amar and Jess.
This means the home isn’t an HMO.
What to do if your house is an HMO
You’ll have extra legal responsibilities - including making sure gas and electrical equipment is safe and regularly checked.
You might have to get an HMO licence from your council or local authority - this depends on the amount of people in your property and council rules.
This applies if you rent or own your home.
Applying for an HMO licence if you rent privately
If getting a lodger turns your rented property into an HMO, your landlord will need to apply for an HMO licence. Your landlord might not want to do this - because the licence costs money and they might need to make changes to the property before they can get the licence.
Finding a lodger
You might be able to find a lodger by:
- checking online or newspaper adverts from people who are looking for a room - or your could place an advert yourself
- asking your friends or neighbours if they know someone who might be interested
- asking your landlord if they have a scheme that can help you find a lodger - if you’re a social housing tenant
Checking immigration status
If your lodger will be paying you rent, you must check they have a right to rent in the UK. This is a legal requirement. You have to do the immigration check whether you rent or own your home.
You must check your lodger’s immigration status
If you take in someone who doesn’t have the right to rent, you could get a fine or a prison sentence.
Forming an agreement with your lodger
It’s a good idea to make an agreement with your lodger. You can make a verbal agreement, but it's best if you and your lodger sign a written one. This is so the rights and responsibilities for each of you are clearly set out.
In your agreement you should include:
- the cost of rent and any meals or services included - and how often this should be paid
- the size of the lodger’s deposit - if there is one
- a list of the furniture included in the lodger’s room
- how often they'll pay rent - for example, monthly
If you don’t know when your lodger will move out, you should also include the length of the notice period if either of you want to end your agreement. This will usually be the same as how often your lodger is due to pay rent. For example, if the rent is due monthly, you could include a 1 month notice period.
If your lodger is staying with you for a fixed amount of time, you should also consider if you want to include:
- a ‘break clause’ - this lets you or your lodger end your agreement early for any reason
- an extra clause allowing you to give notice if your lodger breaks any terms in your agreement
If you add a break clause, you should also say how long the notice period will be, for example 1 month.
You can check how to end your agreement with your lodger.
Even if you don’t have a written agreement with your lodger, you’ll still be their landlord. This includes if your lodger is a friend or family member.
Your lodger will still have certain rights. This includes the right to live in the property as their home and share living space with you. You can check the rights of lodgers.
You can check guidance on letting rooms in your home on GOV.UK.