Whatever your reason for considering to be a theatrical landlord (or landlady) here is a quick guide on how to do it.
In our previous blog Why be a Host?, we listed some of the benefits of being a theatre digs provider. They include tax breaks, the ability to meet colourful ‘theatrical types’, a decent second income and even helping out your local theatre.
From our experience and from the conversations we have with our wonderful Hosts, here is a ‘quick-start guide’:
It could be a room in your home or a separate apartment which you would like to make available for rent.
It doesn’t have to be available all year-round, you could just list your property during the summer or when suits you best. (Just mention this in your listing.)
If you have a room (or several) in your own home, describe your home as if through the eyes of a stranger – as if seeing it for the first time.
If you have pets, please mention it as someone with allergies may not be suitable.
If you have disabled/step-free access to the guest room – mention it.
We offer tick-boxes which prompt you to mention things that you may not otherwise think are important like ‘off-road parking’ etc.
Word spreads quickly in any tight-knit community and theatre is no exception. Make sure the room/s you offer are clean, tidy and have space to store clothes and suitcases. Some theatre companies are on tour for a whole year and your guest will need places to put their stuff (you might be surprised how many rooms are let with no spare space whatsoever). Do a good job and you will soon have a loyal following.
It all depends on where you are based but the national average for a room on www.theatredigsbooker.com is around £120 per week. Most tour companies pay a weekly touring allowance of around £130-£190 from which the individual has to find accommodation and food. If you are more than a short walk from the theatre, you may want to adjust the price to reflect the cost of weekly travel to and from the theatre. Check the prices other Hosts are charging in your area, compare facilities and choose a price accordingly.
Some Hosts take a small deposit to secure a booking and request the balance within 24 hours of arrival at the digs. This is at the discretion of the Host.
Use of facilities
One of the main reasons that theatre professionals choose private digs over hotels is the ‘personal touch’. It is nice to be in a family home when you are on the road for so long. Most of our ‘live-in Hosts’ really take pride in looking after their Guests, making them feel at home as soon as they arrive. Offering clean towels and sheets, the use of the kitchen (and space to store some food), and making it clear from the beginning what areas of the house are open to Guests can make a huge difference and means that both the Host and the Guest know what to expect.
Legal and Insurance
Don’t get too ‘bogged down’ with this aspect. There are some rules surrounding ‘Houses of multiple occupancy‘ and if you are renting out your whole property there are considerations regarding tenancy rights and health and safety. A good resource for these subjects is Direct.Gov.uk and could be worth a read. However, theatre digs have been offered by private landlords/ladies for hundreds of years and unless you are operating a Bed and Breakfast or Guesthouse as a business (which have their own very strict guidelines and considerations) most authorities don’t consider a few paying guests in your home to be an issue. In fact, there is the government’s Rent-a-Room scheme allowing you to earn up to £4250 per year from your spare room tax-free.
It is worth talking to your insurance company about your cover but make it clear that you are not turning your home into a B&B. Instead, you are simply offering the occasional theatrical guest somewhere to stay.
The fun part
Theatre professionals arguably make for very interesting house guests. They are often people who, as a child, have dreamt of being on or around the stage and are actually doing it for a living. They have stories and love to share them over a ‘glass of something’ after a show. If you like that sort of thing, being a theatrical Host can be very fulfilling.
If you offer self-contained accommodation, theatre Guests can make wonderful short-term tenants as they are used to looking after themselves and the properties they stay in. Technical theatre crew and musicians often tour much more than actors and will return to a property time and time again if it suits their needs.
Many Hosts talk of how they enjoy being part of the ‘theatrical community’. They get more involved with the local theatre as they know some of the ‘stars’. Some even compete with their neighbours with boasts of who they have staying with them this week.
A very experienced theatrical landlady once told us that as long as you communicate with the Guests, everything will be fine. We encourage Hosts to fully describe their digs with as much nuance and character as they wish. If you have a curfew, a minimum stay, a cancellation policy, a collection of rare and exotic snakes – mention it. It’s much better for both parties to know the full story.
We try to ask our Hosts “If you were travelling around the country and looking for places to stay, what would you want to know about those places?” Our answer is always “As much as possible”.
If you would like to provide theatre professionals with accommodation please visit our main website: www.theatredigsbooker.com.
You can also watch our tutorial video here.