Not all landlords are big time, high earning people with large portfolios. Often, we see people that are either at the start of their property journey or using property investments to supplement their income. One way that this is possible, without commanding the budget that is often required to purchase an investment property is to rent out a spare room in your own home. This can be a great way to start out as a landlord or just a way of bringing in additional income. We don’t tend to work with this type of landlord directly at Brighton Accommodation Agency, as this type of tenancy is best managed by the landlord, living in the property, but we thought it an important point to discuss.
Since 2016, it has been possible for someone renting out a furnished room in their main and principle home tax-free for an income of up to £7,500 per year, which is the first time the threshold has been increased since 1997. The government give some guidance on how this scheme works on the gov.uk website, but generally, this will apply when you have a lodger living as a tenant in your home whilst paying rent. This tax exemption is automatic if you are earning less than the threshold in rent. There are different rules if you charge more than this threshold, so please check the online guidance if this is the case.
If you share living space with the lodger, you can have a fairly flexible agreement with them, requiring you to give reasonable notice for them to leave. If they don’t share any living space with you, they will be afforded basic protection within the property and may require the courts for them to leave, if they aren’t willing.
For those considering renting out a room in their home, here are some top tips to consider, to make sure you are maximising the potential of your property for both you and your prospective tenant, as well as minimising any risks for you both.
- Make sure your house is ready:
Before considering taking on a tenant, it is important to make sure your property is ready for one. This means checking over appliances, to ensure they’re safe; making sure areas of the property you’ve lived with, in the past are brought back to their best, and it is always a good idea to get a gas safety check carried out.
In making sure the property is at its best and ready for a tenant, it means you know your home is likely to be welcoming to a paying guest. It also avoids awkward conversations about how the oven has a “knack” to it or the certain way you need to jiggle a key in the front door for it to open.
The final step in making sure you’re ready to go is to get a set of keys ready for the tenant and check they work. You don’t want your first week living with a tenant to be running around letting them in because their keys don’t work!
- Decide what to charge:
This point can be a tough one. On the one hand, as a landlord, you will want to maximise your income; but at the same time, you don’t want to be charging some huge rent and end up with an empty room (or a resentful tenant)!
A good way to gauge the level of rent for a room is to do a bit of market research. Take a look on Rightmove and Zoopla at the rents shared houses in the area are bringing in. Compare this to other adverts for rooms on Gumtree, spareroom.com, or similar local sites and work out a level that suits your home. A quick call to a local agent may also point you in the right direction.
Decide from here any extras you are including in with your rent and their costs and roll them all into a nice round monthly total. This is much easier than going back to your tenant later to ask for contributions to household utilities.
- Advertise the room properly:
Once you’re ready to go, make sure you have some good photos that show the whole room, as well as the other shared areas of the property. That way, potential tenants will know what they’re looking at before they arrive.
Be sure to say a little in the advert about the property and day to day life in it, as well as a little about the sort of tenant you’re looking for. Available date and rough time frames for the tenancy. Get it advertised online, for people to see it and be responsive when enquiries come in.
- Find the right tenant:
Our general advice to landlords when investing in property is not to get too emotionally attached to the property and as part of this, not to be overly selective about the tenants you are open to.
However, when renting out a room in your own home, the advice would be the opposite! Be sure to meet your prospective tenants and have a chat with them. You don’t need to run a full interrogation but be sure this is a person you would be happy with having in your home. It is also advisable to get previous landlord references for them.
- Agree on the terms of the let:
As well as agreeing a price, what’s included, a move date and an initial tenancy duration, there are certain other things that should be agreed up front. It’s important to discuss and agree on general house rules before the start of the tenancy, to avoid any confusions in the future.
Whilst a written tenancy agreement isn’t essential, we’d say they’re definitely a good idea. This can be as simple as writing down your name, the tenant’s name, the property address and the terms you’ve agreed on; but having it in black and white really avoids any grey areas (no pun intended).
Agree at this point whether or not you will be holding a deposit for the tenancy as well.
- Know what you’re providing:
Having agreed on the terms of the let, know and agree what you are, or aren’t providing. This could be furnishings or general access around the property. Knowing what you need to provide in advance ensures that the tenant gets what they’re expecting when they arrive, whilst also ensuring you’re not being expected to provide you weren’t planning to!
- Write an inventory:
To the same level as a tenancy agreement, this doesn’t need to be a long, formal document, but having some photos and an outline of the condition of the room and the items in it is useful.
If you and your tenant agree on the condition of the room at the outset of the tenancy, you’ll know what condition the room should be returned in.
- Inform interested parties:
There are several people that may need to know if you’re taking in a lodger into your home. Be sure to check with your mortgage lender, your insurer, and check if you need to make any changes to your council tax if you are no longer entitled to a single occupancy discount.
If you’ve got any questions about renting out a room in your own home, please get in touch with us on 01273 672 999, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We don’t find tenants for these sorts of arrangements, but will always be happy to help!