Taking up the legacy of Rupert Rigsby, the seamy but loveable landlord from 1980s sitcom Rising Damp, it might be tempting to rent out a room or two for a bit of extra cash. Thankfully, things have moved on from the days when the vulgar and stingy Rigsby barged into tenants’ rooms, with the rather down-and-out moggy Vienna in tow, to collect the rent for cubbyholes riddled with damp that he insisted was just ‘condensation’. Now, country-based property owners are letting out rooms, converted attics, out-buildings and entire wings of their homes to help pay the bills, enjoy some companionship and drive the burglars away.
The Government is encouraging homeowners to let spare rooms through its ‘rent-a-room’ scheme, where you can earn rental income of up to £4,250 a year tax free (£81.70 a week) and taking in a lodger doesn’t affect your tax banding. Divorcée Fiona Campbell, who is in her early fifties, lets out an upstairs room in her Oxfordshire farmhouse to a management consultant from Cumbria during the week, reclaiming the room on weekends. She found her lodger through the website www.mondaytofriday.com, which links up landlords with weekday only renters.
‘After the divorce, I was keen to stay on in the family home, and was looking at ways to make some extra money. Letting a room to a lodger from only Monday night to Friday morning is perfect, as I have the house to myself on weekends, and when I’m away, the tenant can keep an eye on things,’ says Mrs Campbell. To avoid having a dodgy Roger the Lodger on the premises, Mrs Campbell advises you to always get a reference, and she believes this method of taking in paying guests beats doing bed and breakfast. ‘Tenants have a job, are more permanent than transient bed-and-breakfast customers and, frankly, it’s less work. You don’t have to get up early to cook eggs and bacon, nor change the sheets every day.’
Landlords pay £29.95 to register on the website for three months and lodgers £10 a month, explains Judy Niner from www.mondaytofriday.com. And if you thought taking in a lodger was an urban pursuit, she receives more requests these days for people wanting to rent accommodation outside towns and cities. ‘There’s quite a lot going on in the countryside, with business parks growing on the edge of towns and cities and companies moving their quarters to converted farm buildings. Many people, such as Formula 1 workers near Banbury, don’t want to commute miles every day or uproot their families for short periods of time. Renting a room in a spacious country house is generally cheaper and more appealing than a soulless hotel room,’ Miss Niner explains.
If you fancy your daughter marrying a doctor, you could let your spare room to a medic from the UK or overseas through Doctor in the House (www.doctorhouse.co.uk). A recent favoured spot for medical practitioners is the Chalfonts in Buckinghamshire, not far from the clinics and hospitals of Harrow and Uxbridge. Sue Wainwright from Doctor in the House says the company charges you £25 to check out your home prior to enrolling.
It charges lodgers on a set sliding scale from £42 for a single night in single room and £66 for a double room, down to £130 a week for stays of 27 weeks or more in a single room. However, Josephine Flint from agent Cluttons warns that, with lodgers, you’re not covered under the Housing Act as you are if you let out a flat or house. ‘You don’t have the same rights, and could find it hard to lose a dodgy lodger, so draw up a tenancy agreement.’ Website Desktop Lawyer (www.desktoplawyer.co.uk) provides reasonably priced standard contracts, or a solicitor can compile one for about £250.
Top ten lodgers
1. Graduate students who vacate the premises during the summer
2. Weekdays-only part-time renters
3. The self-employed who work from home and can thus keep burglars at bay
4. DIY enthusiasts keen to mend your dripping taps
5. Green-fingered tenants intent on cutting the hedges
6. Gordon Ramsay-wannabes whipping up gourmet dinners
7. Dependable medics, handy in an emergency
8. Child-friendly lodgers who are happy to babysit
9. Counsellors who will listento your woes
10. Workers on night-shifts who are rarely there when you are