What's the difference between a tenant and a lodger?

There are differences between a tenant and a lodger, some with legal implications, so it’s important to understand these when renting out a room in your house. We’ve summarised some key differences for you.


Property rights

A tenant has exclusive rights to the use and access of their bedroom, while a lodger does not. In a lodger agreement, it might be the case that the landlord needs to enter the bedroom for cleaning or other service purposes, while in a tenancy the landlord would need permission to enter the room.

Landlord living arrangements

A lodger typically rents a spare bedroom and shares certain living spaces in a home with a live-in landlord. A tenant rents a room or home from a landlord who resides elsewhere.


Lodgers do not have the same protection from eviction that tenants have. Ending an agreement with a lodger (who shares a living space with the landlord), requires reasonable notice, which is usually the length of a rental payment period e.g. one month. The landlord does not have to go to court to evict a lodger if a lodger refuses to leave, the landlord can change the locks and give a lodger their belongings back.

As a tenant has exclusive possession rights to their accommodation as part of the government’s Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement (AST), if a tenant refuses to leave after a contract ends, a landlord must ask a court for a ‘warrant of possession, to issue a court ordered eviction notice. 

Furnished vs. unfurnished

The government’s Rent a Room scheme is available to landlords taking in a lodger, in this case the lodging must be furnished. This scheme does not apply when taking in a tenant.

Contractual agreements

A lodger agreement should set out the rent, any deposit, access rights, house rules, landlord responsibilities and how to end the contract.

A tenancy agreement should cover the same but also include the term of tenancy, an optional break clause and any rent increases, plus legal requirements under the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018 and the Tenant Fees Act 2019.

A deposit is not always required when taking in a lodger if it is a short term lodging, but if one is required, a lodger’s deposit is not legally obliged to be protected by the landlord. A tenant’s deposit must be protected under a Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS).


A lodger may be provided with services as part of their accommodation agreement such as cleaning or meal provision. A tenancy typically just covers the accommodation itself.