Taking in a Lodger: What are the Rights of a Lodger and Landlord?
Taking in a lodger may offer a useful and simple way in which to boost your income, but before you decide to proceed, it is imperative to do your homework. In this article, we will take a look at the legal aspects that must be considered when taking in a lodger, and the rights of a lodger and obligations of both parties. By understanding these before you enter into a lodging agreement, you can ensure you make decisions which protect your best interests and avoid any potential dispute down the line.
What are lodger’s legal rights?
A lodger is someone who pays rent to share part of your home with you. While they may have their own room within the premises, they do not have exclusive rights to it or the property. In legal terms, a lodger is referred to as a ‘licensee’, and are typically licensed to occupy a room, use furnishings, and access common parts of the property such as the kitchen and bathroom.
It is, however, important to distinguish a lodger from a subtenant. A subtenant will pay rent to a tenant (referred to as the immediate landlord), who themselves pay rent to the owner of the property (the head landlord). A subtenant differs from a lodger in that the subtenant has exclusive rights to the part of the property they are renting. This means they can lock their room which cannot then be accessed by the landlord without permission. A lodger’s room, on the other hand, can be accessed by the landlord, perhaps for cleaning or undertaking maintenance.
A lodger has fewer rights than a tenant, in part because they are not protected by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. As such, a lodger is referred to as being an excluded occupier, meaning that the landlord only has to provide reasonable notice to end the lodging arrangement, and there is no need to seek the assistance of the Court to evict them. Property owners can contact a landlord lawyer to do this.
Rights of a Lodger|: What is contained in a Lodger Agreement?
A Lodger Agreement is not mandatory, but it can provide additional clarification of rights and obligations for both licensor (the immediate landlord) and the licensee (the lodger), including:
- Whether meals are provided
- Which parts of the property can be used by the lodger (internally and externally)
- Who is responsible for repairs
- How and when rent will be paid
- The amount of any deposit (it is important to note that the landlord is not obliged to protect the deposit in the same manner as a tenancy)
- Arrangements for the payment of utility costs
- The license period
- Licensee obligations such as not allowing others to stay in the room, not allowing the room to be used for business use, not to cause damage, to keep the property tidy and clean, to pay for the replacement of keys if lost, not to prevent the Licensor from entering the room, not to smoke, and not to use the Licensor’s telephone (or other devices).
- Licensor obligations such as payment of council tax, provision of keys, to refund the deposit following termination within an agreed number of days (less a reasonable amount for any non-payment of rent or repairs), provision of items such as soap, toilet roll, bedding, and towels.
Lodger licenses can be granted periodically (i.e. indefinitely from one period of rental to the next), or fixed-term – the default is periodic.
How can a lodger agreement be terminated?
A landlord or lodger can bring the lodging arrangement to an end if the fixed term agreement has ended, or if periodic, they must have provided notice to leave (typically corresponding to the rental payment period). The manner in which the notice should be given (i.e. in writing or verbal) and the duration should be documented in the lodger agreement.
If either party wish to terminate early, this can be agreed mutually between licensor and licensee. Even if there is no agreement, it is best practice to put any notice to terminate in writing, showing the date by which the lodger needs to vacate the property, and to hand this to them in person. This ensures there is no miscommunication, and the intention to terminate the arrangement is clearly understood.
What if a lodger does not vacate within the notice period?
The lodger should leave peacefully by the date on the notice letter. If they refuse to leave by the stated date, talk to them to understand their circumstances – they may just need more time to find a suitable place to live, but they should pay you for this additional stay. If once you have provided reasonable time for them to resolve any issue, you may have to refuse them entry and have the locks changed to prevent ongoing use of the room/s. In the event of an ongoing refusal or leave, or if they cause trouble, you may need to ask the police to attend.
Likewise, if you are a lodger, it is not acceptable or permissible in any way for a landlord to use threatening behaviour to evict you – this is classified as an illegal eviction and you should seek immediate legal advice.
Tips for a Lodger Agreement
Any lodger arrangement is best entered into with a proper written agreement which makes everything clear from the outset. If an unresolvable dispute arises it is recommended you seek legal advice immediately. Don’t take matters into your own hands as this may make matters worse and lay the basis for a criminal charge or civil claim or action against you at a later date.
If you've found yourself in the midst of a lodger dispute, or require information on a lodger agreement, our property dispute solicitors can help. Guillaumes are a full-service Weybridge law firm with specialist knowledge and expertise. To get an appointment, get in touch with us today.