Doctor in the House Family Letter 2023



Overview of the Homestay marketplace and Doctor in the House: January 2023


First of all, may I apologise for the slightly later than planned delivery of this letter. We have some exciting news about our Web platform which we’ve been waiting to have completed before contacting you.
As we progress into 2023 it is time to reflect on the year gone by. To those of you who are new to Doctor in the House (DitH), this circular is sent as a reminder to our Hosts of your responsibilities to our Guests, and as an aide-memoire of what needs to be done as a responsible Host during 2023. It is also an update newsletter. As always Doctor in the House continues to progress, develop and change and will continue to do so. We wish to let you know what we’ve been up to behind the scenes.
We are making some fundamental changes in 2023 that will affect you as a host going forward, so do please read all of this letter, it’s a lot to take in but I promise it won’t take longer than a few minutes and it should stand you in good stead for the year.
The last few years have not been easy for DitH or for almost any other business, especially those involved in the hospitality and accommodation sector. What with Brexit and the political turmoil that followed, the pandemic years, and the post pandemic world with Britain seemingly being in a state of permacrisis, it’s been tough.
As a result of the last few years, the only way for DitH to survive and keep going was to reduce our overhead as much as possible. Like any business, this meant sadly saying goodbye in 2020 to our two fantastic bookers, Sandra and Cat and finally our manager, Lewis, in mid 2021. At this point, Chris and I had the difficult decision of either winding up the business after more than 30 years or somehow to find a way to keep DitH trading.
It is at this point I stepped into the breach. As the majority owner I took on more or less all of the functions and roles of the business, including the bookings. With the support of Chris, where possible, our fantastic web developers and digital media and marketing experts in Bulgaria, It has been quite a learning curve but we are still here and going strong.
Since September 2021, we have seen the number of guest enquires and bookings steadily increase. In particular, our niche sector of professional guests from medicine and academia, London remains one of the leading global cities where our teaching hospitals, universities and other academic institutions and museums are some of the best in the world. As a result, a huge bottleneck had built up and, as many of you will have experienced, guest enquiries and bookings have now reached pre-pandemic levels and exceeded them over the past few months during 2022. Unfortunately, that has not meant business is all the same as it used to be and we seem to have lost all bookings and enquiries linked to the NHS Barnet Trust in North London. The NHS has clearly found an alternative solution to housing its overflow of clinicians through its own accommodation, however, we will continue to pursue this business back for our hosts, who particular benefited from a steady flow of guests working for Barnet hospital.
I cannot deny that the last 18 months have not been challenging and/or completely over-whelming at times. As a small business I have very much enjoyed getting to know the business inside and out and getting to know our hosts, some who have received more bookings than others due to their particular location where demand has been strongest through our platform. I have also enjoyed travelling around London visiting and chatting with new hosts, especially now that we are in a position to take on new suitable hosts. We now have a wonderful and very able photographer who can visit new and existing hosts to help build and update our microsites. The next step will be to take on a new booker.
The last year has seen DitH focus further on social media campaigning and digital media marketing. Improving our standing online, continuing to adapt to the changing face and requirements to keep us viable and in front of our target audience via search engine optimisation (i.e searches via google) and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. In particular, the increased need for video and voice over rather than static pictures and written copy no longer cuts it anymore. So far, the results have been really impressive with a substantial increase in engagement, reach, reaction and click through rates with the video campaigns aimed at our target audience. The taking of a video when visiting new and existing hosts and their accommodation will now be the norm.
The big US-based accommodation platforms continue to dominate the market and indeed change the landscape. The pandemic hit all accommodation platforms hard, which has seen the big players focus back to the origins of their business and to high end homestays, as well as continuing with entire apartments and standalone accommodation. However, we believe the likes of AirBnb and are still focused primarily on high margin, shorter term, tourist and shared family holiday market and less so for the new class of unencumbered entrepreneurial digital nomads and professionals looking for long term stay of around 1 to 3 months. The bottle neck of demand for affordable accommodation in London across all visiting sectors, has resulted at times in demand out stripping supply, even for our limited number of hosts and accommodation on our platform.
That being said, big businesses continued influence on the market, of which they are the architects, is indeed immense with a great deal of shareholder and investor capital behind them. DitH for the moment remains a small niche player that will continue to serve a very specific customer base with a particular selection of carefully chosen hosts and accommodation. We will operate as best as we can with our limited capital resources and tech, always improving where and when we can and delivering a service with a human element still between host and guest. This makes us increasingly different, but a little slower moving compared to the other fully automated hi-tech algorithm and AI driven platforms. This may be a good thing for some hosts and guests and less so for others.
Due to the new economic landscape to the pre pandemic year, the same standard rates we have had for the previous 3 years to 2022 have been increased (see below for more detail) by approximately 11% across all rate bands in July 2022 and with a further 10% increase in the lowest rate band for stays of over 28 nights. This reflects the increased costs hosts are facing, particularly for the longer staying guests. We believe this is fair increase in costs (that will be kept under review more regularly now) that still offers a competitive and affordable pricing for excellent accommodation in London for the type of guests/institutions and their budgets that use our platform. Please remember, should you wish, we are very happy to update and customise your rate card if you would like to charge more.



