How to find the perfect lodger

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Forget the jokes, a lodger can be an excellent way of paying some of your mortgage. Just set some ground rules first. Julian Marks, founder of moveflat.com, shares some of his wisdom

  • What proportion of my mortgage can I expect a lodger to cover?

    ‘It depends where you are, but generally no more than 30-50 per cent of your monthly repayments. Letting a room in a two-bed flat in Clapham will bring in about £800 a month.’

    Should I have a tenant who's a mate, or a complete stranger?

    ‘A stranger is usually better. There's no emotional baggage there, and the distance encourages respect. Mates are great, but they take liberties. If you aren't going to invite your lodger to your dinner party, however, this requires forward planning and tact.’

    How do I check they're trustworthy?

    ‘You need to get a reference from one of their previous landlords, but not their current one. If they're a nightmare tenant, the current landlord will say almost anything to get rid of them, and might give you a false impression.’

    Can I advertise a 'double room'?

    ‘Only if it’s at least three times the area of a double bed.’

    Should we split bills, or should rent be all-inclusive?

    ‘All-inclusive: it saves hassle and people almost never abuse it. However, when you’re advertising the room, quote an exclusive price with an indication of bills – otherwise it’ll look too pricey.’ The exception is phone bills, which can be difficult territory. If they want to use a landline, get them their own line. The cost is marginal, and you'll avoid arguments.’

    Cheque, or direct debit?

    ‘Direct debit, every time. There’s nothing worse than having to nag, and it’ll save embarrassment all round. If payment is late, mention it immediately – you’re not their bank.’

    Who should clean the communal areas?

    ‘It’s a good idea to assume responsibility for communal areas like living room and bathroom for yourself, or a cleaner employed by you. In a very modest and self-effacing way, this clearly marks you as the boss, but also sends a welcome message to your tenants that you acknowledge some responsibilities in return for their money and that they are not just there to pay your mortgage.’

    Should I buy the toilet roll?

    ‘Set ground rules for stuff like that before they move in. It sounds petty, but these things can be real flashpoints. It’s good to allot specific cupboards and shelves to your tenants. Also make it clear that they’re not to move their partner in.’

    How do I get them to leave if it isn’t working?

    ‘Some people opt for the “my sister needs to move in, so I need the room back” line, but I wouldn’t advocate it – if it’s not going well, honesty is the best policy. If you have any doubts about their character, change the locks after they leave.’

    Useful references


    Into London, www.intolondon.com
    Gumtree, www.gumtree.com
    Spare Room, www.spareroom.co.uk

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