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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Charlotte Duck

Artful lodgers: everything you need to know about being a lodger or hosting one in your home

London’s cost-of-living crunch is affecting people on all rungs of the property ladder, from renters facing average room rents in excess of £1,000 per month, to homeowners struggling with the increased cost of mortgages and bills.

As a result, the capital has seen a surge in people taking in or becoming lodgers —whereby someone rents a room in a private home and lives there with the landlord, rather than having a contract with a landlord to rent an entire home or sublet a room.

According to recent data from SpareRoom, there were 12,573 new lodger landlords from January to October this year, compared with just 8,015 during the same period in 2021, an increase of 57 per cent.

In London it’s estimated to be £129 per month cheaper to rent as a lodger than in a flatshare, annually that’s a saving of £1,548.

The difference is that whereas in a flat share or room sublet a tenant has exclusive use of their room and a landlord needs permission to enter, a lodger’s landlord can enter their room at any time without permission.

Lodger and landlord share living space and lodgers have few legal rights. This does not have to be a problem and when it works well, sharing a home can be a positive for both lodgers and landlords.

Here’s how to make it work.

‘Living with good people is good for my mental health’

As well as getting a room in a great part of London for a fraction of the price that it would cost to rent, Maho Harada — a Japanese violinist and PhD student at the Royal Academy of Music — sees other advantages to her current set-up.

She has been lodging with 59-year-old artist and teacher Victoria Carr and her husband in their four-bedroom maisonette in Primrose Hill for three years.

“Living with good people is good for me and my mental health. There’s someone I can chat with and share daily news — that’s the biggest advantage for me,” she says.

Maho Harada has found lodging in Primrose Hill more enjoyable than renting a shared house (Juliet Murphy)

The 29-year-old, who came from Tochigi in Japan in 2016, had previously been living in a London flatshare but had not had a good experience.

“My flatmates didn’t clean and were noisy. They were late people: one of them went out and lost their keys and came home at 2am and needed me to open the door for them.”

Harada pays £710 per month for a small double room with no bills to pay and shares a bathroom with the youngest of Carr’s three children when she is home from university.

Harada can see how some would not get on with lodging and flags how in Japan it’s not common to share a bathroom or kitchen outside your family.

“Some friends say that they could not do lodging because of the pressure of avoiding bothering someone else. It depends on your personality. I don’t mind sharing a kitchen and bathroom with others but, if you want to keep your own space, that is a problem.”

She uses the washing machine but does not go in to the living room. The family and lodger share the kitchen, working around each other so as not to get in the way.

In terms of house rules, Harada has to double lock the door and, while she is welcome to bring someone to the house, she needs to let Carr know beforehand.

“We’ve never had a smoker but, if we did, I’d just say that they need to smoke outside,” says Carr.

What is a lodger?

⬤ Unlike a tenant, a lodger lives in the landlord’s home with them and shares certain areas, such as the bathroom or kitchen

⬤ While a lodger has their ‘own room’, they don’t have the right to exclude the landlord from it or any other part of their home

⬤ The landlord can ask the lodger to move rooms if required

⬤ Unlike a tenancy, the landlord does not have to register a deposit with a deposit scheme

⬤ The landlord does not have the same repair responsibilities as with a tenancy agreement but they must still make sure their home is fit for habitation and that gas and electrics are safe to use

⬤ Even though a lodger has fewer rights than a tenant, a reasonable notice period is still required for evictions. This is usually the time between rental payments

What both Harada and Carr agree on is the importance of the landlord and lodger meeting before making an agreement to ensure their personalities are a good fit.

“I’ve had someone who is not quite the right fit for a family home,” says Carr. “It’s obvious that there is a family living here and the house is full of stuff, which is not everyone’s thing.”

But otherwise Carr says she finds the experience of taking in lodgers enriching.

“It feels like a necessity and turns into something enjoyable,” she says. “We first started doing it when we had three children and the oldest one went off to university. It felt like we had more space, and it was a financial decision.”

At the time, one of her students suggested she contact the Royal Academy of Music and see if they had anyone needing somewhere to stay.

“They’re good lodgers, dedicated to their music and work long hours or are out of the house most of the time. They’re always foreign students and want to live with a family. It’s a secure option for them, compared to living with other students.

“We have mostly violinists and viola players, and we like it when they practise. We had a lodger called Chloe living with us for two years. She’s French and now a really well-known conductor. We go to her concerts and still see her. You make connections with people.

“Maho came pre-Covid and stayed with us during Covid. She did concerts in the street for the neighbours during lockdown and taught us how to make gyoza and about her culture.”

