In order renting accommodation in London, most often you will have to register with one or more estate agents. You can walk into any number of agencies in the neighborhood in which you have decided to focus. Your agent will usually require references and details such as your employer’s phone number, your former landlord contact, and proof of a bank account. We would advise you to get a file together with these documents before starting your search. A complete portfolio typically consists of:
- Identification such as passport or driving license
- Employers reference
- Bank accountant reference
- Most recent payslips
- Most recent bank statements
- Most recent bill or bills in your name and current address
- Previous landlord reference
You could also look privately, in the local newspapers, Gumtree http://www.gumtree.com/ or the Loot http://loot.co.uk/. Be aware, however, there are sometimes scams involved with these websites; do not part with money or account numbers before being certain that the accommodation really exists.
You should have good credit if you wish to rent in the UK. If you are new to the UK and don’t have much to show credit-wise in the capital, your landlord might ask for a bigger security deposit. You can negotiate this if you’re dealing with a private landlord. Estate agents will use online verification programs to check your credit and verify you are who you say you are. Also, be prepared to provide references. Your company may be able to assist in this step by providing a letter stating your contract terms and salary.
Six months to one-year lease is standard but you can often move out early, make sure you read the “break out clause” and understand the penalties before signing the lease. Apartments are available furnished or unfurnished and it is up to the individual landlord whether to offer the apartment furnished. You will be responsible for all the bills including utilities (water, electricity, mobile phone, land line, internet, TV license, etc) and council tax which varies from borough to borough and could add up to one and half month of your yearly rental.
Leases can be renewed annually but many landlords allow a month-to-month agreement to begin after the first 12 months are up.
Before moving into your new accommodation, you will be asked for a deposit which is returned when you leave, you should insist for interest to be added. You will be asked to sign an inventory that certifies the state of the accommodation and possessions. Make sure you check this thoroughly. One month’s rent is a standard security deposit in the UK.
Tenant Deposit Schemes
All UK landlords are required to use either the custodial scheme or insurance-based scheme and must tell their tenants which scheme they are using. These schemes have been put into place to ensure landlords don’t ‘spend’ your security deposit. The landlord keeps the deposit and pays a premium to the insurer under the insurance-based scheme, whereas under the custodial scheme the landlord is required to deposit the funds into a holding account. Both schemes require that the security deposit you’ve paid is returned to you within 10 days of vacating the property unless there are damages to be disputed.
Overview: The Process
Once you have found an apartment you like, to show that you are genuine and to remove the property from the market, you will need to pay a non-refundable £100 Reservation Fee. The fee will contribute towards your first month’s rent.
Nest, you are required to fill in the Information & Declaration Form and provide all the references and details mentioned at the top of the page.
If your application is successful, you will agree to a move-in date. From then on the process accelerates You will sign a Tenancy agreement for 12 months, pay a deposit (usually 6 weeks) + the first-month rent, authorize a standing order mandate, verify and sign the inventory form. A smoke alarm release form will also need to be signed before moving in.
Signing a Tenancy Agreement
Signing an agreement legally binds you to the conditions within the lease, so you want to be sure to read it thoroughly and understand each component. Here is a checklist to help you:
- Read through the agreement and if anything is unclear ask for an explaination and clarify any details until you understand what is meant or seek some legal advice.
- If anything is missing or there are any incorrect details get them corrected before you sign e.g. rent, what bills if any are included in the rent, landlord name, and contact details.
- Make sure the tenancy agreement states clearly what is included in the rent and what is not.
- Ensure that it is clear what the rent amount is and when it is due.
- If a deposit is paid it should state this and the amount.
- Ensure that you know when you are moving in / the start date of the tenancy is clearly shown.
- It should state how long the tenancy is for eg. six months or more.
Once you are satisfied with the lease, you can sign and should receive keys to move in. Make sure you have the contact details, not only for the landlord but the agency as well. Make sure you know if the agency is managing the property or if you will be dealing with the landlord after you have signed the rental agreement.
Be sure to take gas and electric meter readings and contact the suppliers giving them the readings on the day you move in.
Rental prices are often quoted per week. Building and Content Insurance should be included in the rental price however this needs to be checked, get it in writing if possible.
To give you an idea of the price differences in the various areas consult the useful London Property Watch: http://www.zoopla.co.uk.
The following link is the government website designed to help with renting: https://www.gov.uk/private-renting