Renting out a spare room – Azaria’s story

September 10th, 2014

Azaria shares her experience of renting out a spare room in her home in Swansea, South Wales.
Azaria

“I’m happy to say that taking in a lodger has been a huge success for me. I was a 24-year old graduate working in marketing when I bought my first property (lucky, I know). It’s a two bed flat in the town centre and I advertised the room on SpareRoom. Within a few days I had quite a few responses to choose between, and arranged two viewings the following Saturday.

One of the viewers decided within a few hours that she’d like to move in with me – she’s a 31 year old Mexican who’d been living in Manchester and needed to be in Swansea for work. We get along brilliantly – she’s lovely, quiet, polite, funny and clean. We don’t see each other all that often, we’re both busy people with activities that keep us out of the flat on different nights of the week.

My boyfriend moved in with us in January. If anything he’s more of a pain in the butt than having a lodger – if he could be as clean and considerate as she is, we’d never argue again!

So I’ve gone from living by myself to living in a happy busy household of three adults, and it all works out just fine because we’re considerate and respect each other’s space. I’d recommend a lodger to anyone who’d otherwise be living by themselves – even if you’re not in constant conversation, sometimes it’s just nice to have that extra person for company, and of course the financial side doesn’t hurt either!”

To find out more about how to make renting out your spare room work for you, get your free lodger guide, from SpareRoom.

Get your free guide

Renting out a spare room – Tilda’s story

September 10th, 2014

Tilda shares her experience of renting out a spare room in her home in Wood Green, North London.

Tilda on the right, with her flatmate (or lodger) Gemma
Tilda on the right, with her flatmate (and new-found best friend) Gemma

“I have a two-bedroomed flat in Wood Green, and whilst I could have covered the mortgage on my own, I knew things would be a lot easier with the income from a lodger. So I advertised the room on SpareRoom and got lots of replies. Gemma was one of the first to call up, and when we spoke on the phone, there was just something about her – I knew immediately we would hit it off. She was the first to view the room and I called her to let her know it was hers, but made her wait for the news, as I’m a big fan of dramatic pauses.

I’m no great shakes in the kitchen, so Gemma does most of the cooking when we’re in together. She’s practically banned me from the kitchen, but that’s no great loss as she’s a much better cook than I am. Her food is amazing!

Now Gemma’s really become part of the family. My brother got us both into boxing training, but Gemma laughs at me because I can’t punch. And my old Spanish mother, who lives across the way, has been known to hang out with Gemma in the garden, the two of them chatting away and drinking wine until late.  I get a lot more than just the rent out of this relationship. I wouldn’t have met my best friend, if I hadn’t rented out my spare room.”

To find out more about how to make renting out your spare room work for you, get your free lodger guide, from SpareRoom.

Get your free guide

Tenants Struggle As Rents Rise Faster Than Incomes, Squeezing Accomodation Budgets

August 21st, 2014

 

Since 2009, UK rents have risen by 10% while tenants’ accommodation budgets have fallen by 0.5%

London room rents have soared by more than a quarter (26%) in the past five years – more than twice as fast as budgets, which have increased by just 10%

In Scotland, flatsharers’ budgets have plummeted by more than a fifth (22%) since 2009, while rents have increased by almost a quarter (24%)

Average earnings are only rising by 1.7% per year1 yet average rents are rising by 5% annually

 

Thursday 21 August 2014 – Affordable accommodation in the private rental sector is becoming ever more scarce, according to new data from flat and house share website SpareRoom.co.uk, which compares the maximum tenants can afford to spend on accommodation to average room rents.

SpareRoom’s data reveals that averageUK rents have risen by 10% since 2009 but – in the same five-year period – tenants’ budgets haven’t risen at all. In fact, they’ve fallen by 0.5%, as renters struggle with historically low wage growth and the often high cost of living.

