Sharing my experience of having lodgers

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    Sharing my experience of having lodgers

    I am a single woman and in 1999 when I was 41 I bought a three-story terraced Victorian town house with four double bedrooms, with the intent to have three lodgers and live on the income.

    Not one person supported my decision. Every friend or relative I told expressed grave concern and issued dire warnings to try to persuade me not to do it. All they could see was gloom and doom. Some said I was sacrificing all my privacy just for the sake of money. My closest friend expressed disgust that I would have to share a toilet [oh horror!] with "a load of strangers". I'd do better to get a job, they said.

    Thank God I didn't listen to them.

    Despite the difficulty I am in with one of my current lodgers (which is my fault -- I have been too lenient and let her get into rent arrears) having lodgers has been the best financial decision of my life.

    Free from SHT restraints, you can make up your own rules so long as whoever presents her or himself agrees to them. You can keep a constant eye on what they are like, how they live, and if you don't like it you can pipe up and they have to change or they have to leave, with only the notice stipulated on the contract. In my case, I put two weeks notice either side except in what according to my definition has become an intolerable situation, when I reserve the right to make them leave at once. Nobody has ever refused to agree to that. Big difference from the 6-9months, even a year it takes to remove a tenant.

    The only time I "threw someone out" was five years ago when one lodger, who'd never previously caused me the slightest problem, became verbally abusive to another, because he was gay. The latter came to me in tears, and I told the offender to leave at once. When he refused, and repeated his turade against gay men in general, I called the police. I didn't expect them to do much except tell him to keep the peace or something, and was pleasantly surprised when they ordered him to pack and leave, and stayed in his room as he did so, and got the keys off him as well. He kept on about his rights, and I was surprised when they (correctly) told him that, as he was living under my roof, and I wanted him out right now, he had no choice. They escorted him off the premises. I never saw him again and still have his deposit.

    When I think of the large number of lodgers I have had, compared with the small number of difficulties there have been (you can count them on the fingers of one hand), it amazes me that more people don't do it.

    My lodgers have stayed for as little as eight weeks and as long as four years. I've never had anyone leave because they didn't like living here; only because their jobs or lives took them elsewhere.

    I have a sequence: I advertise in the local paper and when people phone I have a chat with them and get a feel of who they are and what they do. I tell them it's a no smoking house, that drunkenness isn't allowed, that they have to be working to live here. Then they view, and we "interview" each other. I monitor my gut instinct about the person, study their personality and ask myself if I could get on with someone like them.

    I always choose people with a cheery manner and friendly disposition because they are nice to have around and make for a pleasant atmosphere in the house.

    I found that people who have a fairly shy, unassertive personality have on the whole turned out to be the best lodgers - they are quiet, have few friends round, and obey the rules. Having said that, one of the best I ever had was a very chatty, extrovert, gay man who is still a close friend even though he moved out to share a flat with a friend four years ago.

    Going back to my "sequence" - if they say they want to take the room, I give them a lodger application form which tells them what to do next, which is to fill it in and return it to me with a cash deposit of £280 (equivalent to a month's rent) and once I get that, I will reserve the room for them and refuse to let anyone else view it. We then set a date for them to move in, and on that date they have to pay me the first month's rent, in cash, before I give them the keys. The form includes a place for employer's and landlord's references, emergency contact number, their mobile and work phone numbers, car registration, and how long they imagine they might be living here. I take up the references the same day I get the deposit.

    However, there are parts of this sequence that go to the wall if I have a good feeling about someone. For example, a Chinese lady phoned me from 150 miles away. She wanted to take the room, sight unseen. She wanted to give me the deposit and move in on the same day, a week later. She had no landlord's reference as she was sleeping on a friend's couch; she had no work reference because she was coming to my town to take up a job as carer to an elderly, disabled lady who I didn't want to disturb by phoning her. Based entirely upon making judgements about her from the way she spoke to me, I decided to take a chance. Sure enough, seven days later she appeared on my doorstep and slapped £560 cash in my hand. She was a perfect lodger, clean, cheerful, respectful, educated, helpful, and, even better, when she left three months later (to join her husband) she passed the room to her aunt, who still lives with me a year later. Although a qualified midwife, in the UK she's a home-carer, and she's so sweet: every fourth Friday she knocks quietly on my living room door and asks may she please pay her rent? I always have a silly joke with her and pretend to be weighing up whether or not I am going to accept it, and we both have a good laugh. She tells me she intends to stay living here all her life, if I will let her.

