This content applies to England only.
Housing laws vary between England and Scotland. Get advice relating to Scotland
A lodger is someone who rents a room in her/his landlord's home and who shares living space with her/him. Some lodgers receive services, such as meals or cleaning, as part of their agreement. Only certain people are allowed to take in lodgers. If you want to do so, you'll need to work out how both you and your lodger's rights are affected.
Bear in mind that a lodger's landlord could be the owner of the property or someone who rents the property from the owner.
What's the difference between a lodger and a subtenant?
A lodger rents a room in the landlord's home. S/he may receive some services from the landlord, such as meals, laundry or cleaning.
A subtenant has exclusive use of at least one room (usually a bedroom) in the property. Even the landlord would need her/his permission to enter this area. The subtenant may have permission to put a lock on her/his door.
In reality, there is often little difference between the rights you have if you share facilities with the landlord.
Who can take in a lodger?
Homeowners can usually take in lodgers. Most mortgage agreements allow you to rent out a room in your home, but you generally need permission from your lender. Check your mortgage agreement to see what it says.
Most tenants can only take in a lodger if they:
- rent a whole house or flat
- have a spare room
- get permission from their landlord before a lodger moves in.
Many council tenants and some housing-association tenants are automatically allowed to take in a lodger but most other tenants are not. Check the tenancy agreement to see what it says. If it doesn't say anything at all, you probably do need permission, and if you break your agreement your landlord could try to evict you.
Will taking in a lodger affect my rights?
Yes. Taking in a lodger will probably affect the amount of benefits you get if you're claiming. For example, if you're receiving housing benefit and you take in a lodger, the amount you get will almost certainly be reduced as they'll assume your lodger is paying rent. This will be the case even if your lodger is living rent-free. If you simply don't tell them, you may end up having to repay an overpayment or be prosecuted for fraud.
Renting out a room may also affect your contents insurance. Most insurers will put up premiums, but it's still important to inform them if you want to be sure that your belongings are protected. If you don't tell them, the insurance may not be valid.
If the income from letting a room exceeds a certain amount, then the landlord may also be liable to pay income tax.
The person taking in the lodger will also have responsibilities as a landlord.
What tenancy status do lodgers have?
If a lodger shares facilities such as the kitchen and bathroom with the landlord, s/he will be an excluded occupier. Excluded occupiers have very few rights. The landlord will only have to give reasonable notice, which could be a very short amount of time, in order to evict them.
If you don't share facilities, the person renting a room is probably a subtenant rather than a lodger. This means that the landlord may need a court order to evict her/him.
What happens if the landlord's tenancy ends?
A lodger or subtenant can continue to live in the accommodation as long as the immediate landlord has the right to stay there (ie as long as her/his tenancy continues or as long as s/he owns the property). However, if her/his tenancy ends or the property is being repossessed by a mortgage lender, the lodger's rights depend on:
- what type of tenancy the landlord has
- what the landlord's tenancy agreement says about subletting
- whether the head landlord agreed to the lodger or subtenant living there.
If the head landlord accepts rent directly from the lodger or subtenant, the lodger or subtenant may well have more rights. By accepting rent the landlord may be admitting that the person has a right to live in the accommodation. This is a complicated area of law so get advice if you are in this situation.