Feeling comfortable with a lodger in your home
We interviewed Kate, an ‘accidental’ landlady, who has had lodgers in her family home in Camden for several years. She explains what’s involved and how she has learned to create a welcoming environment that also suits her family.
Q1. So, you’ve had lodgers for some time now, but how did it start?
A. It happened organically really. When we started, we had a whole house used by the family and 7 Years ago altered the house to have a separate flat,.
Having a lodger was a coincidence of factors really. My eldest daughter had just gone to university and my mum, who had helped us buy the house originally, became less mobile and no longer visited from Dorset. Previously we’d always kept ‘her room’ ready for her, but it was now not being used.
Q2. How did it feel when you had your first lodger arrive?
A. The first person we had was Austrian, and a visiting lecturer at a local school. A friend from the school asked if we could offer her a room for 3 weeks. It was an exchange programme.
She was a bit more involved in our day-to-day life than our more recent lodgers; more like a paying guest. She had friends locally, but she ate nearly all her meals with our family and was treated more like a guest.
As we’d enjoyed it, we did it again. We liked having the extra money for takeaways and outings, and we also felt it would be a good experience for our children to welcome people into their home and to feel comfortable doing so.
Our son was 9 and younger daughter 17 at the time, and both found it quite exciting and different. The children were never concerned about having a lodger, more curious as to what they would be like. As it turned out she was very nice, and it was really interesting for all of us having someone in the house.
Shortly afterwards we were invited to host two French boys in their 20’s for a month. They were known to the first Austrian lady who had stayed previously. She’d recommended us to them. There was only a single bed, so one of them had to sleep on a spare mattress on the floor, but they loved it and so did we. It was still more like hosting, as they ate some of their meals with us.
They were great fun and we laughed a lot over meals, talking about English and French stereo-types. We have remained in contact with them, and to this day they refer to us as ‘the roast beefs!”.
Q3. When did the lodger arrangements become more formal?
A. A musician friend of mine had lodgers, so we thought we’d give it ago. We thought we could earn a bit towards holidays and house maintenance, that sort of thing. The Austrian lady had Royal Academy of Music connections, so we got our first proper lodger through them. We’ve had lots of people from there over the year. We have always found music students to be very focused on their studies which makes them mindful interesting lodgers
We’ve become good friends with a number of them and have remained in contact with all. Our current lodger is from Japan and has been with us for 3 years . Akiko is a mature PHD student and we shared lockdown with her. She taught us all to make Japanese Gyozo ,we learned to write some Japanese characters and shared cooking ideas. In return Akiko has learned conversational English.
She actually likes the less formal environment in the house I think. She hasn’t encouraged a rigid format and we’ve worked it out together.
The most important thing for Akiko when she came to view the room was that we had a cat. I love cats and so does she; she has 4 cats at her family home in Japan. I think us having a cat was the deciding factor because it reassured her we were good people; her sort of people.
More than that, she didn’t want to live in university accommodation as she’s a quiet person and that made her a bit anxious. Her friend lives in a house share with one of our friends now too!
Q4. How have you decided on what to charge?
A. Well, we’ve used market rate in the past, but we feel slightly different about it now. It’s a small room and the occupant must share a bathroom with another person when they are there (our daughter or son). So we charge a little bit less than market these days, as we feel it gives us the freedom and gives us room for some imperfections. We feel more comfortable like that.
We don’t panic when the kettle or washing machine break. There’s a feeling that if the house is slightly scruffy and used actively by the family that they’ll accept that more easily.
I guess what I am saying is that we like to keep arrangements more fluid and work things out. A couple of students came who felt it was too loose. They wanted kitchen facilities in their room, and it all felt less relaxed. They didn’t fit with our way of living, as indicted by the arrangements.
It’s about our presentation of ourselves. People need to be clear how we live. We need to feel we live as we feel comfortable.
Q5. With the rise of AirBnB do you feel pressure to be ‘more professional’?
A. Not really. It’s about our presentation of ourselves. People need to be clear how we live. We need to feel we live as we feel comfortable. We’ll make a bit of an effort when they first arrive, of course, but generally we want them to give us room to live as well.
We have learned to have that conversation upfront about all of this. If you don’t say everything at the beginning, then you’re stuck with it for months. We have never had any major difficulties, but we have learned.
Q6. How do you see the future? Do you need to keep having a lodger or just like having one?
A. We’ll continue to have a lodger as we depend on the extra income more than ever. We are house-rich and income poor, relatively speaking. We can’t afford to live in this sort of area without having the additional income and we are lucky enough to have a big house.
In fact, what with increases in the cost of living and mortgages we have been thinking about renting out a second room. But that’s a big step as it would be one of our adult children’s rooms. So instead we’ve also thought about renting out the larger room and putting a small kitchenette in that, so that we’d still have one lodger but a higher income.
Q7. Is there anything else you would like to add?
A. Yes, I don’t think I’ve emphasised enough the extent to which we value and enjoy it; having a l We have a lodger I mean. We have quite a clear privacy arrangement, so unless by chance we end up in the kitchen together, we don’t share meals. But we have no set times for use of the kitchen and it happens that we do cook or eat together.
We have strong relationships with all of our previous lodgers and have watched them develop their careers. One is Godmother to one of our children.
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