Host Guidelines & FAQs



(Homestays & Private Homes) Host family guidelines

At London Homestays, our primary concern is that the student’s homestay in England is a happy experience.  Hosting a student can be very demanding but also very rewarding.  However it will, to an extent, restrict your privacy.  If you are a prospective new host and are unsure, or in any doubt of your ability to meet all the criteria below, please contact us for details about how to register as a self-catering guest house, which does not require you to include the student in your family activities.

We pride ourselves on our high standards and therefore require all our hosts to comply with the following guidelines, many of which are based upon the EnglishUK Homestay Code of Practice, to which we strictly adhere. In hosting our students you are, in effect, representing our company and are therefore in a position of trust.  This is one reason why we select our hosts so carefully.

We look forward to a mutually rewarding partnership with you and encourage you to contact us should you have any doubt as to what is expected of you. If you have designed your own set of student rules or guidelines that you intend to present to students upon arrival, please forward a copy to us for approval before distributing it to students.

How do I become a host family?

We’re delighted to hear you’re interested in becoming a host family. Applying to become a host is easy! You can either complete the quick enquiry form, or if you have more time, please complete the online host family application form. Before we can accept you as a host, we’ll need to take some information, have a telephone call or video call with you and complete a home visit. We will be able to guide you through the process, for now just click on the application form above.

How does the booking process work for hosts?

At London Homestays, we want to make the booking process as easy and stress-free as possible for our hosts. When we receive a booking request from a student, a partner school or a partner agent, our experienced staff will promptly contact you by phone, email, or SMS to discuss and offer you the booking. We’ll provide you with brief details about the student, including their age, gender, and nationality, and also recommend you as a good match for that request by sending your profile to the customer. If you’re happy to proceed with the booking, we’ll then work with you to finalise the details and ensure that all necessary paperwork is in order. Once we receive confirmation that the booking will go ahead, we will move to make that request a confirmed booking, providing you with full payment details and necessary paperwork. If you have any questions or concerns about the booking process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team. We’re here to support you every step of the way.

What are my responsibilities as a host family?

As a host family, you play a vital role in our students’ experience of London. Your responsibilities include providing a safe and comfortable home for the student, which includes a private bedroom, access to shared spaces, meals, and laundry facilities. You’re also responsible for providing a welcoming and supportive environment for the student, and for communicating regularly with our team to ensure that any issues or concerns are addressed promptly. We have been placing students with hosts for more than 10 years and will be there to support you every step of the way. We have lots of information, blogs and articles that will hopefully help with everything from how the booking process works, to how to check in a student, right through to how to conduct a check-out. Follow this link for more information.

How long do students usually stay with host families?

Our students come to London for a variety of reasons, ranging from short-term language courses to longer-term academic programmes. As a result, the length of stay can vary widely. Students can stay with host families for a minimum of one week up to a maximum of one year, depending on their individual needs and goals. Our team will work with you to find a student whose length of stay fits your availability and preferences.

What happens if I want to go on holiday or have other commitments?

To ensure the best experience for both you and the student, we kindly ask that you only accept bookings that you’re certain that you will be able to honour, and that you inform us of any holidays or other commitments you have prior to accepting bookings. This will allow us to make alternative arrangements for the student if necessary and avoid any inconvenience or disappointment. We hope to be able to book around your holidays and commitments as flexibility is a key advantage of hosting students. We just need to know the dates you can host and the dates you are unavailable to host and we will do the rest.

Can hosts specify their preferences for the students they host?

Yes, of course! We understand that hosts may have preferences for the students they host, such as age, gender, and meal plan requested. As such, we encourage hosts to provide this information when applying to become a host family and during your meeting with our assessor. We will then build a host profile for you and try to match you to the most suitable bookings. While we do our best to match hosts with students who meet their preferences, please understand we cannot guarantee a perfect match. Our top priority is to ensure that both hosts and students have a positive and rewarding homestay experience, and we work closely with hosts to find the best possible match for their home and lifestyle.

What kind of support does London Homestays provide to hosts?

At London Homestays, we’re committed to providing our hosts with all the support they need to make their homestay experience a success. This includes assistance with student placement, guidance on cultural differences, and support in resolving any issues that may arise during the hosting period. We have an experienced team who are available to answer any questions or concerns you may have, and who will work with you to create a positive and welcoming environment for our students. We also have lots of information, blogs and articles that will hopefully help with everything from how the booking process works, to how to check in a student, right through to how to conduct a check-out. You might want to start by following this link to find some practical tips for hosts.

