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Today I’m highlighting quite a traditional way of making extra money, but none the worse for that.
If you have a spare room (or rooms) in your home that you don’t mind letting out, you can generate a steady income by doing so.
Even better, you can earn up to £7,500 a year (gross) tax-free under the government’s long-running Rent a Room Scheme.
The Rent a Room Scheme
Anyone with space in their own home is allowed to use this scheme. You can let a single room or an entire floor.
You don’t even have to be the home-owner yourself. If you’re a tenant, you can sub-let a room, as long as your lease allows you to do this.
There are some restrictions, though. Most importantly, the accommodation must be furnished and it must be within your main residence. And you can’t claim under the scheme for self-contained flats even if they are in your own home.
- In addition, if you have a mortgage you will need permission from your mortgage provider. You should also request permission from your home insurance provider.
If your gross rental income is under the £7,500 annual limit you don’t have to take any other action and can keep all the money tax-free.
You don’t even have to tell the taxman unless you fill in a self-assessment form already (in that case you’ll need to enter the rental income on your return but won’t have to pay any tax on it).
One important thing to note is that the £7,500 a year tax-free allowance is for total rental income. You aren’t allowed to deduct any expenses from this, e.g. repairs or redecoration.
If you earn over £7,500 a year from renting you have two choices. One is that you can keep the first £7,500 tax tree under the Rent a Room scheme and pay tax at your highest marginal rate on the balance above this (that’s 20% for basic rate taxpayers, 40% for higher rate and 45% for additional rate – different rates apply in Scotland). This will probably be the best option for most people.
Alternatively, you can opt out of the scheme altogether. In that case you will be treated like any other small business. You will be taxed on your entire rental income, but allowed to deduct all reasonable expenses before tax is charged on what is left. This will be advantageous if you have major property-related expenses to cover.
You can choose which option will be best for you each year, so it’s important to keep detailed financial records. More information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/rent-room-in-your-home.
If you don’t want a permanent – or semi-permanent – lodger, another option that has become hugely popular in recent years is short-term letting to budget travellers and people who prefer a more personal alternative to hotels.
At the forefront of this trend has been Airbnb. This site lets you offer anything from a sofa in your living room to your whole house. You can set your own rent, and decide which would-be guests you want to accept.
Airbnb charges you 3% of whatever you charge your guests (they also charge guests a service fee of around 14%). You get paid via Airbnb approximately 24 hours after your guest checks in. You can see more details about Airbnb fees and charges here.
Income from Airbnb rentals can also be claimed under the Rent a Room scheme, so long as you meet the general requirements mentioned above. This applies even if you rent out your whole house for a short period, as long as it clearly remains your main residence.
Short-term letting can obviously work well in holiday areas, but it can be done elsewhere too. For example, my sister Annie lives near Oxford and sometimes offers accommodation in her home through Airbnb to visiting academics and people coming to business meetings and conferences in the city.
There are other, similar options to Airbnb you may like to check out as well. They include Vrbo, Homestay, Booking, and more. They all operate a bit differently and offer a different range of accommodation and services (e.g. Vrbo is specifically for holiday rentals).
If your circumstances allow it, letting a room in your home can be a great way of making some extra cash. It will provide you with a regular, ongoing source of income, which could prove a lifeline in these financially challenging times.
And you can choose between getting a full-time lodger or offering short-term lets. The latter is likely to entail a bit more work but may suit some people better.
As always, if you have any comments about this article, please do leave them below. Nick Daws writes for Pounds and Sense, a UK personal finance blog aimed especially (though not exclusively) at over-fifties.
Nick Daws is a semi-retired freelance writer and editor. He is the author of over 30 non-fiction books, including Start Your Own Home-Based Business and The Internet for Writers. He lives in Burntwood, Staffordshire, where he has been running his personal finance blog at Poundsandsense.com for over seven years.