Interview with Rose, a mature live-in landlady

Rose And Current Lodger Looking Out To The Garden

An interview with Rose, who has had a lodger in her London home for many years, and has found new lodgers with Cohabitas from time to time.

Q1. When you first found Cohabitas, what were your thoughts about house sharing?

I’d had lodgers for years. I had found myself on my own with my nine year old son and our dog. I’ve had all sorts of people. Women and men. All ages. Teachers, a school chaplain once, two journalists, a solicitor, social workers, mature students – and not-so-mature students! British, Dutch, Caribbean, Indian, a New Zealander and more. Several stayed for 4-5 years and we remain good friends.

I like the presence of another adult in the house, so having a spare top-of-the-house bed-sitting room and bathroom for a lodger was good for me.

And I needed the money.

Q2. How did you find your lodgers? What challenges and concerns have you had using online services to find lodgers?

I used to use newspapers and journals. I am a (retired) part-time teacher and a writer – so Teachers Union, Society of Authors, Quakers and church newspapers, local hospital and school notice boards – were a way to find people. But that dried up as online took over. I’m not very high tech and I struggled to adapt.

What attracted me to Cohabitas, five years ago now, was the over 40 age condition. The field was immediately narrowed down to more compatible people and that has worked well for me (as I age myself!)

I liked the Cohabitas website design, and the questions feel comfortable and relevant. It took me time to work out how to do things like messaging people and ‘bookmarking’ but generally it’s been easy to use.

The Tips and News are useful and interesting, and the Support section is very helpful. AND, if I’m really stuck, I can speak to a real person on the phone, who is understanding and patient! That is very important to me.

Q3. What have you learned about house-sharing in that time?

I enjoy having others around, having the house well-used. I think it’s very important to discuss, before someone moves in, what it is they want and how you both want to live.

Be really honest at that point, to avoid issues later. Are you comfortable that it’s my house, how would I be to live with, and would it suit you? Privacy and personal space considerations. That sort of thing.

When they come to view, give them time; time on their own in the room, to think about it, ask questions. You can even say “Come back for another look.” “Let’s both think about it overnight and talk again tomorrow”. Though I did once regret losing a very nice person by delaying!

I want my home to be harmonious and I want my guests to feel safe, comfortable and at home themselves, so I say at the beginning: “Very few rules in this house – apart from security – but please say if there’s ever a problem; anything you find difficult; anything that’s not working for you. And I will say too. We can talk about it and sort it out, so that we don’t harbour problems and irritations.”

One thing I have had to watch is how friendly to be. I am a naturally friendly person and I’ve learned to be aware that people come home and just want to relax and unwind and don’t want to chat. Each person is different. You have to explore together what works best for each of you and be honest about your own space needs.

Q4.  How have you benefited and how have you had to adjust when having lodgers?

Well circumstances change also. I’d found a new partner after some years and he moved in here, but he comes and goes, spending time painting in his countryside studio. And I am away for chunks of time at his place too.

That required some adjustments with lodgers – being a friendly inclusive household and yet being sensitive to our privacy needs. Also it is essential to find mature trusted guests who are reliable with keys etc. and who are comfortable with being alone in the house when I’m away. We are a very friendly neighbourhood which helps.

As for benefits, well, as I’ve said, I enjoy having someone around and I am interested in people. I feel enriched by the diversity of all the people who have stayed here. I think they help me keep active and flexible (mentally and physically!)

My dog makes me get up in the morning and my lodgers make me keep the kitchen and shared spaces clean! And some of them are happy to take the dog for a walk!

And the sharing aspect – I am lucky enough to have a nice house with extra bedrooms in a quiet leafy green location and it gives me pleasure to share some of it. And I do need the rent money.

Q5. When people share your home with you, do you also share meals or go out together?

I do suggest when people move in, that we might sit down every couple of weeks or so for a shared meal. Some do and some don’t. Very occasionally I might go out for a meal together with one or to a local event with another; introduce them to neighbours, that sort of thing. Or they might come into the sitting room to watch a film together. They can use my sitting room when I am away.

Currently I couldn’t have a nicer more considerate lodger and we do support each other at significant times, but mostly she keeps herself to herself and I understand that. For her, her bed-sitting room at the top of the house, is a bolt hole from her demanding work and busy social life; her own peaceful space.

We do share the kitchen and approximate timings do need to be agreed, especially when my partner is here, but we don’t have to be rigid. Fortunately my space is flexible, so it’s not usually an issue. I can cook and then move out of the kitchen to eat in the living room or in the summer the garden is another option, like an extra room.

Sometimes we do sit down spontaneously and eat a meal together. Sometimes she orders in a home delivery meal. I am often out myself and have neighbours in and out of the house and my own friends visiting. My lodgers are also welcome to invite a friend in for a meal – and to use our spare bedroom with advance notice.

Q6. What about money? Is the lodgers rent an important part of your income? Have you learned to talk about energy bills?

Yes and yes. I do need the lodgers rent to continue to live here with the expensive maintenance and running costs of a big Victorian house.

And yes, when COVID came and people suddenly started ‘WFH’ (Working From Home) all the time, that caused a big adjustment for me – having someone around the house all day. Having to be aware, considerate, tidy and kitchen-conscious all day!

And a serious issue was the big increase in the gas, electricity and water bills and wear and tear. (I had a horrendous energy bill in the middle of COVID – it turned out my (very difficult) lodger had had an electric fire on 24 hours a day in addition to the all day central heating!)

The rent I ask is quite reasonable for this location so now, with the current grim energy price rises and inflation generally, I do say that I must put up the rent a bit, to share the extra costs. When I recently discussed with my present lodger raising the rent by £50 a month, she winced but did acknowledge it was fair, especially as she works from home 3 days a week (saves on travel) and she has willingly agreed to the rental increase.

Q7. How do you see your future in terms of housing/ living?

Any advice for people of a similar age and situation to yourself?

My hope is to stay on in this house, in this local community which is ‘home’ and I am happy to continue to have lodgers. There will probably come a time when I am on my own and in need of some level of personal support.

I guess, if my health and mobility is still reasonable, my ideal would be to find a lodger, or even a couple, who could give a few hours a week to look after me in exchange for reduced rent.

I have considered downsizing, but only if I could remain in the immediate locality and I couldn’t afford to do that and have enough space for a lodger and a spare room for family and friends to visit, as I can here.

I think it’s great that Cohabitas has a focus on the possibilities and benefits of house sharing creatively as we all live longer. If, as live-in landlords/ladies, we have already had experience of house sharing (with strangers rather than family) we may be better able to imagine it could continue to be beneficial into old age. We have already learned how to be accommodating and adaptable, and learned not to make a fuss about trivial things. Not to become too set in our ways. If you like company, some form of house sharing (including a dog) must be worth exploring.

Rose is a home owner who has had lodgers for over 30 years and was interviewed by Nick in June 2023.

Thanks Rose! Great advice.

If you have a similar story to share please contact us. We’d love to help others by sharing your story.


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