Taking in a lodger could help household finances
Whether it’s for a few weeks such as hosting foreign language students or a longer term arrangement, the most important first step is to inform your insurer or you may find your policy is invalid. They may also be able to point you in the direction of legal advice, and it’s also advisable to let your mortgage company know.
Space – the first frontier!
Most lodgers will expect a room that’s large enough to relax in, a double bed, chair and table, wardrobe and easy access to a bathroom if not en suite. Consider the space you’ll share; kitchen (including fridge and cupboards?), living room, garden, even parking spaces and the clothes line.
Finding the right lodger
Narrow this down by being absolutely clear from the outset what you want and what you’re offering in return – any meals, laundry or cleaning for instance. Where you live will help determine the type of lodger you might find through universities and colleges, hospitals, offices, big construction projects, theatres and seasonal employment. Do you want a student, an actor? Male or female? (if someone is sharing your family home you can specify gender without infringing equality legislation). Someone who works shifts, or maybe someone who goes home at weekends?
‘Room to Rent’ - advertising
Word of mouth is ideal through friends and colleagues, sports and social clubs. Large companies and organisations usually have someone who deals with staff/student accommodation who’ll be able to offer advice and help you find a suitable lodger. Websites, local newspapers and shop windows but be discerning about where you advertise. Beware of giving out too much information in an ad or over the phone that might attract the wrong type to ‘case the joint’ but do be clear about basics such as smoking and visitors. Get any potential lodger to complete a Lodger’s Application Form that’s available from stationers, Post Offices and online. This is a legal declaration of your lodger's identity, accommodation and employment history, their personal details, income status and references. Most importantly, this means your would-be lodger has consented to you running a credit check against them (in accordance with the 1988 Data Protection Act).
Vetting the lodger
Being absolutely clear from the outset will avoid wasting time and potentially uncomfortable situations. It’s your home so you can set the rules - if you have cats then a lodger who’s allergic is not ideal. Similarly if your lodger turns out to be a budding Heston Blumenthal, you might need to be strict on use of the kitchen! Meet in a neutral, public space such as a café where you can give a potential lodger the once over before letting them into your home.
Find out more about how long they want the room for, what their circumstances are - do they have a partner or children planning to visit every weekend, are they taking trumpet lessons? Trust your intuition and then back it up with facts by checking the references, calling employers, previous landlords, banks and so forth. There are agencies who’ll do this for you relatively cheaply but if you are going to pass on that cost to your lodger, warn them in advance and put it in the agreement.