    I've never had any references for aunt or niece, yet people with perfect references have turned out to be bad lodgers. On the whole I now don't set much store by character or landlord's references; my gut instinct has served me better. I need to know they are employed, however; but then again, anyone can lose their job the day after they move in (that has happened!) I have a rule that if someone loses their job, they have to tell me at once and I will give them two weeks' notice to leave. If they find another job in that time, then they can stay, unless I've taken a deposit from a replacement lodger, then it's too late. (Even that rule I have broken because I have to be adaptable to special circumstances. A posh teacher has made redundant, but he had a good deal of savings so I let him stay.)

    continued below

    #2
    I went into this business as an alternative to getting a low-paid unskilled job (that is all I am fit for). I didn't expect this venture to be "money for nothing". I was fully prepared for a great deal of irritation, quite a bit of noise, and some problems. Whatever occasional annoyances letting rooms was going to bring me, surely it would be more tolerable than having to do the "daily grind" of going to some boring, soul-destroying, minimum-wage job for 36 or 40 hours a week?

    What I didn't expect was how little annoyance there has been. They are out at work all day, so the house is empty and silent. They are often out all day at weekends, too. When they are home they tend to stay in their bedrooms, doing things that don't make any/much noise. They go away for weekends, for two weeks in the summer; some go home to native country to see their folks for a month. Most are not here for any bank holidays or at Christmas. Even with rent coming in from three lodgers, there are times when I am completely alone in the house for up to a week. It's a nice feeling to have the run of a big house all by yourself knowing that those rooms are still earning me money even when they are unoccupied.

    One was a long distance lorry driver. It was great getting a full week's rent for someone who was only home two nights a week, and when he was here he spent the whole time asleep. Then came a lady who is a residential carer. She told me she would not be here all the time, but I was staggered when I didn't see her for the next three months, and for four years she has only been home for about ten days a year.

    Another thing that surprised me was that few ever use the shared rooms. This is probably because they all have TFT TVs with integral DVD players in their rooms and on the top floor landing there is a big fridge, sink, microwave, toaster and kettle. They tend to buy the kinds of foods you can just heat up in that microwave; some never even enter the kitchen. Many of them are the type that work long hours in tiring jobs (teachers, nurses) and when they get home they literally just flop on the bed.

    Another surprise was the lack of visitors. When I show people round I always tell them they are welcome to bring guests and entertain them in the lounge, kitchen, dining room/conservatory, patio garden and roof terrace, but 90% have no visitors at all, and those that do tend to sit in their room with them, then go out on the town. (BTW I allow them to have overnight guests whenever they want. Some have had a b/f or g/f stay one night a week or month. I let the Chinese lady have her husband stay for a month while they hunted for a flat, and she offered me an extra £10 a week while he was here.

    Yet another surprise is how little extra they cost me. People assume that it costs a helluva lot more to run this house with four residents than one, but if I was here alone I'd still have the central heating and the hot water on for the same number of hours that I do now. (In fact I save money by switching off the heating every day that I am alone in the house, wearing extra layers instead and snuggling under a fleece to watch TV.) For gas and electric combined I pay £150 a month. Council tax rises by only 1/4 for more than one occupier. I'd still employ a house-cleaner whether I had lodgers or not; I've always hated cleaning and it's a dream come true for me to be able to say that I have never cleaned this house since I moved in, in 1999.

    Sometimes I've employed a lodger to do the cleaning thus they get a reduced rent, but this is not a success. Firstly, if they leave you've lost both lodger and cleaner, just at the time when you want the house looking its best to attract a new lodger; secondly it upsets the balance of power/privacy in the house if one lodger has access to all the others' rooms while this is not reciprocated.

    What I love about having lodgers is that you are alone, yet not alone. I can close the door to my office, bedroom or living room and have total privacy and peace, or I can leave my office door open during the day and exchange smiles and cheerful greetings with them as they go off to work and come home. It's comforting to hear the slight creak of floorboards as footsteps cross the floors above me, stops me feeling lonely on the four evenings my boyfriend doesn't visit. And in the dead of night when you awake scared for a moment wondering if that noise is a burglar trying to get in, it's comforting to know that just upstairs I have a big, tall, muscle-bound man to protect me!

    When I've been bedridden with illness my lodgers have brought me provisions and suchlike, and when the cat was injured when I was on holiday one took her to the vet. And of course, when I go on holiday there is always someone to feed the cat and the house isn't left empty.

    The amount of money I've made is extremely satisfying and the current income is £11,000. If I got a job at the minimum wage of £5.80 I'd have to work at least 40 hours a week to match that. No way does having lodgers take up 40 hours a week of my time. It doesn't even take fifteen minutes a week.

    Regarding male and female lodgers, after ten years of having dozens of each, I'd have to say there isn't a lot of difference. Most stereotypes people trot out turn out to be untrue in reality. When I advertise in the paper I always stipulate that the room is only for a "clean and civilised" person, and I don't care which sex they are. One thing I do like is to have at least one tall person, because at 5ft 3 there are a lot of things I cannot reach myself, but some women are tall.

