Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Household Advice Manuals - Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date] - Advice to Lodgers

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Volume 1



IN England a lodger may be generally defined as an under-tenant, who is responsible for only a part of the rent of the house he lives in, and who is not called upon to pay the taxes levied upon it. His liabilities as a tenant are limited to the householder, who is accountable to the owner for the rent of the whole tenement, to the parish for all the parochial rates, and to the Crown for the Queen's taxes. Many persons take houses the whole of which they cannot, need not, or will not occupy, and they usually do this for the sake of some advantage to themselves. So, also, many persons for divers reasons prefer to rent only part of a house, and to become lodgers. To multitudes of unmarried men and women, professional persons, small families, and families with limited resources, [-212-] apartments are a convenience, if not a necessity. On the other hand, a large class finds in the letting of apartments either a means of livelihood or a certain addition to a restricted income. It is very important that persons who come into the relation of landlord and lodger - that is of landlord and tenant - should know their duties and obligations; we shall, therefore, state a few facts which will be useful to both parties, though they will, perhaps be most so to the lodger.
    When apartments are taken for a short limited period, and it is understood that the tenancy expires at the close of it, a notice to quit is unnecessary; though, without an agreement to the contrary, a regular tenancy is established if the holding is continued beyond the specified time. Even a person who takes lodgings at an hotel for a night ought to give reasonable notice the next day of his intention to depart, or of his wish to remain much more should this be done if apartments are taken for a longer, though a limited, term. Irrespective of all legal consequences, those who let or take lodgings will do well to avoid neglect. With regard to an hotel or boarding-house, we need say no more than that the engagements entered into for a night or so are of a fugitive character, and are fulfilled by a lodger who is courteous and otherwise well conducted, and who pays his bill and the customary fees. Our main concern is with arrangements of a more private and permanent character than such as fall within the ordinary category of good entertainment in hotels of all sorts, though even there it is becoming more common for people among us to fix their quarters as on the Continent. 
    Private apartments, as usually understood, are either furnished or unfurnished. Furnished lodgings may involve the partial use of some rooms and the sole use of others, partial or complete attendance, partial or complete cooking, lodging only, or board and lodging; in fact, it would be difficult to enumerate all the possible variations. Even in the matter of furniture and so forth there is room for considerable diversity, and it is necessary to know what the lodger is expected to provide for himself as well as what he is expected to do for himself. Differences of requirement and provision will, of course, influence money terms as really as differences of accommodation and locality.
    Agreements are usually verbal only, but it is better for security that they should be in writing. A written agreement must specify the date of entry, the amount of rent to be paid, how often payment is to be made and the length of notice to quit, with all other details required by the particular case. Appended to the written agreement should be an inventory of every article belonging to the landlord, and a specification of every defect and imperfection in the furniture, fittings, &c. Where the apartments comprise an entire floor, or suite of rooms, it will be best to proceed as in the case of a furnished house, and to employ an experienced and trustworthy house-agent to go over the inventory, and to see that everything is properly done.
    To constitute the agreement a regular legal document, it had better be drawn up in some orderly form.

Memorandum of agreement entered into this ____ day of ___  18__ , between ____of ____ of the one part, and ____ of ____ of the other part. 
The said ____ hereby agrees to let, and the said ____ hereby agrees to rent and take all those apartments on the ___ floor (or floors) of the house of the said ____ situate and being No. __, ____ street (or as the case may be), in the parish of ____,in the county of ____ with the use and enjoyment of all easements, appurtenances, furniture, effects, and other things severally set forth and enumerated in the schedule or inventory hereunto annexed. To hold the same from the ____ day of ____ unto the said ____, as tenant thereof from ___ to ___, at the clear rent of ____, payable on the ____ free from any deduction ; the first payment to be made on the ____ day of ____ next; the said tenancy to be determinable by either party on giving the other notice in writing to quit. And the said ____ hereby agrees to leave on the premises hereby agreed to be let, at the termination of the tenancy hereby created, all the several furniture, effects, fixtures, and other things enumerated in the schedule or inventory hereunto annexed, and which are now in or upon the said premises, and are the property of the said ____; and also all the glass windows whole and unbroken, except such as are specified in the said schedule. And the said ____ hereby agrees to pay all taxes and outgoings in respect of the premises hereby agreed to be let, to execute all needful repairs, and to indemnify the goods and chattels of the said ____ from and against the same.
    In witness whereof the said parties have hereunto set their hands the day and year aforesaid.}

