I am a contract-holder. Can I take in a lodger or sub-let?

If you are considering having someone else live with you and pay you rent, it is important to understand what kind of renting agreement you should create. This arrangement could be a lodgers agreement or a sub-occupation contract. Key differences between a lodger and a sub-holder: 

  • A sub-holder rents from someone who her / himself is a contract holder rather than the owner of the property. The owner of the property is called the head landlord.  
  • A sub-contract can apply to anything from a single room to an entire property. The sub-holder must have exclusive access to at least one room – usually a bedroom.
  • Neither the contract-holder nor the head landlord can enter the sub-holder’s accommodation without permission. 
  • A lodger rents a room in the landlord’s home. S/he may receive some services from the landlord, such as meals, laundry or cleaning. 
  • A lodger can’t stop the landlord from entering their room(s). The lodger may also receive some services, such as meals, laundry or cleaning. These things will depend on what was agreed at the start of the agreement.  

Can I sublet my property? 

You should check your occupation contract to see if it allows you to sublet the property to another contract-holder. Your contract might not allow you to sublet. 

If the contract does allow it, you will probably only be allowed to sublet with your landlord’s consent. You must put your request to the landlord in writing.  

Your landlord can’t refuse consent without a good reason or only give consent upon conditions that are unreasonable.   

Your landlord might ask for further information to help them deal with the request. Any request for information by your landlord must be made within 14 days of your written request.  

I have made a request to my landlord, when will I hear back?  

Your landlord should get back to you with their decision in writing within 1 month from:   

  • the day you made the request, or   
  • if your landlord asked for more information, the date on which the information is provided.   

My landlord has given consent but with conditions   

  • Your landlord must provide you with written notice of the conditions at the same that that they give you written consent.  
  • You can ask the landlord for a written statement of their reasons for the conditions.  
  • If your landlord doesn’t give a written statement of reasons within one month of you requesting the statement, then you may be able to accept the consent without the conditions.   

My landlord has refused to give consent   

  • If your landlord has refused to give you consent to sublet, you can write to your landlord asking for a written statement of reasons.  
  • Your landlord must provide you with a written statement within one month from the date you requested the statement.  
  • If your landlord fails to provide you with a written statement within the time frame, then this may be treated as having given consent without conditions.  

My landlord has given consent with conditions that I disagree with   

If your landlord provides you with a statement of reasons for refusing consent, or a statement of reasons  for conditions, that  you do not agree with,  you may be entitled to apply to the court on the grounds that:  

  • The landlords refusal of consent is unreasonable, or   
  • one or more of the conditions imposed is unreasonable  

If you need to apply to the court, get help immediately. 

What rights do sub-holders have? 

Sub-holders have the same rights as other contract-holders. See here for more information. This includes rights to: 

  • claim housing benefit to cover the rent 
  • occupy the room(s) that they have exclusive use of without interference from other people (including the contract-holder or the head landlord) 
  • get repairs done. 

However, the sub-holders rights may change if your occupation contract comes to an end.  (see below). This is particularly important if the head-landlord has a fixed-term agreement. 

What happens if my occupation contract ends? 

The sub-contract will be valid for as long as your contract continues. But whether the sub-holder has any rights after your contract comes to and end depends on whether the sub-contract is legal or not. 

This depends on: 

  • whether the head landlord agreed to the sub-contract  
  • whether the head landlord imposed any terms of the sub-contract, and  
  • if those terms were adhered to. 

If your head landlord knowingly accepts rent directly from the sub-holder, it may become legal. This is true even if the sub-holder agreement was originally illegal.  By accepting rent, the head landlord may be admitting that the sub-holder has a right to live in the property. However, some landlords will get round this by saying that they are only accepting the money as something called a ‘charge for use and occupation’ and not as rent.

This is a complicated area of law, so get help. 

Lodgers 

A lodger is someone who rents a room in her/his landlord’s home and who shares living space with her/him. Some lodgers receive services, such as meals or cleaning, as part of their agreement. Only certain people are allowed to take in lodgers. If you want to do so, you’ll need to work out how both you and your lodger’s rights are affected. 

Who can take in a lodger? 

Homeowners can usually take in lodgers. Most mortgage agreements allow you to rent out a room in your home, but you generally need permission from your lender. Check your mortgage agreement to see what it says. 

