MAK­ING THE BEST OF YOUR EMPTY NEST...

Once the chil­dren leave the fam­ily home there are op­tions for all that ex­tra space

Gloucestershire Echo - - INSIDE - With Alex Neill of Which?

THE kids have moved out and you’ve sud­denly got loads of ex­tra space at home. But what should you do with it? Un­like most coun­tries in Europe where col­lege stu­dents go to lo­cal univer­si­ties and stay at home, grow­ing up here of­ten in­volves leav­ing the nest. The ma­jor­ity of young peo­ple never re­turn – ex­cept for Sun­day lunch or leav­ing wash­ing to sort. There are many over-55s in three­bed­room homes where two rooms are un­oc­cu­pied. Ac­cord­ing to in­surer Sun Life, a few can’t wait for empty space, re­dec­o­rat­ing within a week of their off­spring leav­ing. But three out of four wait up to a year, and nearly one in three leaves the room un­touched. Sun Life’s Si­mon Stan­ney says: “Keep­ing the home in the fam­ily is re­ally im­por­tant to peo­ple. It is com­mon for par­ents to want grown-up kids to be able to come back, and nearly a third feel so strongly that they even keep their child’s old bed­room for them even though they’ve left!” The most com­mon use for those who don’t keep the room un­touched is to turn it into a guest room for kids com­ing back from time to time, and – maybe fur­ther down the line – when grand­chil­dren stay over. But Sun Life says a re­ally com­mon fate of the kids’ rooms is to end up as junk stor­age. Other uses in­clude a study, hobby room or sec­ond tele­vi­sion area. One op­tion when chil­dren leave is down­siz­ing – maybe free­ing up some cash if the home is owned or per­haps move some­where bet­ter or to a sun­nier cli­mate. Few do this – most in the 55 plus age group stay in the home they have of­ten lived in for 20 years or longer. A sec­ond op­tion is tak­ing a lodger. Gov­ern­ment rules state you can now earn nearly £150 a week with­out both­er­ing about taxes, per­mis­sions or form-filling. This “Rent a Room Scheme” al­lows you to earn up to £7,500 per year tax-free from let­ting out ac­com­mo­da­tion in your home. It is an al­lowance for each home so you can’t in­crease it if you share the in­come with your part­ner or some­one else. You can let out as much of your home as you want but it must be fur­nished al­though stan­dards are not laid down. You can’t turn it into a self­con­tained flat but lodgers can have ket­tles and mi­crowaves. The scheme does not al­low you to off­set ex­penses. If you want to do that, or charge more than £7,500 a year, you have to com­plete a tax form.

At least wait un­til they’ve loaded up the car be­fore mov­ing a lodger in...

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