When is a landlord not a landlord?
Answer – when they think they’re not as they’re letting a room, and not a whole property!
Following the credit crunch, many of us, myself included, have found ourselves letting out either the whole or a part of our own homes. Some have been forced to do this rather than lose their home completely. The phrase ″accidental landlord″ has been coined to describe such people.
For those of us letting a whole property for the first time, there is plenty of practical help available, especially if we are able or willing to pay for it. For example, letting agents who (if chosen properly) are invaluable at sourcing good reliable tenants and handling the legalities. You need only to navigate this site to find lots of help and advice.
- But what happens afterwards? Where does the landlord live? How do they live? Resident Landlords might ″just″ be letting a single room in their home – but how do they live with a lodger, whether it’s someone they already know or a stranger?
Or after giving up their home completely to tenants, an ″accidental″ landlord might have no alternative than to become a lodger themselves. This was the situation I found myself in three years ago when I first became a landlord after letting my former home.
House sharing, especially after you’ve been used to having your own home to yourself, can be challenging. This is so even when the flatmates have an equal stake and status in the home – when you’ve got a situation where the balance of power is almost totally skewed in favour of one party, as is the case with a live in landlord and a lodger, this can lead to a souring of relations and even exploitation.
New live in landlords face two main challenges – they must ensure they let to someone reliable, responsible, considerate and adaptable enough to fit in with their household and unlike landlords letting a whole property, they must do the advertising, interviewing and referencing checks themselves, without the aid of a letting agent (room listing sites will do a minimum of ensuring ads are genuine and some will screen a prospective lodger or tenant for a fee while others will only list room wanted ads from people who’ve undergone CRB checks such as teachers and civil servants).
Live in landlords then face the challenge of sharing their home – they must set clear boundaries, while accepting the small day to day frustrations that can come with house sharing, but still be able to put their foot down if there’s real trouble from the lodger. In other words, they need to wear two hats – amicable and easy going flatmate and reasonable but firm landlord. They also need to know which hat to wear when.
Needless to say, a lot of live in landlords simply cut corners, just relying on gut instinct to select a lodger, or worse, allowing themselves to be manipulated into giving someone a room. They then often compound the situation by failing to consider what they can and can’t accept from a lodger, with the result that even if they’re lucky enough to get a decent lodger (many end up with rogue lodgers), they soon reach their breaking point with inevitable consequences OR they go the other way, and dictate a load of stringent rules for the poor lodger, then micro manage their day to day use of the home!
In addition, many live in landlords don’t even consider that once the lodger has moved in, is complying with the agreement or understanding, behaving decently in general and paying rent on time, it is also the lodger’s home and the landlord needs to stick to the agreement too and treat the lodger with courtesy.
Some believe they can get around these issues by letting their spare room to a friend, or letting a room from a friend. This is fraught with problems as the parties are even less likely to put an agreement in place or even set the most basic boundaries. Even if no major falling out happens, a lot of people find their relationship changes from that of friends to just flatmates, or worse, landlord and lodger – even with good friends, a lot of people find it very hard to fully share their home.
In all the letting to/from friend situations I’ve come across, the friendships have ended, including my own (one occasion when my then live in boyfriend and I let to girl we knew at work, the second, much more recent when I rented my empty nester friend’s spare room after letting my flat to tenants).
Unfortunately, it seems that human nature is somewhat limited in its capacity for altruism where personal space and territory is at stake. Unless the relationship is extremely close, the friend letting the room must be as dependent on the arrangement as much as the friend who is renting for it to work. For example, they must really, really need the extra money, or really need someone to look after their kids, pets, elderly parents etc, and not just have some inclination of helping out a not particularly close friend or acquaintance who needs somewhere to stay or live.
However, provided the proper preparation is done and you go into it for the right reasons, letting a room can be a great source of (almost) passive income, and even a way to make friends – so long as this isn’t your motivation for room letting in the first place!
For full information about letting a room in the UK, whether to a friend or someone you find through advertising, please visit my website, lodgersite.com or download my ebook, An Easy Way to Make an Income.