The accidental landlord: the naked truth on lodgers living at close quarters

Victoria Whitlock says renting out your spare room can be great - as long as you agree on the ground rules before you begin
Renting out a spare room can be a great way to boost your income — and if the rent you earn is no more than £4,250 a year it’s tax-free too. But sharing your home with a stranger can lead to some awkward moments, especially if you’re the sort to walk around the house naked.

The flat- and house-sharing website SpareRoom recently asked users what they and their housemates disagreed about, and one said not all his flatmates embraced his idea of “naked Fridays”. If this is the sort of thing you get up to at home, I think it’s only fair to tell lodgers before they move in.

SpareRoom polled hundreds of users and 60 per cent said they would describe their lodgers as friends, which is nice, but looking at this statistic more pessimistically it means that one in four are living with people they probably don’t like. I don’t think this should put you off letting out your spare room, but it does show that it’s important to vet all applicants carefully.

I had a couple of lodgers who became close friends, and I fell out with a close friend when he became my lodger and I caught him shaving in the bath. It wasn’t the mess I minded — he was using my razor. I thought that was bad — until a male friend told me he came home one day to find his flatmate using his nose-hair trimmer.

It’s four years since I last had a lodger. I got sick of queuing for my own bathroom, constantly putting the loo seat back down and waiting until others had finished cooking so I could use my own oven, but before I grew old and intolerant I liked having lodgers.

I liked having someone at home when I got in from work, I liked having someone on hand to pop to the pub with, but mostly I liked the fact their rent paid my mortgage. If you’re thinking about letting a room but not sure you want someone around all the time — perhaps you want to spend weekends on your own walking around in your underpants — consider a Monday to Friday let.

These are really popular with tenants from out of town who are on a short-term work contract and, depending on where you are in London, you could still get about £100 to £150 a week, although you’ll have to include energy bills in the rent.

I have a divorced friend whose daughters stay with him only every other weekend so he lets their room on weekdays and earns £600 a month rent, which pays for treats and holidays with his girls.

Worth noting is that you can still keep your single person’s council tax discount if you only let a room five days a week and your property isn’t your tenant’s main home.

Don’t let something as trivial as the lack of a spare room prevent you from taking a tenant, either. If your kitchen is roomy enough to squeeze in a dining table and a couple of chairs, you could turn the living room into a bedroom.

In fact, a friend of mine has just divided her bathroom to create a spare bedroom. By replacing the bath with a shower she saved enough space for a second room with a single bed on a ledge above the door. It’s ingenious. If you do decide to let a room, do bear in mind “naked Fridays” probably aren’t a good idea, even in a heatwave.

Follow our accidental landlord on Twitter at @VicWhitlock

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