Most contract holders can only take in a lodger if they: 

  • rent a whole house or flat 
  • have a spare room 
  • get permission from their landlord before a lodger moves in. 

If you rent from a community landlord and have a secure contract, you have the right to take in a lodger. Most other types of renting agreements do notallow lodgers. Check your agreement to see what it says.

Will taking in a lodger affect my entitlement to benefits? 

Yes. Taking in a lodger will probably affect the amount of benefits you get if you’re claiming. You will need to tell the Council’s housing benefit office and your local benefit office that you have taken in a lodger and how much rent you are receiving. This will be the case even if your lodger is living rent-free. If you simply don’t tell them, you may end up having to repay an overpayment, or be prosecuted for fraud. 

Housing benefit
If you’re receiving housing benefit and you take in a lodger, the first £20 per week of rent that you receive from the lodger will not be counted as income when your entitlement is being calculated. If you also provide some meals to your lodger only half of any rent they pay each week above £20 will be counted as income. For example, if your lodger pays £50 per week for their room and some meals, £35 will not be treated as your income when the amount of housing benefit you are entitled to is being worked out. Your income from the lodger will be treated as being £15 per week. 

If you just rent the room to your lodger and do not provide any meals, only the first £20 per week that you receive in rent will be disregarded. Anything above £20 will be treated as income. So, if the rent is £50 per week, £30 will be treated as income when the Council work out how much housing benefit you are entitled to. 

Other welfare benefits
If you are receiving a means-tested benefit like income support (IS) and job seekers’ allowance (JSA), the first £20 each week that you receive in rent will not be counted as income. If you also provide some meals to your lodger, only half of what they pay you each week over £20 will be counted as income. 

If you don’t provide meals, then all of the rent that you receive over £20 will be classed as income when the amount of benefit you are entitled to is being calculated. 

Universal credit
If you are receiving universal credit, the rent that you get from your lodger is not counted at all as income. You will still need to tell the local benefits office that you have taken in a lodger. 

Council tax
You will be responsible for the council tax. If you were previously living alone and were eligible for the 25% single person’s discount you will no longer be entitled to that once you have a lodger. You may able to claim to council tax reduction. You should contact your local council for more information. 

Other things to consider before getting a lodger 

Insurance
Renting out a room may also affect your contents insurance. Most insurers will put up premiums, but it’s still important to inform them if you want to be sure that your belongings are protected. If you don’t tell them, the insurance may not be valid. 

 What contract status do lodgers have?
If a lodger shares facilities such as the kitchen and bathroom with the landlord, s/he will be an excluded occupier. 

If you don’t share facilities, the person renting a room could be a sub-holder rather than a lodger.

Should there be a written agreement?
It is a good idea to have a written agreement which clearly sets out the arrangements between you and the lodger for paying the rent and any deposit, the house rules and how the agreement can be ended. Both you and the lodger should sign the agreement and keep a copy each. Setting out the rights and responsibilities writing from the start can help to avoid misunderstandings or disputes further on down the line. 

Where can I find a lodger?
Some areas have lodging schemes which can help to match prospective lodgers to people with rooms available to rent. Your local council may be able to give you information about anything operating in your area. Some councils have accommodation websites where landlords can advertise rooms to rent free of charge. The Housing Department of your local council is a good starting point to find out what is available in your area. 

If you live near a university, they may have a lodging scheme for students and may be able to advertise your room. 

Put the word out to friends and family that you have a room to rent – they may know someone who is looking for a place live. Some people feel more comfortable renting a room out to someone they know, even if just through a friend, family member or acquaintance. 

You can advertise your room in shop windows, on local notice boards or put an advert online. in the newspaper. 

Choosing a suitable lodger

Remember, if you take in a lodger you will have to be prepared to share at least part of your home with them. Even if they have their own bedroom, you are likely to be sharing the kitchen and bathroom. Think carefully whether you are willing to do that before you commit to renting a room out. 

When you meet a prospective lodger, think about whether they will fit in with your household. You can ask them for references from previous landlords and could do a credit check. 

If you have children at home, you may want to ask your lodger for a police check, but there is a fee payable. 

Did you find this helpful?

Rydym yn ymddiheuro na fedrwn ddarparu’r wybodaeth yma yn Gymraeg, ond os hoffech siarad ag ymgynghorydd yn Gymraeg yna cysylltwch ar 08000 495 495.
We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

This page was last updated on: Chwefror 18, 2023

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.