What’s new from Doctor in the House?



2023 will be a year of further change, development and improvement on existing functionalities in our booking system that we launched in 2019. Our website and booking system has helped us to perform in much the same basic way as the major players in the accommodation market.
The main changes are long overdue “under the hood’ improvements with the engine of our business, the bespoke booking system, and making it more efficient and streamlined in the workflow for completing a booking from the guest’s initial enquiry to completing the booking, receiving payments and paying hosts.
As many of you are aware, DitH has also been moving away from taking just an advance deposit payment to taking the full rent upfront for bookings less than 60 days and paying this by bank transfer to the host on the start date of the booking. The exception being for short bookings of 1 to 4 nights or where a host specifically requests being paid in cash for the booking.
This is down to an increasingly cashless society where holding and carrying cash presents its own risks, and also due to greater security and fraud protection by banks. Guests can experience problems when withdrawing large amounts of cash by debit/credit card, especially if not from the UK. It is also simply a lot more convenient for guests to pay the full rent in his manner.
This approach also provides greater security for you if payments are taken upfront, especially for short notice bookings and cancellations that are made in less than 7 days before a booking starts. When holding funds DitH is in a stronger position to pay cancellation fees.
The template of the booking confirmation emails will therefore be changing in the coming weeks to reflect these changes.
We very much understand you have a choice to work with other accommodation platforms in the market with DitH being either one of a few you work with or being the only platform you use for your accommodation. Either way and looking to 2023 and beyond, our target is to keep increasing booking numbers, prosperity for our Hosts, delivering quality guests and taking on some new staff. We very much look forward to working with you over the coming months.

Important points to remember as a Host, rates, things to do, and TAX update.




I am sure you know from your own experiences that a warm greeting is always appreciated, and we encourage you to make your Guests feel at ease even before their arrival with a friendly welcome email, many of your Guests will be new to the UK and we know from feedback given to us that they deeply value and appreciate the extra efforts our Hosts go to by being forthcoming and approachable in their initial correspondences, providing directions, little tips, and general household information. It costs very little to make the first move and create a good relationship with a Guest, and if you get it right at the beginning you will avoid any ambiguity and possible misunderstandings between you and your Guests, leaving everybody happy.
If you would like any help from Doctor in the House with your opening email, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will more than happy to help you craft something.


