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MARKET NEWS: The return of the live-in lodger

Thu 10 Dec 2015

The number of Britons renting from a live-in landlord is on the increase.

How does this change the dynamics of sharing a home?

Who decides when the heating goes off at night or what to watch on television? Who gets first dibs using the kitchen? And how often should anyone be allowed to take baths or use the washing machine?

In a flat-share or house-share, everyone is nominally equal - a tenant - and the landlord is not usually much of a presence. But if your housemate also owns the house, there's an immediate power imbalance.

It's an issue for a rising number of lodgers and live-in landlords. Research for the insurance firm LV suggests the proportion of people in Great Britain letting a room had almost doubled from 1.4% to 2.7% between 2009 and 2014, charging £3,003 a year on average.

Tax incentives could accelerate the trend even further. From April 2016, homeowners renting out a room will be able to make as much as £7,500 a year without paying income tax on it - up from the £4,250 limit in place for the last 10 years. This comes as buy-to-let landlords face the prospect of increased stamp duty and cuts in tax relief.

So, financially, lodging may make sense for both parties. But what will it mean for domestic harmony?

The arrangement isn't for everyone. When Emma lived as a weekday lodger with a mother and daughter in Eastbourne while studying, "it was made clear that I was not allowed in the kitchen to cook at certain times". It was also made obvious she wasn't welcome in the lounge at any time.

"Although my daily routine was regular, in that I left the house at the same time each day, they would often occupy the bathroom at the exact time I would need to shower before leaving." The power dynamic meant that she felt unable to complain.

Landlords can find the adjustment hard, too. Katy, a married mother of two has let a bedroom in her house for eight years, warns it's not easy getting the right person. "We're not a particularly tidy family and some people just can't handle that," she says.

The relationship between lodgers and landlords is an established source of humour. In the 1970s comedy Rising Damp, Rupert Rigsby (played by Leonard Rossiter) rented rooms in a seedy Victorian terraced house.

But for all the protagonist's flaws, the show is remembered fondly because it "encapsulates a certain kind of shabby, deluded, but doggedly cheerful Englishness, with characters trapped in a purgatory of their own making", according to the British Film Institute.

Less warm was the 1950s Roald Dahl short story The Landlady, which saw a young man turn up at a boarding house only to be poisoned and stuffed, becoming part of a menagerie of other humans, a dog and a parrot.

It was once seen as normal for young, single people to rent a room in a boarding house run by a landlady, perhaps while studying or beginning a career away from home.

A more modern model for lodging is when one person, buying or renting a flat, lets or sub-lets a room. This helps with large mortgages and high rental costs.

Renting a room

£3000 per year generated by average spare room

£345  average monthly cost of a room in London

31 average age of a lodger

8 average number of days it takes to let a spare room

LV/PCP Research

 
Another possible source of tension is that lodgers have fewer legal rights than other tenants. It is easier for landlords to evict them, needing only "reasonable notice" rather than a court order. Live-in landlords can enter their rooms without permission and don't need possession orders from courts to bring about evictions. The chance of resolving matters - or arguing - face-to-face is greater, as they will see more of lodgers.

 

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