In London, where room rents have soared by more than a quarter (26%) in the past five years, budgets have increased by a mere 10%. And in Scotland, where rents have increased by 24%, budgets have plummeted a staggering 22%.

Northern Ireland has seen the slowest rental increases over the past five years (10%), yet tenants’ budgets for accommodation have dropped 5%.

The table below shows the change in monthly rents between 2009 and 2014:

  Ave Rent 2009 (£) Ave Rent 2014 (£) Rental Increase %
London & suburbs £549 £691 25.8%
East Anglia £345 £398 15.4%
East Midlands £314 £353 12.6%
North England £304 £334 9.8%
North West England £316 £359 13.8%
South East England £390 £449 15.2%
South West England £347 £394 13.7%
West Midlands £334 £366 9.7%
Yorkshire & Humberside £312 £347 11.3%
Northern Ireland £238 £260 9.5%
Scotland £325 £403 24.2%
Wales £302 £332 9.9%
UK £500 £550 10%

 

The table below shows the change in tenants’ monthly budgets between 2009 and 2014:

  Ave Budget 2009 (£) Ave Budget 2014 (£) % Change In Budget
London & suburbs £574 £633 10.4
East Anglia £410 £433 5.7
East Midlands £363 £369 1.5
North England £361 £379 4.9
North West England £385 £402 4.5
South East England £445 £463 4
South West England £414 £421 1.8
West Midlands £392 £392 0.2
Yorkshire & Humberside £457 £381 -16.5
Northern Ireland £306 £290 -5.2
Scotland £536 £420 -21.8
Wales £340 £372 9.2
UK £415 £413 -0.5

 

Over the past year, Scotland and London have become the least affordable. Rents in Scotland have risen by 9.9% in the past 12 months, twice as fast as budgets (5.1%). In London, rents have increased by 5.1% while budgets have only increased by 3%. Based on the last 12 months, Wales is the most affordable – as budget increases, at 4%, are more than twice rent rises (1.7%).

According to the ONS, average weekly earning are rising by a meagre 1.7% per year, yet average rents rose by 5% between 2013 and 2014.

The average monthly UK room rent is currently £550 – almost a third (31%) of the average take home pay of a full-time employee2.

Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom.co.uk, comments: “What’s clear is that affordable rents are becoming ever more scarce. Many people are still struggling with the cost of living and this isn’t being helped by the fact that wage growth is the lowest since records began.

“The problem is we have a chronic shortage of housing in the areas where jobs are being created, so rents continue to rise as supply fails to meet demand. In some areas of the capital we’re seeing up to 13 people compete for every room advertised.

“The only obvious short-term solution is to encourage more homeowners to let their spare bedrooms and create supply. To do that, the Rent A Room Scheme tax-free threshold needs to be raised to act as a proper incentive. It hasn’t been increased since 1997 and rents have risen by 103% in that time. Not only will this benefit renters, it could stop thousands of homeowners slipping into arrears when interest rates finally rise.”

SpareRoom is currently campaigning for the Rent A Room Scheme threshold, which hasn’t been changed since 1997, to be raised to £7,500 per annum. To find out more, please visit: www.spareroom.co.uk/raisetheroof/about

Where in the landlord lifecycle are you?

July 28th, 2014

Overlooking something as simple as proper landlord insurance or protecting the tenant’s deposit could mean you face penalty fines or even break the law.

Being a landlord is not easy; there are plenty of laws that govern the private-rented sector and the consequences of not knowing, or understanding them can be disastrous.

Help is at hand from deposit protection experts, mydeposits with a free Landlord Lifecycle ebook.

It explains renting, and how to get it right before, during and at the end of the tenancy, covering key topics:
• Preparing and marketing your property
• Carrying out an inventory and tenant checks
• Getting the right insurance
• Protecting the deposit
• Successfully managing your property
• Dealing with end of tenancy issues

Supported by experienced landlords…
Experienced landlord and contributor to the guide, Richard Blanco says, “I’ve been a landlord for 11 years and have heard countless stories from new landlords who’ve been caught out for not understanding their obligations, what to do or when to do it, so I’ve helped write the Landlord Lifecycle video to pass on my experiences, help others avoid the potential pitfalls and ensure a happy tenancy for all.”

