How to Rent a House in London
London in probably one of the most desired and beautiful cities to live in, but also one of the most difficult to find a place. There are many aspects that make your search very stressful, which are the possible amount of competition you may face once you find a place, the high prices, the bureaucracy, dealing with estate agencies and the number of places you see until you find the right one. Adding to that, once you get an offer accepted, then comes all these extra costs, that are either incurred by the estate agencies, or by buying everything you need for your new home. So below I am going to explain to you how everything works when letting a place in this city and hopefully help you achieve a smoother process.
The London estate market works a bit different compared to other cities I lived before. Here everything goes through an Estate Agency and you will rarely find a place listed by the owner on its own. That being said, you have to be ready and understand what is required from you from these firms as it will facilitate everything once you find the right place.
Before you try to find a place in London you have to be set up in the UK as hardly anybody will let houses to people who are not.
First you will need to open a local bank account because you will later be asked to provide this information in order to set up an automatic charge for your rent.
Second, you need to show that you are able to afford the place you want to let by proving your proof of income if you are employed. If you are a student or are still looking for a job, you will either have to pay money up front or have a UK based guarantor. You may also be asked to show proof of savings. If you are a business owner, you will have to prove your income through bank statements for the past year or so, or, if you don’t have that, you can also pay money upfront. Please remember that some estate agencies require you to earn 2 to 2.5 times the rent asked.
Third, you will need to have the correct documentation and prove you are allowed to live the in the UK by showing originals of passport, visa or UK document card. There are strict regulations in this country concerning immigration and money laundering.
Fourth, you will need to be ready to give references, including from previous landlords and work, so make sure to let them know that they will be contacted by the agency.
Finally, you will need to also have all the moneys ready before you find the place, which will normally include 1 month of rent, a security deposit (generally 6 weeks of rent) and all the fees from the estate agency (such as inventory check In, references and contract).
Searching for a Place
Once you know you are ready to provide what is required, you can begin your search. By knowing how much you earn you will have an idea on the range of rent you can afford. When you are sharing with other people, it could be the combination of everyone's earnings. Please remember that you need to be over 18 to rent a place in this city. Other information you will provide are the desired locations and your pre-requisites (such as number of bedrooms, amenities, furnishing, etc)
The easiest way to look for places is through websites such as RightMove and Zoopla, which are the most popular ones. You can also go to specific estate agencies’ website and search their listings. In addition, you can sign up in person in one of their branches, and luckily you get to see some places right away. I would like to warn here about the calls you will receive back once you apply for the places as It may become a nuisance depending on the number of different agencies you signed up for, so I would recommend picking only the right ones. Also, some estate agents can be really pushy and salesy, so be sure to know what you want and don’t be afraid to say no.
Finding a Place
After seeing a good amount of places you should be able to make your decision. I would like to stress out the fact that you must manage your expectations, especially when you first move to London and are used to getting more and better location for your money elsewhere. Also, a lot of the estate agents take you to show other places that you didn’t apply for, which can be a good or annoying thing. In this stage it is important to move fast once you have found a place you like, as there could be other people interested in it and you could lose the chance of renting it.
Closing the Deal
Once you have found a place you liked then comes the tricky part: making an offer. In this stage the estate agent will try to take the most out of you, but don’t fall into the pressure and consider how much you are willing to spend. In London, unlike many places I lived before, you are able to offer an amount that is under the asking price, so if they are asking for £400/week you can put an offer for £375/week for example. However, this tactic can be a bit risky, and it will depend on how much you want the place and how it is popular with other possible tenants. Obviously, the landlord will want to get as much as possible for the rent, so he will try to push for highest amount. The landlord decision will also be affected by your position when letting the house and being a good desired tenant. If you think that the situation is so that you have to increase your offer to even above asking price, you can do so as well.
Another point that will affect your negotiations is the contract length and breaking clause. Generally, landlords try to find tenants that will stay as long as possible. With that being said, if you are looking for a contract that is two years or longer, you have better negotiating power when putting a below asking price offer forward. Hopefully, there is no stress when putting an offer and having that accepted, and you can soon sign the contract and move in.
It is important to make sure to specify any requirements in terms of furniture, cleaning or any fixing that needs to be done and have everything in the contract before you sign it as well. All of this will vary depending on the negotiations, and you may not always have everything you want.
Once you are Moved In
With luck, everything went smoothly during closing and moving in, and you are now able to enjoy your new place. If you see anything that wasn’t according to the contract, don’t hesitate to contact the landlord or estate agency and have the issues solved. And hopefully the relationship between you and the landlord is a smooth one and that you are happy with your new place.