Who You Must Inform (In the UK)
NB this page contains some general legal information which is for guidance only and is not legal advice see - Disclaimer.
NB the following advice also applies to anyone renting their room or home on a temporary basis to holiday makers (e.g. from sites like Airbnb). There have been reports in the media of householders who have done this and invalidated their insurance as well as breaching their mortgage or tenancy agreements.
If you have a mortgage, you will need to inform your provider. With most lenders you won't need consent to let, as you would if you were letting out the whole property, but with some you may. You may require consent to let in any case if the lodger will have their own cooking, washing and toilet facilities, as this could amount to a tenancy. You must in any case inform them; why? This is partly for the protection of your lodger, if you should default on the mortgage or die, but mostly for your own protection - if the property was destroyed or badly damaged because of the negligence of your lodger and your lender had not consented to the lodger being there, you would be in breach of your mortgage conditions with serious consequences.
If own your property and it's leasehold, check the lease - you may need permission from the freeholder.
If you rent your property from a private landlord, you will need to firstly check with them, and get their permission in writing, just as you would with a mortgage provider.
If you rent from a housing association (although some housing association tenants have the same legal right as council tenants to take in a lodger - see below) there may be a clause in your letting agreement to the effect that taking in a lodger is not allowed, but with the chronic shortage of housing stock, many housing associations are now beginning to take a more pragmatic view of their tenants taking in lodgers, and may even actively promote it as a means to beat the "bedroom tax", especially in a situation where the tenant is likely to face rent arrears, so it's definitely worth approaching them if you have a spare room.
If you rent from a local authority in England or Wales, provided you have a secure tenancy (which you're very likely to have unless you're in temporary accommodation - check your rental agreement), you actually have the legal right under the Housing Act 1985 s 93(1)(a) to let a room in your home provided this doesn't mean your home becomes overcrowded. Overcrowding in social housing is defined under Part 10 of the Housing Act 1985 - it expects children under 10 to share a room with one other child, of either sex, but not people over 10 who should only share with someone of the same sex, unless they're in a relationship; babies under 1 year old are disregarded; you would be expected to sleep in a living, dining room or kitchen diner - provided it's a certain size. Although it is your legal right to take in lodger (if this doesn't make your accommodation overcrowded) you must still get written permission from your landlord first!
There is a popular misconception that letting one room to a lodger is subletting. Subletting means letting to a subtenant whereas someone who rents a room in his/her landlord's home is a licencee. As this leads to confusion, I have briefly explained the difference below:
Check with your home insurance provider that you're allowed to take in lodgers. Insurance for live in landlords used to be difficult to find, however, with a dramatic increase in the number of room rentals since the credit crunch, more insurance providers are offering this. If you're not allowed lodgers on your existing policy home insurance policy, it pays to shop around - but here are some firms you could try: Insync, a specialist insurer, offer several competitive options for landlords and are also happy to offer instant expert advice via their website livechat. You could also check Spareroom both for home insurance with lodgers and separate insurance for your lodger; your lodger will need to get their own tenant insurance.
If you get a single occupier's discount on your council tax, you will need to inform your local authority, unless your lodger is exempt from paying council tax (e.g. they're a university student).
- If the property is your home, your post goes there, most of your possessions are there and you spend at least a significant part of your time there - the person you rent to is your lodger - this is not subletting! If though, you had to move out altogether for a while, you would then be subletting and the person (or people) you rent to are subtenants.
- It is actually a criminal offence
to sublet social property without the landlord's permission.
- It is not illegal to sublet your public rented home with your landlord's written permission. You would need to demonstrate a good reason, for example, you had to temporarily move out of the area to care for a sick relative or take up temporary work.
- If you sublet your council or housing association home, it will affect your tenancy status until you move back.
If you're letting on a Monday - Friday basis (to someone who only needs a week night let), this person would not normally pay council tax at your property, as they already pay against their main (family) home. You will still need to inform Council Tax at your local authority though, and your lodger will need to produce proof of payments of Council Tax at his or her main home. However, if for whatever reason you and your Monday - Friday lodger decided that they would use your address as their main home, they would then become liable to pay council tax at your address and you would lose any single occupier's discount.
- NB People claiming Jobseeker's Allowance and most other benefit claimants are not exempt - they are, however, usually entitled to a Council Tax Reduction to help with some or all the cost of their council tax.
If you claim any kind of means tested benefit and you're not on
Universal Credit, your room rental income will affect this. You can keep
the first £20 per week rental income without it affecting your benefit,
but the remainder is affected - unless you provide meals for the
lodger, where you can keep half of the remainder. For example, say
you're paid £90 per week rent, but you always provide a cooked breakfast
for your lodger, you would make £55 per week rental income (made up of
the first £20 that is disregarded, plus one half of the remaining £70,
which is £35).
- The good news is, with the roll out of Universal Credit, a public housing tenant's income from renting a room will no longer affect their benefit entitlement - so if you rent your home from your local authority (or a housing association) you can keep your entire rental income and still receive the same amount of benefit. However, like all resident landlords, if your rental income exceeds £4,250 a year (£7,500 from 6 April 2016), you would have to complete a tax return and if your total income (before tax) for the year is above your income tax personal allowance you would have to pay tax on that rental income.
@The_Landlord has kindly featured many of my answers to landlord's and lodger's questions on his Taking In Lodgers- ‘Rent-A-Room’ Scheme Guide on his comprehensive (and very entertaining!) popular landlord advice site and blog, Property Investment Project. Topics covered include how rent from a lodger affects benefits, lodger running a business, rent, tax and serving notice.