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Taking in a lodger to be a subtenant

A lodger is someone, other than a member of your household, who rents a room in your home and who may share the bathroom, kitchen and/or living room with you. You are only likely to be able to take in a lodger if you rent a whole house or flat from your landlord and you have a spare room.

What is my household?

Scottish secure tenants and most private tenants have the right to share their homes with family members or anyone else who is part of their household, even if they aren't on the tenancy agreement. Therefore any family members who live with you won't count as lodgers, even if they contribute towards the rent.

Family and household members can include:

  • husband/wife or civil partner
  • opposite-sex or same-sex partner
  • parents
  • grandparents
  • children (including foster children, step-children, and any other children treated by you as your own)
  • grandchildren
  • nephews and nieces
  • brothers and sisters
  • aunts and uncles
  • any of the above related to your spouse or partner.

There is usually no restriction to the number of family members who can live with you, provided this doesn't lead to overcrowding.

Some private tenancy agreements specify who is allowed to live in the accommodation. For example, a tenancy agreement may say that no children are allowed. In this situation you may break your agreement if you allow children to live there and your landlord could try to evict you.

Whatever kind of tenancy agreement you have, you should always let your landlord know who is living with you.

Can I take in a lodger?

Whether or not your landlord will allow you to take in a lodger will depend on the terms and conditions of your tenancy agreement. If you are married or in a civil partnership or if you are a joint tenant, you'll also need to get permission from your partner or the other joint tenant(s).

Scottish secure tenants and short Scottish secure tenants

If you are a Scottish secure tenant or a short Scottish secure tenant renting from the council, a housing association or housing cooperative, you will need written permission from your landlord to take in a lodger.

Private tenants

If you are a private tenant, you'll need to check your tenancy agreement to see if you require permission from your landlord before you allow a lodger to live with you. If your break your agreement, your landlord could try to evict you.

If you do take in a lodger without obtaining your landlord's permission and your landlord finds out about it but continues to take rent from you, you may be able to claim that they have accepted the situation. However, it's not advisable to take in lodgers without getting permission, as your landlord could use it as a reason to evict you.

How will taking in a lodger affect me?

Taking in a lodger can be a good way of earning extra money, but it can also have adverse effects on your income:

  • Benefits - If you are claiming benefits, such as universal credit, housing benefit, local housing allowance, jobseeker's allowance or income support, the money you get from your lodger may affect how much benefit you get. It is important to inform the relevant benefits department as soon as you start receiving rent. If you don't, you may have to pay back any benefits that you weren't entitled to. Get advice if you are in this situation.
  • Council tax - If you are receiving a single person discount on your council tax, you will no longer be eligible for this if you take in a lodger. However, you can charge your lodger their share of the council tax bill.
  • Tax on income - Depending on how much income you receive from the rent you charge, you may have to pay additional tax. Check this guide on Tax on property and rental income for more information. 

What tenancy status does a lodger have?

If you share facilities such as the kitchen and bathroom with your lodger, they will be a common law tenant. Common law tenants don't have many rights, but you will still need a court order to evict them if you ask them to leave and they don't want to go. Check out the page on sharing with your landlord to find out what your lodger's rights are and what you would need to do if you wanted them to leave.

Download a sample lodger agreement.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
Get advice if you're England

The important points

  • A lodger is someone, other than a member of your household, who rents a room in your home.
  • Whether or not your landlord will allow you to take in a lodger will depend on the terms and conditions of your tenancy agreement.
  • Taking in a lodger can be a good way of earning extra money, but it can also have adverse effects on your benefits and/or your council tax.
  • If you share facilities such as the kitchen and bathroom with your lodger, they will be a common law tenant.

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