There is a wealth of accommodation for rent in London, and whether you are a high-paid executive, student, young professional, culture lover or a parent with a family in tow there will be a suitable property for you. The most difficult part is tracking that elusive property down, but if you put in the necessary work you will eventually get there. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to look for a rental property; the process can take some time.
Finding a suitable property
If you can arrange it, there is no substitution to actually being in London when looking for a house or flat to rent. If you can spend a week or two in cheap hotels or, even better, come to an arrangement with friends or family, you can make contact with various estate agents and start viewing properties right away. Talk to people you know and look on expat forums to decide which agents to try and which to avoid as well as which areas are suitable to live in and which should be left well alone. Estate agents don’t generally share lists in London so expect to be walking into a lot of branches. If you are pushed for time, it is worth considering using a relocation agency to help you source a property.
London is enormous, so where you decide to live will be a key consideration. Some expats decide to track down areas favoured by others from the same country while others are happy to join the multicultural throng.
If there is no chance of a visit in person, you will need to go down the online route. As well as specific estate agency sites, good resources to try include Prime Location, Zoopla and Rightmove. The classified sites Loot and Gumtree also deal in property advertising. Those listed above all have sophisticated search filters that allow you to quickly narrow down your area of focus by location, price, property type, number of rooms etc.
London rental prices are notoriously high and, since the economic crisis, have been steadily rising again. They are also very location-specific and you will get less space for your money the closer you get to the city centre. As you move further away, you will have commuting times and costs to consider, and the Transport for London site can help you work out journey times and fares for the different zones. As a rough guide to London’s apartment rental market, a studio flat in one of the outlying areas might cost you around £150 a week, while a flat/apartment in Kensington will probably be around the £1 000 a week mark. You also need to factor in the upfront price of a security deposit. This is usually the same as six weeks’ rent, so in the examples above you would be looking at £900 to £6000.
In order of ascending price, examples of types of property available in the city are bedsits, studio apartments, flats/apartments and houses. You may also come across mews (refurbished or replicated living quarters that used to accompany stables) and mansion blocks (high-end flats). Standard flats/apartments come in a variety of guises, from converted houses and tower blocks to luxury managed developments complete with 24 hour concierge.
Flats are in high demand in London which means you have little to no chance of success with haggling the price down; there are simply too many people queuing behind you for a landlord to need to accommodate your budget. This also means that the property owner can afford to be very picky, so be prepared for some unusual questions about your habits and lifestyle. If you are offered a property and you are confident you want to take it, don’t hesitate in putting down a ‘holding deposit’ of a week’s rent. This will be non-refundable, but it saves you being outbid by a rival tenant.
You will also need to find out which, if any, bills and utilities will be included in the rent as council tax, electricity, gas, water, TV, telephone and broadband will usually not be included in the rent
Filling out paperwork is something that you are just going to have to get used to if you plan to rent a property in London.
You will need to bring the following as a minimum:
- Bank statements
- A letter from your employer which states your salary and confirms your ongoing employment in London
- References from previous landlord
If you don’t have the above, you will almost certainly need to arrange a guarantor for your rent.
Once you’ve been accepted as a tenant, you will need to sign your tenancy agreement. This is usually an Assured Shorthold Tenancy agreement (AST) and it gives you a minimum of six months protection from eviction (providing you abide by the terms and conditions of the contract). After the initial fixed term (which can be up to three years without the need for deeds), the property owner can repossess the property with two month’s notice. In most cases, the contract is renewed unless circumstances change. Once the initial fixed period is over, you are free to leave after giving the requisite notice. If you have a lengthy fixed term, consider asking for a ‘break clause’ in case things don’t work out.
Signing your AST (or other tenancy agreement) does not mark the end of the paper trail. You will then need to go through a property inventory with your agent or landlord. This is a list of all the important items in the property together with their condition. If you agree with what’s on the inventory you can sign it. This will be used if there is any dispute over whether you should get all of your deposit back at the end of your tenancy, so don’t sign it unless you are happy it is accurate.
Some property owners conduct quarterly reviews of the inventory, but most only look at it again at the end of your stay. You should carry out the final inventory check with the agent or property owner before handing back the keys.