Renting your spare room to a friend

Renting out your spare room can be a good way to keep pace with mortgage payments, and the best way to avoid difficult flatmates is to get one you’re friends with already.

But even if you’ve lived together before, the landlord-tenant dynamic can sometimes bring conflict to otherwise rosy relationships. Both you and your tenant will be able to take advantage of each other’s goodwill, but that doesn’t mean you should. Here are a few tips to make sure you stay the best of friends.

1. Have a contract

Or at least have a frank discussion of expectations. Remember to talk about things like notice periods, and the possibility of rent rises if the tenancy ends up continuing for several years.

2. Have agreements about maintenance and cleaning

These are the things that are likely to cause angst down the line. When it’s your own flat, it’s easy to end up doing the lion’s share of the cleaning and tidying, so you need to make it clear that chores will be split down the middle. Likewise, when maintenance is necessary, you can’t drag your heels. If your mate is trying to work by the dim glow of a bedside lamp because you haven’t fixed a broken light switch, their patience is going to start wearing thin pretty quickly.

3. Have your friend set up monthly direct debits for rent

With the best will in the world, cash payments can (and will) slip, and can become a source of tension, especially if they mount up. When it’s only a short-term arrangement, it’s tempting to just have an informal system of weekly wads of cash, which is an excellent way to turn an otherwise beautiful friendship into a running game of cat and mouse.

4. Don't include bills in the rent, particularly gas and electricity

It's a recipe for resentment if one person is paying a flat fee and the other one is covering varied consumption. Someone is going to end up losing out. You’ll also find people are a lot more circumspect about jacking the heating up to 25 degrees when they have to pay for it. Divide bills up fairly, and agree to invoice your mate at set intervals so they can budget for it. Springing an £800 bill on a flatmate without warning is not cool.

5. Plan ahead

Have a conversation about any potential lifestyle changes that might occur during the tenancy. For example, make it clear that if a partner ends up moving in (on either side), things will need to be renegotiated. Bills will need to be split differently, and rent may need to increase to reflect the extra wear on communal stuff like washing machines. Likewise, if one of you ends up working from home on a regular basis, utility bills are likely to go up, and you’ll need to be fair about how this is covered.