When does your friend become your landlord?
The obvious answer is when they let property to you, be it a house, garage, flat or “just” a room.
While in all of the above scenarios there is the potential for trouble as business is being mixed with friendship, when actual living space is shared, the problems often multiply by a factor of 10.
When house or flat sharing is mentioned, a picture of conflict over cleanliness, noise, stuff being “borrowed” etc comes to mind – most people will only experience this as students or early on in their career before they can afford their own place. But in our current economic climate and with high housing costs, generation rent is becoming “generation house share”. This is happening not only in Britain, but in several other rich countries too.
It’s not just young people starting out though, who are forced to share. With fewer jobs and stricter lending criteria, people of all ages are being forced to house share.
Something like a third of people letting out a room choose to let to a friend rather than someone they don’t know – however, I suspect that number might well be much higher, as friend room lets are by their very nature more informal, casual, even beneath the radar affairs – for example, how many people letting a room to a friend are going to get a CP12? How many have even heard of a CP12 (landlord’s gas safety certificate) and how many realise it’s actually illegal not to get one if you’re accepting rent for any premises that has at least one gas appliance? How many are continuing to claim a single person’s discount on their council tax? If you were to ask them, they would just shrug and say, “I’m not a landlord, I just have a friend staying for a while.”
This is perfectly fine if the friend really is just a guest, but this is often where the relationship changes from friends to landlord and lodger. While most of these live in landlords aren’t charging their lodgers a full market rent, the rent they <em>are</em> charging is often a lot more than the actual expense their friend is costing. While it is reasonable, even expected, for a guest to contribute a bit more than just their keep (perhaps doing some jobs around the house if they can’t afford to buy a gift or give a little extra money), paying rent isn’t normally expected of a guest.
While there is of course nothing wrong with charging rent, when you take rent from a lodger, you in return share your home. What does this mean? Think of everything you might do in your home, other than eat and sleep – you might watch TV, listen to music, do your laundry, take baths, entertain friends, have your boyfriend or girlfriend to stay, receive mail, cook etc. A lodger, as opposed to a guest, is reasonably going to expect to do all of this (of course, in a house share, each housemate has to compromise to some degree) – casual live in landlords (whether letting to acquaintances or strangers) often fail to think about what they themselves can and can’t live with in a house share, never mind thinking about the needs of the lodger. A lodger who is also a friend will if anything, expect to feel even more at home than someone you don’t know.
Couple the inevitable conflict that’s going to come when the needs of the two housemates clash, with a complete imbalance of power (usually in favour of the landlord, but I have come across many situations where a lodger reveals themselves to be a narcissistic bully after moving in) and it’s goodbye friendship at best, very nasty at worst – with forced eviction, counter accusations and the authorities involved.
If you’re reading this because you’re thinking about letting out your spare room, but you’re worried about what your lodger might be like and how trust worthy they might be, please don’t just resort to letting to a friend – you are much better off (financially and in terms of your living situation) letting to someone you don’t have a prior relationship with but have carefully selected, screened, and agreed reasonable house rules with.
LRS offers financial screening reports for tenants and lodgers http://www.landlordreferencing.co.uk/financial-history-report-faq/ and unique lifestyle referencing http://www.landlordreferencing.co.uk/lifestyle-tenant-referencing/.
For information on what you need to consider before even advertising for a lodger, the advertising and selection process, after they’ve moved in and beyond, please visit lodgersite.com http://www.lodgersite.com/index.html.
If you’d like to read more about letting a room to or from a friend, visit http://www.lodgersite.com/Letting_to_a_Friend.html.