    Educated professionals are not necessarily better lodgers than manual labourers. My only male lodger works on a building site but he is among the best lodgers I have ever had (friendly, helpful, a good laugh, quiet, clean, prompt at paying) and as he showers and changes at work he isn't even dusty.

    I'd be happy to answer any questions if I can be of help to anyone thinking of doing the same.

    Comment


      #3
      Well, a tall man who 'isn't even dusty' is definitely worth hanging on to!
      'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

      Comment


        #4
        You paint a very vivid picture; have you considered writing a blog about your experiences?

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by westminster View Post
          You paint a very vivid picture; have you considered writing a blog about your experiences?
          1. Thank you
          2. No. And never would, the business is extremely uneventful.

          Comment


            #6
            Brilliant post and resource for people considering doing the same.

            I would do it. But my OH and children still at home would object like mad.
            All posts in good faith, but do not rely on them

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              #7
              Originally posted by Bel View Post
              Brilliant post and resource for people considering doing the same.
              I agree.

              Originally posted by Bel View Post
              I would do it. But my OH and children still at home would object like mad.
              I wouldn't do it. A slothful teenager and two deeply ungrateful cats are more than enough lodgers for me!
              'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by mind the gap View Post

                I wouldn't do it. A slothful teenager and two deeply ungrateful cats are more than enough lodgers for me!
                Just the one slothful teenager? Sounds like a holiday.
                All posts in good faith, but do not rely on them

                * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * *

                You can search the forums here:

                Comment


                  #9
                  Unfair to sloths.
                  JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
                  1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
                  2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                  3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
                  4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by jeffrey View Post
                    Unfair to sloths.
                    That may well be true, in my son's case. I think the average sloth would certainly write a coursework essay on 'The Handmaid's Tale' and another dystopia of its choice, with less procrastination.
                    'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by Bel View Post
                      Just the one slothful teenager? Sounds like a holiday.
                      Well, the other two do keep coming back as well. We've tried changing the locks and everything.
                      'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

                      Comment


                        #12
                        A standing joke in my family was that my brother was away when we moved from the home we had lived in all our lives. When he returned from abroad he arrived at our old home to be told "we had moved away"..... He never allowed my parents to forget
                        Mrs Jones
                        I am not an expert - my posts are my opinion and should not be taken as fact!!

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Thank you for sharing your story.

                          I have lodgers. To the uninitiated it sounds horrendous. I get comments such as "you can’t have any privacy", "how do you cope with others’ habits?". My answer is that I ask relevant questions about prospective lodgers’ lifestyles and I tell lodgers about the house etiquette. If both sides think the situation works, then we’ll sign a licence to lodge, take a deposit and at least a week’s rent, then they can move in.

                          I moan about small, silly things such as lodgers leaving unused phone chargers switched on, long hair trapped in the vacuum cleaner and a poorly washed pot.

                          I live in a happy house with people from different backgrounds and careers.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Poppy View Post
                            Thank you for sharing your story.

                            I have lodgers. To the uninitiated it sounds horrendous. I get comments such as "you can’t have any privacy", "how do you cope with others’ habits?". My answer is that I ask relevant questions about prospective lodgers’ lifestyles and I tell lodgers about the house etiquette. If both sides think the situation works, then we’ll sign a licence to lodge, take a deposit and at least a week’s rent, then they can move in.

                            I moan about small, silly things such as lodgers leaving unused phone chargers switched on, long hair trapped in the vacuum cleaner and a poorly washed pot.

                            I live in a happy house with people from different backgrounds and careers.
                            How many lodgers do you usually have, Poppy?
                            'Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation fo the first link on one memorable day'. Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by Poppy View Post
                              Thank you for sharing your story.

                              I have lodgers. To the uninitiated it sounds horrendous. I get comments such as "you can’t have any privacy", "how do you cope with others’ habits?". My answer is that I ask relevant questions about prospective lodgers’ lifestyles and I tell lodgers about the house etiquette. If both sides think the situation works, then we’ll sign a licence to lodge, take a deposit and at least a week’s rent, then they can move in.

                              I moan about small, silly things such as lodgers leaving unused phone chargers switched on, long hair trapped in the vacuum cleaner and a poorly washed pot.

                              I live in a happy house with people from different backgrounds and careers.
                              It's not all that different from residing with one's family.
                              JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
                              1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
                              2. Telephone advice: see http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=34638.
                              3. For paid advice about conveyancing/leaseholds/L&T, contact me* and become a private client.
                              4. *- Contact info: click on my name (blue-highlight link).

                              Comment

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