Taking In Student Lodgers – How to Get Started

two students working and laughing

Student lodgers are often perceived by landlords as a good profile of paying guest to rent to.  This is especially so when they are compared the (stereotypical) lodger that might be found online on sites like Gumtree.  Here we explore this idea in more detail, as well as looking into the different profiles of student lodger that you might wish to rent a spare room out to.

What is a “Live-in” or “Resident” Landlord?

A “live-in” or “resident” landlord is simply a landlord that lives in their own home and takes in/rents a spare room to paying guests or lodgers.  The key element is that the accommodation is shared with the landlord.  The landlord will either own the property, or they might be renting it themselves but have permission to sub-let a spare room and take in lodgers.

The number of “live-in” or “resident” landlords taking in lodgers has been increasing over the last 10 years.  It is estimated, for example, that the proportion of people in UK letting a room in their own home nearly doubled from 1.4% to 2.7% between 2009 and 2014 alone.  Property rents, in London in particular, are unforgiving and have increased consistently year after year.  With it having become so expensive to rent a whole property, flatsharing and renting rooms from live-in landlords, are now an every-day norm in London.

What is a Student Lodger?

If you are a landlord and you are considering taking in student lodgers, then the first thing to determine is what profile of student lodger you want to rent to:

University Students

University students are either (i) British students or (ii) international/foreign students.  The academic year starts every year around September.  However, the university student accommodation season starts from the preceding summer, as students begin their accommodation search before the start of the new academic year.

Most students start their first year of university in Halls of Residence.  In the second and third years they will move into private rented accommodation.  Very often university students, irrespective of their year of study, will want to live with other university students.  Their first choice of accommodation therefore tends to be Halls of Residence or Student House-Share.  Students who perhaps want a less typical university experience may opt to live with their landlord, but in our experience, this is rarely their first choice. Where we have seen it is where the student:

  1.  Wants to try and find a room in a home that is quiet, so they are better able to study.
  2.  Has missed out on their first choice of accommodation (usually Halls) and needs something until a space in Halls becomes available.
  3. Is a more mature student (e.g. Masters or PhD) and is looking for a less typical student accommodation

University students need accommodation either by full year (September to September) or by academic year (September till July).  So, they generally look for longer term accommodation.

Language Students

Language students are international students who are in the UK to improve their English.  The vast majority are enrolled on a course at an English as a Foreign Language (“EFL”) school.  They can also be studying at FE (or business) colleges.  Sometimes too they are enrolled at a university, perhaps doing a pre-degree foundation course with an English language or “EFL” element.

Language students tend to stay on average 4 to 8 weeks.  Courses can be booked from 1 week to over 1 year, so the length of time can vary.  However, the vast majority of students will book for 1 or 2 months stretches.  The demand from language students can also be a bit seasonal.  Many language students travel to the UK over the summer months when they are themselves on university holidays.  There will be language students needing accommodation all year round, but July to October is by far the busiest period.

Live-in landlords that open up their homes to language students are known as “Host Families” or “Homestay Hosts”.  The profile of Host Families in the UK varies a lot, but you do not need to be typical family home (mum, dad + children)  in order to host international students.  The main thing is a desire to share your home with a short term guest and provide a bit of support for them during their time here.

Language students are primarily here to improve their English so they will look for more of a “home from home” i.e. more than just a room and access to your kitchen.   Around 70% of language students will opt for “Half Board”.  Sharing an evening meal with their Host Family, is an opportunity for the student to spend time with their hosts and speak a bit more English.

Language students come to study here from age 11 years old and upwards.  Adult language students tend to be aged 18 to 25.  Some Host Families prefer to host under 18s, whilst other prefer to host adult students.  You can choose to opt for either or both.

Which Profile of Student Lodger is Right for You?

Some questions to consider when deciding:

  •  Do you want short or long term stays?  If you want a longer term or more regular income, then university student lodgers might be better for you.
  •  Do you prefer to (i) cook meals and retain control of your kitchen (i.e language students), or (ii) allow your student to use the kitchen but not have to cook (i.e. university students)?
  •  Are you happy for your student lodger to be home during the day?  Language students tend to have more structured days, and will be out of house in the day.  University students may only have 10 hours of lectures in a week, so may be home more.  Of course, this depends on what they studying.
  •  How much control do you want?  University students will inevitably become more like your (stereotypical) lodger who works.  Generally speaking the longer your guest stays, the more comfortable they tend to become (e.g bringing home unannounced or over-night guests).  You may then start to feel that you have less control in your own home.  Shorter term guests will usually better respect and follow ground rules.
  • How much privacy do you want?  Language students will need to have access to all communal areas of the home, including living areas.  To restrict communal areas would go against the spirit of “home from home”.  Not having access to certain parts of the home may be more acceptable to a university student.

Tax Free Earnings

The Rent a Room Scheme, which applies to Host Families taking in overseas students or live-in landlords renting to university students, lets you earn up to a threshold of £7,500 per year taxfree from letting out furnished accommodation in your home.  This was recently increased from £4,250 as the government has tried to encourage more people to open up their homes and benefit from the so called “sharing economy”The tax exemption is automatic if you earn less than the £7,500 threshold.

Can We Help?

We hope you have found the above a useful starting point in exploring different types of student lodger.

HFS London is a British Council registered agency with many year’s experience providing Homestay (“Host Family”) accommodation to overseas language students.  Our students come from all over the world and are predominantly aged 18 plus.  If you are interested in hosting our students, then we would love to hear from you.

To get started, please first take a look at our How it Works and FAQs pages for new Host Families in London.  Once you have completed our host family application form, one of our inspections team will be in touch to arrange to come round to meet you, and see your accommodation.  Ofter the home visit, you can be up and running and hosting language students in no time at all.

If you have any questions on anything at all, please do not hesitate to Contact Us.

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