Are living rooms becoming an endangered species in shared homes?

by Property 118

9:55 AM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Are living rooms becoming an endangered species in shared homes?

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Are living rooms becoming an endangered species in shared homes?

16% of shared homes in the UK have no living room, according to a survey of more than 10,000 users of flat and house share site SpareRoom.co.uk. Just three years ago, only 10% of sharers lived in properties without living rooms.

In London, where demand for rooms in flat and house shares is highest there are currently 10 people searching for every room available with 19% of shared properties have no living room. It is also revealed that 17% of Londoners share bedrooms, and not all of them are couples with 5% of sharers in the capital bunking with a roommate.

Outside London, the cities where sharers are least likely to have living rooms are Glasgow and Liverpool, where 16% have no living room and Aberdeen 15%.

It’s not simply about landlords cramming as many people as possible into their properties, as SpareRoom’s research also reveals that some tenants choose to use the living room as an extra bedroom in order to keep their rent down. Even though 35% of sharers say they share for social reasons as well as financial with 69% saying they would live in a home with no living room in exchange for cheaper rent.

That could explain why the number of sharers who live in properties with four or more people has risen over the past three years from 34% in 2011 to 38% now.

Living in bigger house shares often works out cheaper per person than living with one or two others, as bills and expenses are split amongst a larger group. In London, room rents for two and three-bedroom flat and house shares are on average 14% more expensive than rooms in four to six-plus bedroom house shares. The saving is 4% for the rest of the UK.

Director of SpareRoom.co.uk Matt Hutchinson said, “this is a sign of the times. The demise of the living room is symptomatic of the private rented sector struggling to cope with intense demand, and it’s not simply a case of landlords chasing higher yields. Many flat and house sharers tell us they’d compromise on a living room out of choice, if it meant paying less to keep a roof over their heads.

Faced with rising rents, tenants are looking to save wherever they can. The only solution is to create more supply. Building new homes takes time, but there are already millions of empty bedrooms in the UK. By making better use of existing housing stock and incentivising homeowners to let rooms to lodgers we could free some of these up immediately.”living room



Comments

Mandy Thomson

10:58 AM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Really interesting and informative article.

I'm not surprised that house sharers don't place a high priority on having a lounge.

I have never lived in or owned an HMO, or even a house or flat share where everyone has equal legal status as joint owners or tenants. However, I do have plenty of experience (both personal and through extensive research for my website) of spare room letting, both as the live in landlord and the lodger.

If you're renting a room, the only part of the property you can really call your own space - and sometimes not even that - is your room, so human nature being as it is, you contract into that space. This obviously becomes much less as you feel more comfortable and at home with your fellow housemates and integrate more with them.

Perhaps sadly, a lodger who was a colleague that we let a room to wanted to spend nearly all her time at home in her room, and later when I rented a spare room from a long term friend, I found myself doing the same. This might well be a factor in why both of those friendships ended over the room lets!

matchmade

12:29 PM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

I've always included a living room in my shared houses. Call me a sentimental old fuddy-duddy, but I think it's important to have space in addition to the kitchen so that tenants feel they can have friends around to visit without obliging them to cram into their bedroom, and so they have spare to interact with their fellow housemates rather than sit isolated in their own cubicles. There's also the minor issue that if you cram the houseshare with more and more tenants, the kitchen and bathroom(s) are overwhelmed.

Mandy Thomson

12:41 PM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Tony Atkins" at "19/11/2014 - 12:29":

Hi Tony

Do you tend to let a whole property to groups who already know each other, or on an individual room basis?

Do your tenants use the lounge much to interact with each other, as opposed to just using it when they have visitors or when they can get the lounge to themselves?

Where a lodger is concerned, although a lodger will mostly stick to their room, I believe that excluding your lodger from your lounge sends a very negative message and would ring alarm bells for me if I were looking for a room to rent.

