The idea of being a lodger still sounds dull, and seedy - redolent of rationed hot water, sneaking upstairs to hide ‘guests’ and terrifying battle-axe landladies. Don’t worry - by lodging I don’t mean boarding houses, but renting a room in someone else’s house.
Lodging is now officially encouraged: the last government even gave tax breaks to people letting out a room. And on the surface, it seems like a great idea – owner-occupiers are in trouble, and so many people bought two bed flats (dovecots) that they might as well let one room out.
If only it was that simple. First of all – who gets the en-suite room? Might seem petty, but these are things that lead to simmering white-faced resentment. A friend lodged as a student, renting a room from a testy, bitter couple both forced into low paid jobs and saddled with an unwieldy mortgage. Taking in a student must initially have seemed like a grand idea, but the situation grew nastier day-by-day.
First of all, they grew increasingly proscriptive about when she could use the kitchen. Then her allocated shelf-space was shrunk, and that precious allotted time in the bathroom was shortened. Remember she was paying rent, money they were relying on to stay solvent (maybe that’s why they were so tetchy – they resented the power unwittingly wielded).
They were stunned and hurt by her explanation for leaving: “…but you were a guest in our house.” That surely is the nub of the problem – lodgers are treated like couch surfer friends who have outstayed their welcome, rather than people who live in a room as of right, paying handsomely to so. I know of people who take in lodgers and appreciate the delicate power balance, and have the decency to treat their tenant more like a flat-mate than an irritation.
Another friend rented a room from an eccentric woman who collected cats (no – she was not called Mrs. Cliché) until the house was overrun with moggies, their hair, fur balls, and their spraying. She was unable to voice her anger as lodgers live on a licence, and can be given an hours notice on a whim for imagined slights. The upside is they can usually move immediately - as my friend did here.
Lodgers walk delicately across thin ice, which is carpeted with egg-shells. If owners don’t wash up, or leave their laundry mouldering for months in the machine, that’s their prerogative, and lodgers must smile sweetly and ignore it. They have no sense of ownership - no ‘purchase.’ Lodging twists the natural tenant relationship: everybody must be on their best behaviour, as lodgers can leave whenever they want, and landlords can give lodgers the push whenever they feel like it – just because they want to. It’s like having a landlord as your flatmate – tenants/lodgers must be understanding about repairs, and in turn they will see the effect of the good (and/or poor) management when owners sit opposite them in the lounge (that’s if they let you use it.) It’s a miracle that lodging based violent crime doesn't make the news on a daily basis.