Download your free Landlord Lifecycle ebook here.
Landlord-Lifecycle_booklet

This article was contributed by myDeposits.

Answering the call for Housing

June 11th, 2014

This week a couple of SpareRoom staff visited the Shelter helpline, which is run out of an office in central Sheffield. We weren’t sure what to expect, but thought it might be a good idea to find out what they do here – particularly since this year we’ve committed to fundraising £75,000 to support the helpline. What we discovered was inspiring and disturbing in equal measures.

Shelter Helpline Staff

Shelter Helpline Staff

Inspiring team

The room was abuzz with people facing monitors and speaking into headsets – just what you’d expect from a typical call centre. What struck us though, was the professionalism and care with which the team approached their work. Unfazed by the sometimes emotional subject matter of the calls, they had boundless calm and a seriously impressive knowledge base to call upon. In a very unshowy way, they matter-of-factly took their clients through acts of parliament and county court applications as if they were as every day as supermarket shopping or ordering a pizza.

I sat next to Dan* and listened open-mouthed as he carefully listed the options that the caller should explore to get resolution to their housing plight, without referring to notes or aides-memoire, finishing by wishing the client well and hoping it is all resolved quickly. Even if the person on the phone had been in tears or angry, you got the impression he’d have dealt with them in exactly the same composed manner, which resulted in a hearty thank you and a big sigh of relief on the end of the line.

Disturbing issues

Over the course of an hour or so I was privileged to hear how Dan responded to the cases that came through. There was huge variety between the issues that were raised, some more complex than others. By chance, all the callers I heard were female, and I was saddened to hear many of them were suffering from domestic abuse. This had triggered their need to move out of home, and resulted in some alarmingly difficult housing situations for these women and their families.

Debbie* needed advice on how to move into a new home, when she didn’t have the means to scrabble together a deposit. Her daughter was doing GCSEs and had self-harmed in the past. She was pregnant and had no partner.

Quoting the Children Act, Dan advised Debbie on how to access help from Social Services to get temporary accommodation for her and her children, and how to search for grants or access credit unions that could help her with the deposit she needs to find stable accommodation in the private rented sector.

Astrid* from Nottinghamshire was living in a refuge with her kids after suffering domestic violence. She had been in secure social housing but had to move out and needed to know what her options were next. Dan showed his incredible knowledge on everything from domestic abuse to credit issues, all of which have an impact on homelessness and housing issues.

Vivian* from Northumberland called about a dispute with her landlord and letting agency, who were trying to charge her rent for a house she’d served notice on, moved out of, and handed the keys back for months ago. Worried she’d never get her deposit back, as well as being charged £450 a month for the rest of the year for a place she was no longer living in, she couldn’t afford legal advice and had turned to Shelter for urgent help. She ended the call confident that she had the facts on her side and knew what to do next. In fact the agent and landlord had overplayed their hand. Their lack of attention to detail meant she could claim up to 3 times the deposit amount. It might not need to come to that, and she was sure she’d be able to get an amicable resolution, thanks to Shelter’s advice.

Jean* from London had a complicated question that involved domestic abuse and manipulation by her former partner, young children in school, and issues around secure tenancies and the private rented sector. Being unaware of her rights and responsibilities until now, she had got herself into a tricky situation where she could potentially become homeless. Dan consulted his supervisor on this one, as it was a very complicated mix of issues, before calmly explaining the pros and cons of each of her options, and leaving her to mull it over.

“What are the most important qualities a Shelter helpline advisor should have?” I asked him. “Patience and empathy are so important, not just having the information at your fingertips. Staying calm even if the caller is in distress,” he replied.

