Homeowners with a spare room to let out have been benefiting from an increase in the tax free Rent-A-Room allowances which was raised from £4,250 to £7,500.
The move was widely welcomed, not just by home owners who could potentially offset some of their mortgage repayments by taking in a lodger, but also by rental agents. They said that the increase in the Rent-A-Room tax-free limit could help to ease the housing crisis.
A lack of affordable accommodation to rent, particularly in areas of high demand such as London and the South-East, as well as a shortage of new homes being built, has created a problem for tenants. So the incentive to home owners to earn money tax-free is seen as one way to provide rooms for more tenants.
It is a win-win situation for home owners and tenants. Tenants can have a room in a family home in an area they desire rather than before forced to look further afield because of a scarcity of rental properties. Home owners can earn extra money to put towards the mortgage or home improvements, for example.
It is estimated there are around 19 million bedrooms sitting empty in English homes, so even if just a small percentage took advantage of the Rent-A-Room scheme it would provide rooms for thousands or potentially millions of tenants.
However, home owners need to be aware that it is not as simple as just dusting down a room and looking for tenants. Home owners have responsibilities as landlords so they need to make sure that they comply with the laws regarding health and safety as well as other legal requirements.
According to the Gov.UK website, a landlord has to make sure that the property is safe and free from health hazards. Responsibilities include ensuring that any gas appliances are safely installed and maintained including an annual safety check by a registered engineer.
Similarly all electrical appliances have to be safe as well as the electrical system such as sockets and light fittings.
Each floor must have a smoke alarm and there is a requirement for a carbon monoxide alarm in any rooms with a fireplace or wood burner. Escape routes need to be clear in case of a fire and the furniture and any soft furnishings need to be fire safe. Larger homes may need fire alarms and extinguishers as well.
A landlord also needs to check that the tenant has a right to rent a property by verifying and making copies of relevant documents such as passports or national identity cards.
The property must also be kept in a good state of repair.
It is important to keep within the law or risk facing a fine and, more importantly, putting tenants in potential danger.
It may be advisable to use a letting agency or property management company who will know the laws applicable to landlords and tenants. They have years of experience and stay up-to-date with changes to regulations. In many cases, they will use software and apps to keep records of tenants who are checking in, checking out, paying deposits or keeping on top of monthly rental payments.