You will by now be aware of our automated acceptance or decline emails (which will be changing shortly). When receiving a booking enquiry please click on one of the options depending on your answer:
Green to accept
Red to decline
Blue if you want to know more. By clicking on Blue opens up a new email that is easy to manage at our end and enables you to ask as many questions as you like.
DitH will send an automated email that must be replied to within 24 – 72 hrs (currently under review), if possible. If we don’t hear from you within a certain time period we will assume you are not interested and we will move on to find another host for the guest. Where and when we can, we will also call to see if you can take a booking, especially if it is a short notice accommodation request. Sadly, today’s Guests seek instant gratification and unless we can confirm accommodation is available almost immediately, they start shopping elsewhere, which means we lose a potential booking.
When you do accept a booking you can now see full details on your Microsite. Go to the agreement section where you can see your booking details in full. Furthermore, you can also access a full record of previous bookings. If you are unsure how to do this, contact me, I will be delighted to help.
When bookings are confirmed you and your Guest receive a comprehensive email detailed with everything you need to know about the booking.  One recent change to our system is the instruction to your Guest to make contact. This is now written in red statingIt is most important that you contact your Host well in advance of your stay to confirm and arrange your time of arrival. Preferably once you have made your advance payment.
On occasions, Guests appear to miss this essential message but we keep trying.
As I mentioned already, for both short and longer-term short term bookings, DitH will now be collecting the full fee from your Guest or institution/organisation (if booked by a 3rd party) and will pay you for your accommodation via a bank transfer on the start date of the booking or, if at the weekend or on a holiday, on the nearest business/working day. For longer term bookings of 2 months and more DitH will continue to make a monthly bank transfer at the start of each month booked.
Very short term bookings (e.g 1-4 nights) can still be paid in cash by your Guests, though if you prefer to be paid solely by bank transfer that can be arranged upon request.
Keeping track of you within our booking system
One of the critical aspects of our booking system are your needs and specific requirements. If your circumstances have changed in any way over the past year please contact DitH/Mark (me), I will be eager to update your records.
Typical changes and useful information might be:
  • Changes to your household, access to the kitchen or bathroom. A new pet or for that matter any animal.
  • Any dates where you are unavailable and do not wish to receive a booking.
  • Preferred type of booking. You may wish to broaden your original brief to get more bookings.
Repeat bookings – When you receive a Guest from DitH your Guest will have agreed to our terms and conditions, which are legally binding. It is important to note that even if they have come to you directly after a previous stay, prices and management fee for Doctor in the House accommodation will still apply. Just let us know and we will create a new booking for you.


Insurance is essential and not a ‘nice to have’. Please make sure you are adequately covered to take paying guests. If you experience any problems please contact us and we will be delighted to help.



A gas certificate is now a legal requirement when providing accommodation for paying guests. You must have your gas boiler checked annually and obtain a gas certificate. Many of you have provided us with a copy but not all. Can you
please scan your copy and email it to me at your earliest convenience.


If you have a gas boiler it is a legal requirement to fit Carbon Monoxide Detectors. Please also ensure you install a smoke alarm on each floor, and if you have a solid fuel burner you will also need to install a Carbon Monoxide detector in the nearby vicinity. They are cheap to install but they do need a new battery from time to time unless you wish to install the more expensive type, which last for 10 years.


One for Homestays and not flats or bedsits. Could you please offer your Guest a full continental breakfast. That’s tea/coffee, juice, cereal, toast/bread, and fruit and ensure that all products are within their 'sell-by' date. We suggest that you discuss breakfast with your Guest on arrival.  If you go out in the morning to work could you please leave breakfast in a suitable place and show your Guest what they need to do when preparing breakfast i.e. preparing coffee/tea/toast.
At DitH we still follow HMRC guidelines so if you choose not to provide breakfast, HMRC will technically not consider your earnings to be from B&B and you will not be able to make the most from the new tax break. See below under Tax.

TV, HEATING, and Wi-Fi

In days gone by we had asked for you to provide your Guest room with a TV as this was considered a basic requirement for Homestay (B&B) accommodation. Now the internet has taken over and most Guests will probably now be watching TV on their laptops, or other devices. Therefore, please ensure your Guests have access to hi-speed Wi-Fi. When we promote your accommodation we state internet access as standard. In today’s world, such a facility is considered as an essential tool for both work and recreation and not a “nice to have”. Furthermore, please try and ensure your broadband connection is fast and not just installed as a token measure. 

One re-occurring point made repeatedly by our Guests is heating. Please ensure that your Guest’s room is warm in the morning and the evening, London can be a chilly place for Guests arriving from warmer countries and just because you like plenty of fresh air doesn’t mean your guests will feel the same way. Remember they are paying for a comfortable warm bedroom.