What was clear to me after listening to a number of these calls is how crucial it is that Shelter can offer clear impartial advice to anyone in housing need. Whether it’s someone facing eviction immediately, or struggling to get a fair solution from their landlord or agent, Shelter can help put them on the right track. There’s also a Helpline Plus team that can take on complex cases and take them through to their legal conclusion. All the work is funded by individual donors and corporate fundraising. The helpline is open seven days a week, 365 days a year, weekdays until 8pm and weekends until 5pm.

Andrea, the Helpline Operations Manager told us how they recruit for aptitude and attitude – the team members don’t have a legal background or in depth knowledge of housing before they start. “It’s such a fulfilling job,” she says, “they really feel good about what they do”. They take 3 months to train before they even answer a phone. Last year they responded to 112,563 calls for help, up from 85,000 the previous year. But they’re only able to respond to 60% of calls and need to recruit, train and pay for more staff to fulfill demand for the service. The average call length is 23 minutes, during which time the advisor diagnoses the problem, and gives advice or next steps, referring the caller to a Shelter solicitor if necessary.

If there’s one message the Shelter helpline team wish they could get across to everyone, it’s “Know your housing rights”. Whether you’re a homeowner, a tenant, a lodger or a landlord, you never know when you may need them. You can always find out more about your housing rights and responsibilities on the SpareRoom and Shelter websites.

Can you spare £1 to help keep the helpline open, to allow Dan or his colleagues to spend a minute on a call to someone facing serious housing issues? Please donate to our HomesForGood campaign. Every penny goes to the Shelter helpline.

* All of the names in this piece have been changed to protect the identity and privacy of those involved.

A million thanks…

May 21st, 2014

We recently reached another little milestone we’re quietly pretty pleased about – 4 million registered users. A big thank you to everyone who’s registered to use our services over the last decade, and for helping to make us the nation’s favourite flatshare website.

Yes, it’s been ten years since we started – SpareRoom was launched on 1st April 2004 and the rest is history.

We celebrated our decennial with a little style and lots of cocktails at a bar in Manchester in late April. It was fantastic to see how much the company has grown, and how committed to the cause everyone who works here is. We just can’t help wanting to make flatsharing better.

Happy Birthday SpareRoom and here’s to the next 4 million people joining the flatshare community!

10th Birthday cake

The crazy things we do to raise money for Shelter

March 4th, 2014

When we first started talking about forming a partnership with Shelter our staff got very excited, coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas to raise money for the housing and homeless charity. Keen to show a personal commitment, alongside the donations the company will be making to match the generosity of our customers, everyone at SpareRoom is planning their own personal way of adding to the fundraising effort. We’ll be filling you in on the ups and downs of our efforts along the way. Here’s the first of the stories.

Our Head of Marketing, Sam Cowen, led the way by signing up for a challenge that would strike uncontrollable fear in the minds of lesser mortals. A keen snowboarder and wakeboarder, Sam’s been learning to kitesurf for the last few summers and is now finally at the stage where’s she’s “no longer a total liability”, in her own words. Along came a challenge she couldn’t refuse – she’d heard that a bunch of kitesurfers were planning to beat a world record, kitesurfing along the South Coast of England, and raising money for charity at the same time. The Big Charity Downwinder was being organised by pro Kitesurfer Lewis Crathern (he of the insane Worthing Pier and Brighton Pier jumps – Sam was entrusting her life to this madman?!?) and by youth charity Snowcamp, and also planned to raise money for the RNLI, but Sam also wanted to raise money for Shelter at the same time, so her fundraising would be split three ways.

Called a “downwinder” the event was unusual, as most beginner kitesurfers spend all their time trying their best to kitesurf upwind, and now suddenly they were being required to do the opposite. The total course length was an exhausting 46 miles, split up into 3 legs. Sam was planning to ride from Hayling Island, the start point, to Pagham, the first third of the journey. Having never kited beyond her home beach and off down the coast before, Sam figured that would be a sizeable challenge, and she’d leave the full 46 mile downwinder to the experts.

