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How to make money by renting out a room
Image: AP Photo - John Raoux
Would you like to make £4,250 tax-free each year? You can by renting out a room in your home.
Renting out a room has become a very popular way for couples and single people to boost their income in recent years. In fact, a new survey by the insurance company LV= has found that there's been a 15% rise in people taking in lodgers to help pay the mortgage.
Their survey worked out that there are 210,000 homes with lodgers, paying an average of £4,700 a year in rent. Thanks to the government's Rent-A-Room scheme, £4,250 of that is tax free.
If you need some extra cash, renting space in your home is one of the easiest ways to do it. But if you can't bear the idea of someone you don't know (or even someone you do know) sharing your home 24/7 there are ways to make it more bearable.
The best way to rent
Like so many things, renting successfully is all in the planning. Don't be in a rush to get someone in to stay with you full-time. You might get someone impossible to live with.
Firstly make sure you kit out the room to a decent standard so that it is attractive to people who like a pleasant environment to live in. Often, the better the standards, the better the lodger. If you can offer a room with en-suite bathroom that's even better. Not only will there be no argument about who has it in the morning, but you will be able to charge a lot more for the room.
If you find someone you think is good, make sure you take references before you do anything else. Ask for and check at least two references. These will ideally be previous landlords and workplace references.
Take the time to call them up instead of sending them an email. It's much easier to make up a reference by email. If you phone a number it's harder for them to fake it. To be really sure, you could also ask for a letter from their bank manager to say that they have regular money coming in and will be able to pay the rent.
Finally, draw up a contract between you detailing the monthly rent, when it should be paid, whether there should be a month paid upfront (I would if I were you) and how it should be paid (cash, cheque, standing order, etc). It's also a good idea to lay down some house rules in the contract.
If you work shifts or have young children, your lodger can't expect to be up until the early hours of the morning watching TV loudly or stumbling in from a night out. As silly as it seems, you may want to make it clear that you expect them to tidy up after themselves - it is your house after all.
Renting to a foreign student/professor
If you're really not sure about having someone permanently renting a room in your home, hosting foreign students or lecturers visiting a local university or college can be a great alternative.
You can choose between hosting students learning English as a foreign language who are usually only here for about six weeks, or university students and lecturers who can be in the country for up to six months at a time.
The good thing about this form of renting is that you know they're not going to be with you for long. If you can't stand them, they will be gone soon!
If you want to start hosting students the first port of call is your local language school. They will have an accommodation officer who will put you on their database of host families. You will probably have to undergo a home inspection and be within a reasonable distance of the school.
If you are close to university, visit their website and try and find the accommodation office. Again, get yourself put on their list for accommodation for visiting professors.
You can also look for adverts in your local paper and ask around. Even local football clubs do exchanges and need accommodation for foreign players. Put an ad up for free on Jobsgrapevine.com too so that anyone in your area can get in touch.
Hosting foreign students can be lucrative (between £100-200 a week depending on where you live) but they usually want food thrown in. If you offer an evening meal as well as breakfast you can charge more.
University professors will generally pay the going rate for renting a room in your area although sometimes it could be higher than the average because it is a short space of time.