For bookings up to 27 nights and 28 nights + we will continue to work with the new rates set in 2022 (detailed below) with the option to opt for a custom rate card. This means if you wish you can now set your own rate. Please contact me if you wish to do so.
We understand that in these unprecedented times that rates need to keep up with the increased costs for accommodating guests, particularly with regards to rising heating/energy costs and inflationary pressures on overheads when it comes running an accommodation.
However, we still ask hosts to be mindful of budgets of the type guests and institutions that use our platform and their spending limits.  We recommend you stay at our standard rate for Homestay accommodation, unless you have previously agreed bespoke rate.
Our DitH management fixed fee remains the same for 2023 but increased during 2022 due to our own significant increased costs and inflation, and higher cost per sale than the larger major accommodation platforms. You may wish to know, unlike other accommodation agencies, we do not pass on to you, as hosts, the cost for being on our platform.
For those of you who have self-contained flats with separate access and some bedsits we still negotiate the fee/rate for each flat independently.
Please remember when DitH is making a booking it will be invariably for single occupancy which is the rate paid by the Guest, even if the room is a double. We do not charge for a double if we only have a single occupant. As a rule of thumb for Homestays, an additional guest, using the same room, is charged at £20.00 per night.
We do include a charge of £35 per night for a child, but as we rarely accommodate guests with children, we will approach this on a case by case basis when an accommodation request comes in which a child is included, however, this is not the space or market we operate in.
Your recommended rates for a Homestay with Doctor in the House for 2023 are:
Per night
Per night
Those who have special accommodation will continue to operate with a custom rate card.


Doctor in the House, will now collect, in most cases, the full rent upfront for guest stays and then pay you, as hosts, on the start date of the booking, unless a host specifically requests to be paid in cash by the guest in pounds sterling on arrival.
Very short term bookings (e.g 1-4 nights) can still be paid in cash by your Guests, though if you prefer to be paid solely by bank transfer that can be arranged upon request.
In the case of all bookings made by a 3rd party (corporate clients) and/or long-term bookings (over 60 nights), DitH will collect directly from the institution/organisation or guest and either pay on the start day of the booking by bank transfer or on a monthly basis and will pay you on a monthly basis (see note).


You can now access all of your booking records via your Microsite, which will be helpful if you are asked to make a tax return for HMRC.
A few important points to consider for Homestay accommodation and HMRC rules:
  • You should not expect to accommodate more than six people at the same time.
  • The building must be your own home or if leased it is must be stated in your agreement that you can run a Homestay or B&B.
  • The Homestay business must be secondary to the use of the building as a home.

Rent a Room scheme

Many of our Hosts operate under HMRC’s Rent a Room scheme. The Rent a Room scheme is an optional scheme available to owner-occupiers or tenants who let out furnished accommodation to a Guest in their main home. From April 2016 the scheme allows you to earn up to £7,500 tax-free, or £3,250 if you are letting jointly.
If the amount you earn from renting out the room is less than the thresholds of the Rent a Room scheme, then your tax exemption is automatic and you don’t need to do anything.
If you earn more than the threshold, you must complete a tax return (even if you don’t normally), and you can then do one of the following:
  • Choose to opt into the scheme – in which case you need to let HM Revenue & Customs know this on your tax return and claim your tax-free allowance.
  • Not opt into it – in which case you simply record your income and any associated expenses on the property pages of your tax return.
There’s no special form for telling HM Revenue & Customs that you don’t want to be part of the scheme. If you earn more than the threshold or already complete a tax return, you simply declare the relevant lettings income and expenses when completing your tax return.


At DitH we continue to operate with real people who manage every step, from enquiry through to booking until your Guest leaves your accommodation. We are always there to iron out any wrinkle and ensure you and your Guests are happy and if things do not go as planned, we are there to support you and ensure any issue is resolved swiftly. We are not a large faceless company so if you have any concerns please contact DitH /myself and we will do everything I can to put your mind at rest or resolve any issue you might have.


And finally!

I hope you have found this information to be clear and useful, and if you have any questions please to do not hesitate to contact us.
We will continue to work hard to develop closer relationships with Hospitals, institutions and other 3rd party organisations in London that use our platform and we anticipate continued positive reaction to our online campaigns and strategies.
Best wishes from the Doctor in the House Team.
Mark and Chris