     To such an agreement a witness may be had if thought desirable.
    Where there is no written agreement, the length of a notice to quit is usually settled by the form of letting or payment of rent. Thus, when let at so much per week, month, or quarter, the notice will be for the same periods, unless custom to the contrary can be proved.
    A lodger has the right to use the knocker and door bell, the lights and windows in the approaches to his apartments, and the water-closet and other conveniences. If he has any doubt about some things, he had better stipulate for their reasonable use, as a garden or outer yard. He cannot claim to affix a plate, nor to have his name painted or exhibited upon the house without his landlord's consent. A landlord has no right without permission or just cause to enter his lodger's apartments and if he intrudes upon their use or possession he forfeits his power to recover the rent. A weekly tenant can require a quarter's notice if the landlord allows his rent to accrue for a quarter and receives it as a quarter's rent. The landlord can recover arrears of rent if his tenant leaves without notice; even if he advertises for another tenant but if he re-lets his apartments, he cannot recover subsequent rent. Where there are no goods, rent and arrears can be recovered in the county court.
    All persons who take apartments, whether furnished or not, will be prudent to make various inquiries before entering upon an agreement. These inquiries may include the solvency of the landlord, the character of his house and of its inmates, the respectability and healthiness of the locality, the proper supply of good water, and the condition of all the fittings and fixtures, and furniture, if there is any.
    With respect to unfurnished apartments, it is especially needful to be cautious, because the lodger may find himself liable for actual or future arrears of rent or taxes, due by his landlord. It is particularly annoying if a lodger finds that through his want of caution his goods are distrained for the rent, parochial rates, or other charges upon the whole house.
    A magistrate in the metropolis can award compensation to the amount of fifteen pounds for wilful damage done by tenants to their apartments. Again, a landlord is not responsible if his tenant loses his goods by fire or theft, unless the lodger can prove the loss due to want of proper precaution on the landlord's part. If a lodger refuses to leave after the expiration of his term, his landlord can eject him under warrant from a magistrate, or by authority of a county court. Of course, a lodger cannot remove any fixtures when he leaves, though erected by himself, except those which are known in law as removable fixtures. The lodger is not responsible for ordinary wear and tear [-213-] either of his rooms or of the landlord's furniture, &c., but for all beyond ordinary wear and tear he is liable. As his goods may be distrained for the rent of the house, so they may be distrained for his own rent.
    Formidable as the foregoing enumeration may appear at first sight, it will on consideration be found to include little to terrify those who intend to live in lodgings. People must live somewhere, and wherever it is, they will, if they inquire, find themselves surrounded with liabilities. There are many who are well able to rent houses for themselves who prefer to live in lodgings, and it is not uncommon for them to remain years in the same place. These usually do not keep their own servants, but sometimes they do, and there are houses so arranged that two or more families can live in them without inconvenience. In Scotland, what are called "lands," comprising on separate floors, called "flats," all the conveniences of a house, are much preferred to "self-contained houses." In the metropolis, also, there are springing up blocks of buildings with a common stair, and occupied by separate households. Such examples, however, scarcely come under the head of lodgings as commonly understood, but they arc mentioned here as a sort of compromise, which deserves to be advocated in the case of crowded cities. 
    In ordinary cases a single man or woman will do best in unfurnished apartments, but whether they shall board with the family or not must depend upon circumstances. This will be less difficult in a strictly private house than in one more properly called a lodging house.
    A man and his wife, or any two ladies or gentlemen living together, will commonly do best if they board them- selves. Where there are more than two, or if there are children, a separate table is altogether desirable. When lodgers provide their own food, and only one kitchen is available, fixed hours will be necessary, whether they have their own cook or not. If lodgers find their own bed-linen and table-linen, or other articles, they will pay less for furnished apartments. Lodgers must have free ingress and egress, and should possess a latch-key or other facilities for those purposes. They should have keys also to their rooms, cupboards, boxes, drawers, &c., and should use them, and not leave them about as a temptation. They should, of course, be models of regularity, quietness, good order, and so forth, and will usually find their account in it.
    As for the price of apartments, it varies with position - and a hundred other circumstances, so that while two comfortable little rooms may be got for a few shillings a week, the wealthy and ambitious may pay as many pounds for two or three large rooms, and everything in an aristocratic style.
    The question whether it is best to lodge in a house kept by one who is a professed lodging-house or boardinghouse keeper, or with a really private family, is not to be easily settled. Some are violently prejudiced against, lodging-house keepers, and others against private families. In truth, there are good and bad of all sorts, and prudent people will look after the good by whatever name they are known. Lodgers are not always perfect, and perhaps their discontent and misery are as often due to themselves as to their landlord or landlady.

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source: Cassells Household Guide, c.1880s