Rent a Room Scheme Explained

The rent a room scheme is a great way to earn some extra cash it is tax-free up to £7,500. In this guide, I’ll show you how to claim the rent a room allowance tax-free, what counts as rent and what happens once you go over it.

How Does the Rent a Room Scheme Work?

The government rent a room scheme lets you earn up to £7,500 tax-free from letting a furnished room in your own home. All UK residents are entitled to claim the allowance every tax year* but the amount is halved to £3,750 if you share your home with your partner.

*A tax year runs from 6 April to 5 April.

Who Can Claim Rent a Room Relief?

The HMRC rent a room relief is available if you rent a let a furnished room to a lodger in your own home. You don’t have own your home either, you can be a tenant renting a property. But it must be your main home, not a second property. It’s also available if you run a guest house, like on Airbnb or bed and breakfast.

You cannot claim rent a room relief if you rent out space that is:

  • not part of your main home;
  • unfurnished
  • used as an office or for any business
  • part of your UK home and is let while you are living abroad

What Does Rent a Room Include?

Your gross rental income must not exceed £7,500 during a tax year to qualify for the HMRC allowance. Gross rental income means all rental income your receive, before expenses you pay like electricity and rates, plus any amounts paid for meals, goods and services such as cleaning or laundry

How to Claim the Rent-a-Room Tax Allowance

You are automatically entitled to the allowance if you charge gross rental income of £7,500 or less, that means you do not need to let HMRC know or submit a tax return to claim it unless you complete a return for another reason.

If your gross rental receipts go over the tax-free allowance, then you’ll need to let HMRC know about it and start to complete a self-assessment tax return.

How is Rent a Room Taxed?

Once you go over the £7,5000 tax-free allowance you’ll need to start declaring your income to HMRC and paying tax (depending on how much you have earned). When it comes to working out your tax, HMRC gives you two options to choose from when it comes to your calculation – what are known as Method A and Method B. It’s up to you which one you choose and you can pick which one means you pay the least tax.

Method A

Under this method of declaring your rent a room income, you’ll pay tax on your actual rental profits. That means the difference between gross rental receipts less any allowable expenses.

Method B 

Using this method you’ll pay tax on gross rental income over the rent a room allowance of £7.500, but you can’t deduct any expenses

HMRC automatically assume you that you use Method A. If you want to use Method B, you’ll need to let HMRC each time you file your tax return.

How Much Tax Will You Pay?

The amount of tax you pay on your rental income will depend on:

  • Your total income during the tax year;
  • Whether you choose Method A or Method B.

The current tax rates are:

Personal Allowance£12,570£12,500
Basic rate 20%£12,571 to £50,270£12,501 to £50,270
Higher rate 40%£50,271 and £150,000£50,001 and £150,000
Additional rate 45%over £150,000over £150,000


Karan rents our a room to a lodger in her own home and has a part-time job which pays her £20,000 per year.

She charges the lodger £10,000 for tax year 2019/2020 and has expenses of £9,000.

Method A

Karan will pay tax on her rental profits of £1,000 (£10,000 less £9,000). Her total income is £21,000 and her total tax bill is £1,700 worked out as follows:

£12,500 x 0% = £0
£8,500 x 20% = £1,700

Karan will get credit for any tax deducted by her employer on her payslips.

Method B

Karan will pay tax on gross rental income above the tax-free amount of £7,500, without deducting any expenses of £2,500 (£10,000 less £7,500).

Her total income is £22,500 and her tax bill will be:

£12,500 x 0% = £0
£10,000 x 20% = £2,000

Again Karan will get credit for any tax deducted by her employer on her payslips.

Method A or Method B?

In the example above, Karan is better off choosing Method A because she reduces her taxable income by deducting for expenses.

But everyone’s situation is different.

Generally speaking, if your expenses are less than the rent a room allowance of £7,500 you will probably pay less tax under Method B.

But under method B you can’t create a tax loss.

If you are new to renting out a room and have incurred costs but have gross rental income of less than £7,500, then it could be worthwhile completing a tax return using method A.

That way you can then record your loss in the current year as you can use it against future profits to save tax in later years.

How Do I Claim Rent-a-Room Relief on my Tax Return?

Your gross rental receipts need to be included in the property section of your tax return form. There are three entries that need to be made:

1. Put an ‘X’ in box 4 to indicate to HMRC that you intend to claim for Rent a Room:

2. Enter Income collected from renting out the room.

Rent a Room Scheme Self Assessment Tax Return

3. Enter your claim for Rent a Room Relief in Box 37.  This cancels out the income entry you made and means no tax charge will be made.

How to Register with HMRC

If you need to complete a tax return, then you’ll need to sign up with HMRC. The easiest way to do this is to sign up online.

Once you have completed the online form you’ll be registered for self-assessment and you will:

  • Be sent a UTR number, which a 10 digit code;
  • Need to complete a self-assessment tax return form by 31 January each year declaring your income in the UK Land & Property section (see below);
  • Pay any tax due by 31 January each year (along with payments on account by 31 January and 31 July each year).

What Happens If I Move House During the Tax Year?

If you move house during the year, you’ll need to add up your gross rental receipts and expenses if you’re claiming them.

You are only entitled to the £7,500 allowance once per year, not per house.

What are the Changes to Rent-a-Room Relief from 2019

The rent-a-room allowance was introduced to help individuals earn some extra cash and ease housing problems.

With the advent of Airbnb, HMRC felt that hosts were exploiting the tax rules for the purposes of making money.

From April 2019 the rent-a-room scheme rules have changed and require that the property owner must be living in the accommodation for at least part of the time that the room is let out.

Is Airbnb Covered by the Rent-A-Room Scheme?

Although the use of rent-a-room by Airbnb Hosts is under scrutiny by the government, yes currently you can use the relief against a short-term rental.

You’ll need to make sure that it meets the criteria of being a furnished letting and be present for at least part of the time the lodger is in the property.


About Anita Forrest

Anita Forrest is a Chartered Accountant, spreadsheet geek and money nerd helping financial DIY-ers organise their money so they can hit their goals quicker.

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