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Taking in a lodger - what you need to think about first

This advice applies to Wales

A lodger is someone who lives with you as part of your household sharing some of your accommodation, such as the bathroom or kitchen. They may have their 'own' room, but they live in your home with your permission and don't have the right to exclude you from their room or any part of your home.  

If you're thinking about taking in a lodger, then there are a number of important things that you need to consider first.

This page looks at what you need to think about before becoming a resident landlord.

Tips on finding a lodger

  • check online or newspaper adverts from people who are looking for accommodation or place an advert yourself
  • ask your friends or neighbours if they know someone who might be interested
  • if you are a social housing tenant, ask your landlord if they have a scheme that can help you find a lodger
  • be aware of your health and safety when meeting potential lodgers. Ask for references and follow them up before signing the agreement

Do you need permission to take in a lodger?

If you're a tenant

Depending on the type of tenancy you have, you may have a legal right to take in a lodger.

If you're a homeowner

If you have a mortgage, you may have to get the lender's permission before renting out part of your home. Also, if you are a leaseholder, or live in a shared ownership property, you may need to get the landlord's agreement first.

Will taking in a lodger affect your Housing Benefit?

If you get Housing Benefit (HB), the first £20 of weekly income from a lodger is ignored and won't affect your benefit. If meals are included, 50 per cent of anything over the £20 is also ignored.

Example

John charges his lodger £30 per week, which doesn't include meals or any other services. £20 of this would be disregarded which means that the remaining £10 is treated as income when working out how much HB John would be entitled to each week.

If you're a working-age social housing tenant and you have one or more 'spare' bedrooms, you may be paying some money towards your rent already because your HB has been reduced. This is known as the 'under-occupancy charge', the 'social sector size criteria reduction', the 'removal of the spare room subsidy' or the 'bedroom tax'.

If you take in a lodger, you'll be treated as needing a bedroom for the lodger for HB purposes. This means that your HB won't be reduced because the bedroom is no longer 'spare', although the rent that you get from the lodger counts as income, as explained above.

Different rules apply if you rent a room to a family member. The bedroom wouldn't be considered as a spare room, but your HB may be reduced because of a 'non-dependant deduction'. The amount of the deduction depends on your relative's income, but sometimes it can be ignored. For example, if you receive certain components of some disability benefits. If you're thinking about renting a room to a family member it may be best to speak to an adviser first to see how this could affect you.

Will taking in a lodger affect your Universal Credit?

Instead of Housing Benefit you may receive Universal Credit (UC).

For people on UC, the rent from a lodger is not treated as income. This means that whatever amount you charge a lodger, it will not impact on how much UC you get. However, working-age social housing tenants are subject to the size criteria reduction for the spare bedroom that the lodger rents.

Example

Rupa lives on her own in a two bed housing association flat at a rent of £100 per week. After getting permission from her landlord, a lodger moves into the spare bedroom and Rupa charges her £40 a week.

The £40 weekly income doesn't affect Rupa's UC. However, the size criteria reduction for the extra bedroom means that a 14 per cent reduction is applied to the ‘housing costs’ part of Rupa's UC. This amounts to a reduction of £14. Rupa can use some of the weekly lodger's income to cover the £14 shortfall.

Different rules apply if you rent a room to a family member. Speak to an adviser if this applies to you.

What about other benefits and tax credits?

Any income from a lodger may affect your entitlement to other benefits and tax credits. It may be best if you speak to an adviser first who can do a 'better-off calculation' for you. This is a calculation that would help you work out how any additional income would affect your entitlement to benefits or tax credits.

Council tax

If you live alone and would like to take in a lodger, you need to bear in mind that you will lose the 25 per cent single person discount on your council tax. There may be some exceptions, for example, if the lodger is a full-time student.

Income tax

If you're a taxpayer, the government's 'Rent a Room' scheme allows resident landlords to earn £7,500 each year tax free. More information is available on the GOV.UK website.

Insurance

Renting out a room in your home can affect your home contents insurance. Your insurer may increase your premium, but if you want to be sure that your belongings are protected, it's important to tell them. If you don't, your insurance policy may not be valid.

Condition of your home

You'll have to make sure that your home is in a fit and proper condition if you want to take in a lodger. For example, that it is clean, in reasonable decorative order, and that it is free of any hazards and vermin.

Any furniture you provide must comply with fire safety regulations. So if you have any older furniture, you should check the labels to make sure that it is compliant.

The gas safety regulations also apply if you take in a lodger. This means that gas appliances must be kept in good order and that an annual safety check is carried out by a recognised engineer.

If you're a tenant, then your landlord should already be doing this, in which case you don't need to do it again. If your landlord is not doing this, then you should contact them about it straightaway.

You also have to ensure that the electrical system and any electrical appliances you supply, such as kettles and toasters, are all safe to use.

Checking immigration status

If you plan to take in a lodger, you may have to check the person's immigration status before renting the room.

Checking that the lodger has a right to be in the country is a new legal requirement that the government has introduced for private landlords. At first, the rules only apply in the areas of Birmingham, Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley and Wolverhampton for new agreements which start on or after 1 December 2014.

Do you need to have a written agreement?

It's best if you and your lodger sign an agreement, so that the rights and responsibilities for each of you are clearly set out. You may be able to get a licence agreement from a legal stationer by post or online. These generally contain standard clauses which can be adapted to suit your needs.

It's also a good idea to draw up an inventory of the furniture and fittings provided in the lodger's room. An inventory can help prevent disputes about any deposit paid when the lodger moves out. It can be useful to take photographs to accompany the inventory to show the condition of the items.

Next steps

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