Yvette Newbury

14:17 PM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Too often we found our 2 persons renting our 2 bed flat were then subletting the lounge for a 3rd bedroom, so a few years ago we changed to renting to 3 persons with no lounge thereby creating more economical accommodation for those that needed it as then not only is the rent shared but so are all bills. We could then be assured that we knew who our tenants were as we were unhappy about the sublet situation.

John Daley

14:37 PM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

After a quick straw poll here in the office, the opinion is that 15 - 20% of HMOs have a shared room, though indeed some of them do not look well used.

If the residents are mates or students it seems to be more important.

matchmade

14:55 PM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mandy Thomson" at "19/11/2014 - 12:41":

I let on an individual room basis as I find groups only form amongst students or where there is a strong incentive, for example in cities like London or Oxford, where there is very high demand for houseshares and people need to act quickly. Single people elsewhere find it very hard to find other people to buddy up with, or aren't that bothered because there is a floating consistent level of supply and demand for shared accommodation, so they can come and go as their job and relationship situation changes.

In any group there tends to be one or two tenants who are heavier TV or gaming users and prefer to watch in a lounge as it's larger than their bedroom. Some of the others tend to stick to their rooms; others vary, sometimes seeking company in the living room, sometimes not. Programmes like X-Factor, Gogglebox and Strictly seems to pull people together, just like students watching Neighbours or Eastender in university common rooms. In my view the lounge helps pull a household together in ways that separate lockable rooms and merely a shared kitchen never do: it helps make the house more cohesive, the tenants become friends, and more inclined to stay.

steve sanders

15:36 PM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

If you provide a separate living room, tenants sub-let it. Thats why we just make the kitchen bigger and call it an open-plan kitchen-lounge

Rob Crawford

16:06 PM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Similar to Tony Atkins, my HMO's have a shared lounge and kitchen / diner. Both to a reasonably high spec with sky TV's, BB etc. These spaces are useful if I require to meet the tenants as a group and for them to get together with mates etc. they do not sublet the lounge. I do monthly visits and additional visits on communal areas. Any subletting would be against the AST T&C's and their failure to recognise these would see them receiving an S21. Compromising my HMO license would be unacceptable and I have a zero tolerance approach to dealing with such issues. If there are as many tenants seeking rooms as implied why are so many landlords letting their tenants sublet communal spaces as implied?

matchmade

16:19 PM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Rob Crawford" at "19/11/2014 - 16:06":

I agree with Rob: I would crack down really hard if the tenants tried to sub-let the lounge, just as I would do if a tenant moved out without telling me and the others moved a couple into a single bedroom. Sub-letting is not allowed in my ASTs (a standard NLA one plus my own clauses).

Frankly I don't think my tenants would want to sub-let the lounge anyway: they like having a lounge, and it's a feature of the house, along with the kitchen-diner, the off-road parking and the large garden. They've had enough of living in student halls of residence and want to live in a proper house with home-like space and facilities.

Of course it all depends on the nature of the property, its location and the attitude of the pool of potential tenants. A Victorian bay-fronted terrace in a central location with limited street parking but with the option of walking and a good bus network to work and leisure facilities is a quite different proposition from more spacious suburban locations where the car dominates.

Mandy Thomson

16:57 PM, 19th November 2014
About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Tony Atkins" at "19/11/2014 - 14:55":

Thanks, Tony. You said, "it helps make the house more cohesive, the tenants become friends, and more inclined to stay", absolutely! Unfortunately, where letting to a lodger is concerned, the opposite often happens - they often start out as friends, then the lodger sticks mostly to their room, the friendship changes into a landlord/lodger relationship, and resentment sets in on both sides - the landlord gets fed up with having someone else in their home, finds some fault with the lodger, pulls rank as landlord and householder, and the lodger resents this, especially if they were friends.

The best lodger landlords are those who foster a house share arrangement, and are prepared to be friendly toward the lodger and treat them as an equal housemate day to day - yet at the same time they're still the landlord - a very fine line to thread, so picking the right lodger is crucial.

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