Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Secure and Insecurity

‘You know what I hate the most? That arrogance that comes with knowing that, he can click his fingers, and I'm homeless.’

The above words come from a reader and occasional correspondent, and concern a subtle form of misery I am hearing so much about at the moment: that of being a lodger, something I’ve written about before but which is growing.

I am seeing that many people find me here by asking for advice on how best to rent out a room, not just those suffering under the lodging jackboot. It must be the recession, but many people are seeing that guest room as an asset rather than somewhere for friends to crash or to store random stuff.

The rules governing treatment of lodgers are very different to tenants. Most people who live in a two bed home (like those ever-loving Dovecots I write about) don’t regard the people paying them shed loads of money for their spare room as tenants. No. they are lodgers, and in England and Wales, they seem to have no rights. Letting a room is encouraged by government policy, and there are tax breaks. What is never mentioned is that you have no right to stay, and live on a licence.

Examples of recurring pernicious misery are hard to overstate, and increasing. It’s bad enough needing only two months to evict a tenant on a whim, but imagine what it’s like to live even on a weekly basis never knowing if your tenancy will be renewed, or if you will be given your marching orders.

Renting a spare room is ‘encouraged by the state’ but lodgers are expressly forbidden in housing association/council houses, which makes lodgers even more insecure in case they get found out.

It seems that there are ‘lodger’ spare room crimes. Being unemployed is one – so don’t lose your job. There are harsh penalties for staying in residence over xmas holidays (one tenant was asked to clear out as the owners family were coming for xmas dinner: they were overseas students). disobeying loftily issued decrees about time limitations on kitchen and bathroom use, and forget having overnight guests: there are also restrictions on which chair lodgers may use. One landlord, in those newbuilds where one bedroom is en suite claimed the room with a bath, but used the tenant's bathroom with extremely unpleasant olfactory consequences.

Another lodger crime inviting eviction is just not being perfect, with perfection being a state that can change capriciously on a daily basis. And yes, the nature of a someone living in your spare room is hard whether you are friends with the owner or not, especially in a growing sense of resentment develops, aimed at the poor tenant who is paying rent while simultaneously reminding the owner they can’t quite manage to hang on to their castle without help, and it can be ugly.

The poor lodger who emailed me seemed really distressed. I hope her landlord changes his mind about clicking his fingers and throwing her out.


Anonymous said...

is it not possible for a lodger to insist on a contract?

RenterGirl said...

I think they can, but will still be resident under a licence, unless they can persuade the owner to let them rent as a tenant. Many owners delight/rely/insist upon the heightened insecurity. Maybe because they also live there?

space cadet said...

And just try insisting on anything.

RenterGirl said...

Exactly: when you are viewing (ie being sized up by the owner for 'bolshiness') then any demands will count as black marks.

Chris B said...

Rentergirl, you say "but lodgers are expressly forbidden in housing association/council houses". Er, no.

Section 93(1) of the Housing Act 1985 provides:-

"It is a term of every secure tenancy that the tenant—

(a) may allow any persons to reside as lodgers in the dwelling-house, but

(b) will not, without the written consent of the landlord, sublet or part with possession of part of the dwelling-house.

Section 94 goes on to say that consent to a subletting of part of the property shall not be unreasonably withheld.

RenterGirl said...

Chris: tenants are being asked to forgo this 'right.'