How should I treat my visiting student guests?

As a host, it’s important to create a warm and welcoming environment for your students. Whether they are a young or older student, you should treat them with care and consideration, similar to how you would treat your own child or a visiting friend. For young students, you should treat them as you would your own child, while older students should be treated as a friend who is visiting London. This means including them in as many aspects of family life as possible, such as providing free use of the living room and public areas. Students often appreciate watching TV with their hosts, even if they have their own TV in their room. Engaging in conversation with your student for a reasonable length of time each day is also part of your role as a host, allowing them to practice their English. Additionally, some students might appreciate a little help with homework e.g the meaning of a word or how to pronounce something. It’s important to make your student feel comfortable and at home during their stay with you and we find many hosts develop long friendships with their students that continue long after the student has returned home.

How will I find out my student's arrival time?

We understand that it’s important for our hosts to know their student’s arrival time. We always endeavour to advise you of your student’s arrival time in advance. However, if there are any changes or delays, we may not be able to provide you with exact details. In such cases, we provide the student with your contact details (telephone and email) and advise them to contact you directly to arrange a convenient time for arrival. It’s important for the student to contact you or our agency prior to arrival to ensure that you are available to greet them. We recommend that you keep your phone and email accessible so that you can easily communicate with the student.

What if I have a pet?

We love pets too, and we understand that they’re an important part of your family. If you have a pet, please let us know in advance so we can put your pet on your host profile. We’ll do our best to match you with a student who likes the same type of pet or at the very least isn’t allergic to your pet.

Do I have to provide meals for students as a host?

You can choose which meal plans you offer for students. We will then match you to a student requesting that meal plan.

Once you are both happy with the arrangement, you will then be responsible for providing meals as per the agreement. At London Homestays, we offer three meal plans that you can choose from based on your preferences and availability.

The first option is the self-catering plan, which means that the student is responsible for their own meals. This option is suitable for hosts who may not have the time or resources to provide meals, or for students who prefer to prepare their own food.

The second option is the bed and breakfast plan, which includes breakfast only. This plan is suitable for hosts who may not have the time or resources to provide an evening meal, or for students who prefer to have more flexibility in their meal plans. Please note that hosts are not expected to serve the breakfast, just to provide the items and show the student where they are stored. Students are usually allowed light use of the kitchen, for example, toaster, microwave, kettle etc.

The third option is the half-board plan, which includes breakfast and dinner. This plan is suitable for hosts who are able to provide two meals a day and prefer not to provide kitchen use.

You can find further information on meal plans here.

How do meals work? What are the students expecting?

As a host, you don’t need to be an amazing cook or prepare anything special for your student. Many students simply want to enjoy similar meals to what you and your family would normally eat and to share those meals with you whenever possible. For breakfast, hosts are expected to provide a continental breakfast, including cereal, toast or bread/rolls with butter, marmalade or jam, fruit juice and tea or coffee with fresh milk. Some students may appreciate a piece of fruit, while others might expect cold ham, cheese, or yogurt. You are not obligated to provide any additional items beyond the minimum requirement. For dinner, the expectation is a substantial cooked meal, consisting of a main course of meat or fish, with potatoes, pasta or rice, and green vegetables or salad. This should be followed by fruit or dessert and/or cheese. Bread is also appreciated by many overseas students. Vegetarian students should be provided with an alternative to meat or fish. And it’s worth checking with the student shortly after their arrival to see if they have any special dietary needs or preferences.

Who will pay me for hosting a student and when will I get paid?

We understand that receiving timely and efficient payment is important to our hosts. Payment for hosting is guaranteed by London Homestays and will be made by BACS bank transfer 10 days after the student’s arrival. The first payment will cover the first two-week period, with subsequent payments made every two weeks, depending on the student’s length of stay. If the duration of stay is less than two weeks, the full amount will be transferred 10 days after the student’s arrival.

If the student requests to extend their stay, please inform us so that we may collect additional payment from our client(s). Please do not accept any additional payments directly from the student or their agent as this is a serious breach of contract and may result in exclusion from future bookings with London Homestays.

Can I take payment directly from a student or discuss my pay rates and arrangements with them or their school or agent?

To avoid any confusion or problems, please don’t accept payment directly from a student or discuss your rates and arrangements with them, or their school or agent. We have a contract in place that outlines everything you need to know. If a student asks about pricing, just refer them to us at London Homestays, and we’ll handle it from there.

Do I have to pay tax on my homestay earnings?

