Holiday lets - renting out your home

There's no getting away from it - holidays are expensive these days. But renting your own home out while you're sunning yourself is a way of clawing back some of the cost of your getaway. Here's what you need to know.

Rent out your home

Pic: Corbis

Where to start
The best way to get your property seen is to list it with a holiday lettings company. There are a number of websites that cater specifically for people wishing to let their home for a short time, including Holiday Lettings and Wimdu. Both will list your property and try to match it to a prospective guest, then take a three per cent fee for each booking you make.

Getting a booking
While the likes of Holiday Lettings will list your property, it's important to place it at the right price and with the right photos. Search the site you plan to use for similar properties in the same area or nearby in order to get an idea of how much you can charge. If the price is too high or too low, you're likely to put potential guests off.

Just as important are the photos you provide of the house. Take your snaps when there is plenty of natural daylight, and be sure the place is clean, tidy, and uncluttered to attract bookings. It is also worth pointing out the potential benefits of staying in the area - good transport links to London, for example, or whether you are in or close to an area of outstanding natural beauty. List local tourist spots or activities, as well as events that might be taking place.

Potential pitfalls
There are certain legalities that come with letting out your home, even if it's just for a few weeks each year. First of all it is essential that you contact your mortgage lender. You may be in breach of the terms and conditions if you rent it out without their consent, and some may not allow you to do so. If you're lucky and have a flexible lender, they will be happy to agree to a week or two-week let, but do check.

Your next consideration should be insurance. Provided the let has been organised through an agency, most insurers will provide cover, but you may be charged an additional premium, and theft cover is likely to be restricted to forcible entry only (homeowners are strongly advised to lock their valuables away), while accidental damage may not be covered at all.

You should also speak to your local council. In some areas, the local authority won't allow short-term lets without permission, largely due to the risk of noise and disruption that might upset other residents. If that's the case and you don't get the required permission, you could face a hefty fine.

While letting your home might pay for your holiday, you will also be liable to pay tax on any income you receive. If you are only renting out a floor or room in your home rather than the property as a whole, you can claim tax relief, and under the Government Rent a Room scheme, you can earn up to £4,250 a year from a lodger without paying tax at all.

Have you let your home while you were away on your hols? What are your top tips? Leave your comments below...