A boarding house, is a house (often a family home) in which lodgers rent one or more rooms for one or more nights, and sometimes for extended periods of weeks, months and years. The common parts of the house are maintained, and some services, such as laundry and cleaning, may be supplied. They normally provide "bed and board", that is, at least some meals as well as accommodation. A "lodging house", also known in the United States as a "rooming house", may or may not offer meals. Lodgers legally only obtain a licence to use their rooms, and not exclusive possession, so the landlord retains the right of access.
A fictional example is Sherlock Holmes's shared rooms at 221b Baker Street, of which the landlady Mrs Hudson provided some domestic service.
Years ago boarders would typically share washing, breakfast and dining facilities; in recent years it has become common for each room to have its own washing and toilet facilities. Such boarding houses were often found in English seaside towns (for holidaymakers) and college towns (for students). It was not unusual for there to be one or two elderly long-term residents.
Boarders can often arrange to stay bed-and-breakfast (bed and breakfast only), half-board (bed, breakfast and dinner only) or full-board (bed, breakfast, lunch and dinner). Especially for families on holiday with children, boarding (particularly on a full-board basis) was an inexpensive alternative and certainly much cheaper than staying in all but the cheapest hotels. In the United Kingdom, boarding houses were typically run by landladies, some of whom maintained draconian authority in their houses: the residents might not be allowed to remain on the premises during the daytime and could be subject to rigorous rules and regulations, stridently enforced.
Bed and breakfast accommodation (B&B), which exists in many countries in the world (e.g. the UK, the USA, Canada, and Australia), is a specialised form of boarding house in which the guests or boarders normally stay only on a bed-and-breakfast basis, and where long-stay residence is rare.
However some B&B accommodation is made available on a long-term basis to UK local authorities who are legally obliged to house persons and families for whom they have no social housing available. Some such boarding houses allow large groups with low incomes to share overcrowded rooms, or otherwise exploit people with problems rendering them vulnerable, such as those with irregular immigration status. Such a boarding-house may well cease to be attractive to short-term lodgers, and the residents may remain in unsatisfactory accommodation for long periods. Much old seaside accommodation is so used, since cheap flights have reduced demand for their original seasonal holiday use.
Apart from the worldwide spread of the concept of the B&B, there are equivalents of the British boarding houses elsewhere in the world. For example, in Japan, minshuku are an almost exact equivalent although the normal arrangement would be the equivalent of the English half-board. In Hawaii, where the cost of living is high and incomes barely keep pace, it is common to take in lodgers (who are boarders in English terminology) that share the burden of the overall rent or mortgage payable.
- ↑ Bill Bryson: Notes from a Small Island
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