As a host family, you can earn up to £7,500 per year tax-free through the Rent a Room Scheme, which means you won’t have to pay tax on any income up to this amount. This information is provided on the official UK government website. The page also includes further details on eligibility requirements and how to apply for the Rent a Room Scheme. We recommend following the above link to get the most up-to-date information.

What should I do if my student wishes to extend their stay?

We understand that sometimes students may wish to extend their stay in your home. If a student tells you that they wish to extend their stay, please ask them to arrange this with our office. As a host, you will only be paid for the period of stay that was originally booked by London Homestays. Only extensions of stay that have been authorised by our agency will be paid to host families.

Please do not accept any additional payments directly from the student for the extended stay, as this is a serious breach of contract and may result in exclusion from future bookings with London Homestays. We ask that you inform us promptly so that we can work with the student and the school to arrange for an extension, if possible.

What information should I provide to my student guest upon arrival as a host?

As a host, you have the opportunity to provide your student guest with a warm welcome and essential local knowledge. Remember that what seems second nature to you might be completely new to them. You could start by providing them with essential information, such as how to get to their school by public transport. This includes explaining where to find the nearest underground/train station/bus stop and how to purchase a travel card. Additionally, offering directions to shops, supermarkets, chemists, post offices, banks, libraries, leisure centres, internet cafes, and other local amenities can help them settle in comfortably. For long-stay students, you should also explain how to register with the local doctor. You could also provide information about your family and how your home works, such as breakfast and dinner times, laundry, bathroom schedules in the morning, and kitchen use. We recommend explaining any rules in a positive manner to avoid offending your guests. By providing such information, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable stay for your guests.

How should I keep my home clean while hosting a student?

We want your student guest to feel right at home! As such, students must be allowed to utilise all public areas of the house in the same way as any family member. To help them feel comfortable, it’s important to keep public areas, as well as the kitchen and bathrooms, very clean. You could take a few moments each day to ensure that your home is always clean and tidy while hosting a student. By keeping a clean and welcoming environment, you can help your student guests feel more at ease during their stay.

What is the policy for providing keys to students staying with me?

All students should be provided with their own house key, which should be returned to you on the day of departure. For students 18 years and older, they are free to come and go as they please, but we ask that they do so quietly, especially late at night. For younger students, there are curfews in place for their safety. We recommend using Whatsapp or other similar communication tools to stay in touch with your student guest, as good communication between hosts and students helps bookings go smoothly. By providing your student guest with a key and maintaining good communication, you can help them feel at ease in your home.

What are the heating requirements for hosting a student?

We want your student guests to feel at home and comfortable during their stay. It’s important to provide adequate heating in the student’s room and throughout the home. Many students who come from warmer climates may feel the cold more easily, especially if they’re not used to heating being switched off at night. Even if you feel warm and are used to the British weather, they might not be and might feel cold. To make sure your student is cosy, you may want to offer them an extra blanket or duvet.

What are the requirements for a student's room?

As a host, it is essential to provide your student guests with a comfortable and welcoming private space. To ensure this, it’s important to remove any personal belongings from the room, especially anything you may need access to during the student’s stay. For single bookings, the student should stay in the room alone, and if the room is booked as a “twin share”, it should be used by the two students named on the confirmation paperwork only. It’s important that our students don’t share their room with anyone who is not part of our programme, for their safety and security.

In terms of size, we follow the guidelines set out by the 1986 Housing Act, which states that the bedroom should be a minimum of 70 sq. ft. for one adult and 110 sq. ft. for two adults. The room must also be well-decorated and maintained with good lighting, including a bedside lamp, a carpet or rug, curtains or blinds at windows (windowless rooms are not acceptable), a wardrobe, storage space such as a chest of drawers, a bedside table, a desk or writing table with a chair, and a mirror. The room should be exclusively for your student’s use, and storage space should be empty for them to store their belongings.

To make your student guests feel more at ease, we recommend providing them with clean bed linen, which you will launder weekly. Students are expected to keep their own rooms tidy, but they are not expected to clean them. However, to keep the room clean and welcoming, we suggest that you clean it once a week. By working together to maintain the room, you can ensure your student guest has a comfortable and enjoyable stay.

What are the laundry arrangements for my student?

We promise our students two washes per week – one for light clothes, and one for dark clothes. Host families can choose to include the student’s washing with their own, or they can show students how to use the washing machines and let them do their own washing. The two promised washes should be free of charge. If the student wishes to do more than two washes per week, hosts can charge a reasonable fee for the extra washes. Please refer all discussions of this kind to our team at Additionally, hosts are encouraged to loan an iron and ironing board if requested by the student.

