If I move out, do I become a landlord?

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    If I move out, do I become a landlord?

    I own a house in England in my sole name, and my girlfriend and I have lived there since I bought it. She signed a deed of postponement at the time, which was required by the mortgage provider.

    Our relationship has now broken down - reasonably amicably as these things go, though I doubt we'll "stay friends". We have decided our preferred option if possible is that she continue living here for 18 months, while I live elsewhere. For these 18 months I will support her financially, as she is a full-time student with no income and she owns a pet who would be difficult to accommodate in rented accommodation. However, she is very concerned that I will "kick her out" before 18 months is up, so I have suggested that I give her 18 months' rent up-front at market rates and she pay it back to me at regular intervals while she's living here. That way, if she chooses to leave before the 18 months is up, or if I ask her to leave, then at least she can use that money to rent elsewhere instead.

    We are both happy with this arrangement and both consider it to be fair given our circumstances. However, I am concerned about the legal implications, so I've got a few questions in that regard:

    (1) What is her legal status currently? I assume she was legally a lodger while we were together, and she still is while I continue to live here? Will this change once I move out?

    (2) If I give her cash up-front and she pays it back to me over time in exchange for living here without me, does this make me a landlord, even though effectively she's actually paying back a loan? If so, what would my obligations be, and her rights?

    (3) If the answer to question 2 is that yes, I'm a landlord, then what about if she pays it back less often - for instance, quarterly rent payments? Would I still be a landlord in that case? Or even, in the extreme case, what if she paid it all back in the 18th month and nothing before then? That's not my preferred option, but I would entertain it if it meant no legal obligations for me.

    (4) Would it be preferable for me to keep the house as my permanent address, even though I'll be living elsewhere? Is this "above board" if I take on an AST elsewhere, or would I need to be a lodger or even hop between Airbnb's? I would be willing to take the Airbnb route if necessary, as my job allows me to work remotely.

    (5) Would I be able to return to the house at any point in order to live here again? For instance, let's say I'm Airbnb-hopping and then we enter another Covid lockdown - in that case, I may wish to (or have no choice but to) come back here.

    You already are landlord to your "girlfriend" lodger, who would become tenant (AST) if you move out. Be careful to serve paperwork before you do - EPC, gsc, how to rent etc etc etc.

    Regardless of whatever paperwork says
    I am legally unqualified: If you need to rely on advice check it with a suitable authority - eg a solicitor specialising in landlord/tenant law...


      So you're saying it doesn't matter whether she pays "rent" or not, she'd be a tenant either way? In that case, this probably hinges on the definition of "moving out". Is there any way I can spend all or nearly all my time elsewhere (including sleeping) without being considered to have moved out?


        Assuming your girlfriend is not paying you any money for the accommodation she is not currently a lodger as a lodger is a paying guest. She is just there with your permission, that is a licensee. if you move out and she stays with your permission and does not pay rent she will remain a licensee. However that is exactly the sort of situation which can get messy, especially if the arrangement is not properly recorded - and even then it can all go awry.

        You giving her money which she then pays as rent is not a great idea as you will get taxed on it and there is no guarantee she will give it to. It will not guarantee her 18 months security unless she has an agreement and if she is going to have an agreement you do not need to give her any money as the agreement will be the security. If you charge rent then it will be a tenancy with all the legal requirements that go with it.

        I think the best thing you can do is just to tell her she will have to trust you - after all she is getting rent-free accommodation.


          I would put nothing in writing if I were you or make too many specific promises. If your alternative accommodation doesn't work out, you may need to move back in. Likewise if you discover she is not looking after the property or abusing your more than generous offer.


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