How to Find a House to Rent in London
Finding a new home in London can be quite an experience. There are a lot of rentals available, but there are also a lot of people looking, so the quicker you are and the more time you have for viewings, the more likely you are to find the perfect place. If you’re used to big spaces and cheap rent, you may be in for a bit of a shock when you move to London.
The more time you have to house-hunt, the better equipped you’ll be at making the right judgement calls and if you have the time, I recommend that you start looking at rentals two or three months before you move to London. It’s a great way to familiarise yourself with not only the price and quality of rentals available, but also the different areas of London.
Depending on what type of living situation you’re after will depend on which websites you should look at.
Apartment share in London:
In general, the easiest and most popular way to move to London is to move into an existing apartment share, which means you’ll be sharing a house or apartment with other people.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 and fresh out of high school, in your 20s & 30s living with your partner, or 40 and living the bachelor life; one of the things we love about London is that it’s completely socially acceptable to apartment share in London no matter what your life circumstance (though we’d probably draw the line at having kids).
Sharing an apartment is the most pain-free way to first move to London as the apartments are usually fully furnished (including bedrooms) and things like the bills and internet are already set up and running, so you can literally move in and not worry about anything other than paying your rent on time. These set ups are mostly run by private landlords and often it’s up to the existing housemates to find and approve a new housemate.
Meeting potential housemates is a little like the dating scene – lots of awkward first dates and trying to get to know one another in as little time as possible to see if you get on well. It’s best to play the field a bit and see as many as possible, so you can see what’s out there and settle on the right one (we’re still talking about apartments here, not dating).
Where to start looking for apartment shares
There’s a handful of main websites you should use to search for apartment share rentals in London:
- MoveFlat - great for people who are looking to share an apartment with like-minded people, where ads tend to be quite personal and informative with lots of photos
- Gumtree - very popular and basic website where anyone can come to buy or sell literally anything. There is a section of the site dedicated to house hunting, however be warned that it can get quite repetitive and you have to sort through a lot of junk to find the ads applicable to you. This is generally a forum for existing housemates and private landlords to advertise rooms and apartments, just be careful of any scams – if it looks too good to be true then it generally is!
- Spareroom - another good site for apartment sharing. It has great search options, tends to be a little less personal than MoveFlat, yet still provides a lot more information than Gumtree.
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Renting a whole property in London
If you’re not so keen on sharing your home with housemates, you’ll want to look into renting your own place. Unless you go through a website such as Gumtree, then the majority of apartments you’ll find will be rented through a real estate agent.
You’ll need to provide evidence of a regular income with at least 3 months worth of UK payslips, a job reference and a landlord reference for your application.
Furnish or unfurnished? That is the question
Many apartments in London come furnished, and if it’s not furnished it should say so on the ad. This generally means there will be things such as a bed, couch, shelves, wardrobe, dining table, etc. This doesn’t usually include electronics (other than a fridge and washing machine), so you’ll most likely need to purchase a kettle, microwave, vacuum cleaner and a TV for example.
Furnished apartments are an excellent option if you're moving from abroad, as you don’t have to worry about lifting heavy furniture. However, unfurnished has its benefits as you can pick and choose what goes into your new space.
Things to remember when you move in
Setting up utilities
When you move into an empty apartment, you should call the gas and electricity providers to register your details and provide the meter reading on your first day to avoid being charged for the previous tenants usage.
You’ll most likely need to arrange internet yourself, and this can take some time so plan ahead.
Within a couple of weeks in your new home you should receive your very first Council Tax bill. Tenants must pay this and it costs between $100 - $190 per month on average, depending where you live and how valuable your home is. There are also discounts for students; make sure to check with your council.
Where to look to rent in London
Where you start to find a house to rent in London depends on your situation. If you're moving to London with your family, discover the best neighbourhoods to for families in London and narrow down your search by area and decent schools. For those moving to London for work after uni, check out which London neighbourhoods are good for young professionals. Once you have a few areas in mind, you can safely navigate the letting agencies and property websites. The following websites are best for finding a whole property to rent:
- PrimeLocation - aggregates ads from different real estate agents, perfect for those who are looking to rent an apartment/house for themselves and do it through a real estate agent
- Zoopla and Rightmove - both are real-estate websites that have listings for whole properties to let
Costs of renting in London
London has always been known for its extraordinarily high rental costs, and let us tell you that it doesn’t disappoint. When compared to your average wage, the amount you’ll be spending on rent and bills will probably be much higher than what you’re used to, but don’t fret because the other costs of living are generally cheaper, so it all evens out in the end.
Rent comes in all shapes and sizes. It will come as no surprise that the closer you live to central London and public transport connections, the more expensive the rent becomes. Once you start looking then you’ll quickly discover which areas you can afford and search accordingly.
Before you move in
Most commonly you will be asked to pay six to eight weeks rent upfront as a deposit. This can be quite a hefty amount so ensure that you save this amount before you arrive in London and put it away where you can't touch it!
If you’re new to the UK, your landlord / letting agent may ask you to provide UK guarantor for your rent. This means a third party based in the UK who agrees to pay your rent if you don’t pay it for any reason. If you are unable to provide a UK guarantor, it is common for the landlord / letting agent to ask for six months of the rent up front.
Your deposit should always be kept in a safe deposit protection scheme such as MyDeposits. Always ask the landlord or agent to ensure this is where your money will be held to avoid being scammed.
When you move out
After you leave your apartment, the landlord legally has 10 days to notify you of any amounts that are liable to be taken from your deposit, or else you will get your full deposit refunded.
Sometimes the landlord will charge you a small fee to add your name to the deposit protection scheme - usually this is less than $62.
If you're going through a real estate agent, you may also need to pay a one-off agency fee which can range anywhere from $100 - $500, depending on your agency. You can normally find this information in the ad, or on the agency's website.
Finally, the most important tip I have is to stay positive and don’t get discouraged if you can’t find the right place or miss out on your first few applications. As hard as it can be, don’t set your heart on one place as finding a home can be quite a draining process and until you physically have the keys in your hand, it can slip through at any point. You’ll find the right place in the end and when you do, you’ll see that it was all worth it!