Prior to the day of the challenge, excitement was building, amid news that Sir Richard Branson would be joining the intrepid kitesurfers in their record breaking attempt. Virgin were now sponsoring the challenge, paying for all the safety boats and GPS equipment necessary, which meant all of the money raised would now go straight to charity. The event had in fact been renamed the Virgin Kitesurf Armada, and the date of the challenge was set for Sunday 15th September. And then a major storm was forecast. You guessed it – Sam and her fellow kitesurfers would be battling these galeforce winds in the name of charity fundraising.

Here’s Sam’s report of what happened on the day of the challenge:

“We set off to the South Coast in glorious sunshine then waited for the wind to pick up. Branson went out first on a 16m kite but by the time I launched nearly 2 hours later, it was gusting over 40knots and I launched my 9m kite with trepidation. The first mile was fine and then the water got choppier and choppier, a sea of moguls moving in front of me, snatching my board off my feet 8 times. I made it as far as East Wittering before I had to call it a day. But we’d broken the world record – with 318 kiters consecutively kiting in the mile at Hayling Island, and I’m enormously proud to have been part of that. Amazingly some of my friends made it to Pagham, and an elite few as far as Lancing – the whole 46 miles (they did set off when conditions were less challenging but it was still nasty conditions when they got there!).”

Well done Sam, for battling wind and waves, and making it safely back to shore! Her name has joined the others in the Guiness Book of Records, for the largest parade of kitesurfers, and she raised over £1000 for charity.

Sam - at Hayling Island before the challenge

Sam - showing her support for Shelter - at Hayling Island before the challenge

Sam with some kitesurf friends, and a certain Mr. Branson.

Sam with some kitesurf friends, and a certain Mr. Branson.

SpareRoom’s new partnership with Shelter

March 3rd, 2014

Homes for Good

Today sees the launch of a new partnership between SpareRoom and Raise the Roof’s main supporter Shelter. We’ve pledged to raise £75,000 a year to help fund Shelter’s free advice line, through a combination of SpareRoom donations, staff fundraising and contributions from our 3.8 million users.

Find out more about Homes for Good and why we’re keen to support Shelter in their work.

Our Homes for Good campaign is launched

February 28th, 2014

This week marks the official start of SpareRoom’s partnership with Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity. Today we launch our Homes for Good campaign, to raise awareness of the amazing work Shelter does to help people facing homelessness and living in poor housing conditions, and to raise money to keep the Shelter helpline open.

We think nobody should have to live in poor or unsuitable housing. Whilst we help thousands of people every year find suitable and affordable quality accommodation, there are thousands in the UK who are at risk of eviction, or living in dangerous conditions, and who need Shelter’s support.

We’d like to do more to help, and we’d like to get you involved too. So over the next few months we’ll be blogging about our efforts to raise money for the Homes for Good campaign, to keep the Shelter helpline open. We’ll be matching your donations, and doing a few crazy fundraising challenges ourselves to show our commitment to the cause. If you can donate just a few pounds, that could mean for someone the difference between keeping their home and losing it. How to donate

Read more about why we’re supporting Shelter, here.

Homes for Good

Landlords: Researching a new property? Start here

November 28th, 2013

If you’re a landlord who’s thinking of investing in additional properties, you need to do your research. There are lots of property related websites where you can enter the postcode of a place you’re interested in buying, to get related data, but you won’t get all the information you need from a single source.

Until now. Our friends at Property118 have built this handy tool to search across multiple sources, to give you the information you need to base a decision on. The beauty of it is, you only have to enter one postcode. And it’s free.

In one single step you can look at information sourced from the three major property sites – RightMove, Zoopla, and of course, SpareRoom, together with information on planning applications, local crime rates, LHA rates and more.

You can use it now – here!

UK Property Research Tool
What you need to know and where to find the information