‘An Aussie guy grew marijuana in my garden and my rabbits ate it’

Deborah Roslund, 74, is a company director, who lives in a five-bedroom house in Herne Hill and has had lodgers for 20 years.

"Bills have gone up massively, so it seriously helps,” she says.

Her lodgers pay £1,050 a month, inclusive of bills (bar a cleaner), and get the top floor of her home — which has a kitchenette and a bathroom, along with a bedroom. They share the garden and use of the washing machine.

Debora Roslund has had lodgers in her Herne Hill home for 20 years (Juliet Murphy)

Roslund uses SpareRoom and OpenRent to find prospective lodgers and then makes a shortlist, sounding them out over the phone, before interviewing about five people.

“I want someone I can trust so I always interview every one of them. I have a gut feeling about people.”

After an hour-long interview, if it seems like they will get on, Roslund asks for three months of bank statements, employer and previous landlord references, a personal reference and a month’s pay up front. She also has a contract drawn up.

“I say, ‘I like you, but you need to get the references.’ It’s a lot of work so they need to really want the room.”

Roslund’s current lodger has been with her for two years.

“He’s very discreet and we exchange hellos and goodbyes, and vaguely talk when we pass each other in the hallway.” For her the most important thing is to get the right person and keep your spaces separate.

Roslund's current lodger occupies the top floor of her home (Juliet Murphy)

Her vetting process has certainly paid off as she’s only had one negative experience over the 20 years.

“An Aussie guy grew marijuana in my garden and my rabbits ate it, so they ended up being high on pot. He then moved his girlfriend in and she worked in a restaurant so wouldn’t get back till late. Once she started cooking at one in the morning, which smelt the house out.”

‘It feels like we’re helping young people in show business’

“Our mortgage has quadrupled and that, along with the cost-of-living crisis, was our motivation,” says freelance journalist Leo Bear, who has been taking lodgers into the four-bedroom Fulham home she shares with her husband and two daughters for two years.

Initially Bear looked on but thought that was too much of a commitment. Then she found out about

Leo Bear takes short-term bookings from people who work in the theatre (Juliet Murphy)

“We get short-term bookings, usually one or two weeks. The most we’ve had was eight weeks over the summer,” she says.

“We charge a nightly rate of £75, and they are all theatre professionals, for example stage technicians, set designers and dancers. We’ve just had a singer from The Book of Mormon. They are out all of the time in rehearsals and come in late, so we don’t really see them. When we do see them, they’re delightful.”

The lodgers have a bedroom with a cupboard, TV and hairdryer, and their own bathroom (which Bear says is key with two daughters still at home). She sets out the house rules from the beginning.

Tips for landlords and lodgers

Tips for landlords

⬤ Decide on the house rules and make them clear when you advertise

⬤ The Rent-a-Room scheme means live-in landlords can earn up to £7,500 annually, tax-free

⬤ If you have a mortgage, lease, or live in a shared ownership property, check your contract as you might need to get permission first

⬤ Inform your buildings and contents insurer that you’re getting a lodger.

⬤ While lodgers have fewer rights than tenants, for those staying long-term, make sure to have an agreement in place as well as a contract end date

⬤ Landlords have a legal obligation to check a lodger’s immigration status

Tips for lodgers

⬤ Use reputable websites, such as SpareRoom or Cohabitas, and read any landlord reviews

⬤ Arrange a phone call first or, if you want to see the room straight away, organise this via the official website channels

⬤ Ask about the house rules when you first contact your landlord and make sure you are happy with them before signing up

⬤ Understand what you’re paying for and whether this includes or excludes all bills

⬤ Do not be tempted to do favours, such as babysitting, as this muddies the water between landlord/lodger

“I say in my profile that I work from home and it’s a quiet house. I say no plus ones, no couples and I’m quite strict on requirements.”

Lodgers aren’t allowed in the living room; they have access to the washing machine and a separate fridge but can only use the kitchen after 8pm when the family is finished with dinner, and there’s no eating or drinking in their room because it’s carpeted.

“If people think you’re uptight, they don’t get in contact,” says Bear, who also checks their rehearsal schedules.

“I’m working, I don’t want someone who’s going to be around the house doing nothing for a week… Theatredigsbooker has five or six reviews from other people and, if they haven’t got any reviews or it’s their first-time lodging, I chat to them beforehand, and we have an exchange of information.”

Being upfront from the start about her home set-up has paid off.

“We had someone from Sister Act at the Hammersmith Apollo, who got the girls backstage tickets, and they went and saw how it all worked.

“They have all been really great and just want somewhere comfortable and safe to sleep. It also feels like we’re contributing to helping young people in the business.”

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