Are my students allowed to invite their friends over?

You are in control of whether or not your students can invite their friends over. It’s important to note that students must always ask for your permission before inviting guests to your home. It’s important to maintain the safety and security of your home and to ensure that your students and any guests are respectful of your property and belongings.

In the event that your student wishes to invite a friend over, we ask that you or the student inform our office beforehand. This way, we can provide advice and support if needed, and help ensure that everything goes smoothly. Please keep in mind that students are not permitted to have their friends or family stay overnight in their room without your prior consent.

What are the guidelines for students staying out late or spending the night away from home?

Students aged over 18 are free to stay out late or spend the night away from home. However, it is important for them to inform you if they will be late for meals or returning home very late. If you have concerns about students over the age of 18, please contact our office for advice. For juniors (under 18), they must inform you before they stay out or spend the night away from home. When they inform you, you should not automatically say yes, please refer the request to us 020 8395 0333 or We will check with the school/agent/parent to ensure they are happy to grant permission and will let you know as soon as possible.

What should I do if I have concerns about my student's welfare?

If you have any worries or concerns about a student staying with you, such as if they are excessively homesick or behaving irresponsibly, please contact us immediately. We will speak with the student or their school/agent to address your concerns and ensure the student’s welfare is being properly looked after. You should also be aware of our child protection policy which may be of assistance.

What safety rules do I need to follow as a homestay host?

As a homestay host, it is important to prioritise safety for your student guests. Some of the safety rules that you need to adhere to include ensuring that your gas boiler and any gas appliances have a current certificate issued by a GAS-SAFE registered plumber. You should establish escape routes in case of fire for all occupants in your house, and if you are a “private home” and can accommodate more than 6 guests, a fire certificate is required (unless they are sleeping on the ground or first floor of your home).

Your electrical wiring must be up-to-date and in good order, and you must have a smoke alarm installed. It is also important to be aware of the health and safety regulations with regard to cooking and keeping food. We may check on these safety rules from time to time to ensure that they are being followed for the well-being of your student guests.

What happens if I cancel a booking?

At London Homestays, we understand that sometimes hosts need to cancel a booking due to unforeseen circumstances. However, please be aware that when you agree to take a student, a chain of events is activated, and a cancellation can have serious consequences. We ask that hosts only cancel a booking if it is absolutely unavoidable. Cancelling a booking not only involves extensive administration for us, but it also damages our credibility with the client/school and can harm the school’s reputation with the agent. Worst of all, it can be stressful and upsetting for the student, who has mentally prepared themselves for their new home away from home. If you do need to cancel a booking, please notify us as soon as possible so that we can work with the client/school to find an alternative arrangement.

What happens if my booking gets cancelled?

We understand that cancellations can be inconvenient and stressful for our hosts. If a student cancels the accommodation that we have booked with you, we will notify you as soon as possible and place you on top priority for a replacement (subject to matching criteria). If the cancellation occurs at very short notice, and if we’re unable to supply a suitable replacement student, you may be entitled to receive financial compensation. Compensation will also be paid if a student fails to arrive without prior notice (no-show).

If a student asks to cut short their stay, please contact our office immediately. Our terms and conditions are designed to protect hosts from the inconvenience of a student leaving at short notice, and the student is normally expected to give reasonable notice before leaving to avoid penalties. The exception is when a student leaves due to a valid complaint about the accommodation, in which case we will work with you to resolve the matter. Please refer to your contract for further details. If you have any questions or concerns about the cancellation process, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team or check your host contract.

Who is responsible for any damage caused by my student guest?

We understand that your home is your sanctuary, and we want to ensure that you’re protected in case of any damage caused by your student guest. Please note that our agency is not responsible for loss or damage to the property of either yourself or your student guest.

We recommend that you check with your home contents insurance provider to see if your cover extends to paying guests. You may also want to consider purchasing public liability insurance to further protect yourself. In case of any damage caused by your student guest, we advise that you inform us immediately so that we can work with the school and the student to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

What should I do in case of an emergency with my student guest?

If you encounter any difficulties with a student that you cannot resolve yourself, please call us in the office on 0208 395 0333 or email us at Emergency mobile contact numbers are also available on your booking confirmation document. We regret that we are unable to answer general queries outside of office hours.

We’re here to support you every step of the way and want you to enjoy hosting the students. We may be able to assist by speaking directly to the student, possibly in their own language. We expect our hosts to be patient with their student guests, as sometimes what seems to be a big problem is the result of a cultural difference or misunderstanding of the language.

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