How to Find a Property to Rent in London
We know how hard it is to find a new home, especially after moving thousands of miles across the ocean to a smaller, less familiar, much more tea-obsessed country.
We’ve heard all the horror stories about London rent prices, and experienced quite a few of them ourselves. The best way to avoid your own capital city catastrophe is to arm yourself with knowledge – which is why we’ve put together the only guide you’ll need.
Maybe all you want is a room somewhere. Or maybe you’re after a Richie Rich-level property.
But whether you’re looking for a Kensington townhouse or a City apartment with five other people, we’ve got you covered. Stick with us, and you’ll soon be living the lovely London life.
If you’re ready to take the plunge and move to the UK, fill in this form to compare the best options for shipping your belongings.
On this page:
01 | How to find the right house
02 | How to find the right apartment
03 | How much does rent cost?
04 | How London rent costs compare
05 | Other London rental costs
06 | Top 7 tips for renting in London
07 | The 10 best rental websites
08 | Summary
How to find the right house to rent in London
1. Calculate your budget
2. Work out how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need
3. Decide which area you want to live in
4. Peruse property sites to find out prices and energy bill estimates
5. Contact agents to set up property viewings
6. Choose one you love
7. Agree rent, deposit, contract length, and move-in date with the landlord
How to find the right apartment to rent in London
The process is practically identical to the above when it comes to renting your own apartment in London: decide your budget and area, set up viewings, choose a property, then sort out the details.
But if you’re deciding between a house and an apartment, be aware there are a few significant differences.
For example, if you want pets, a house will probably suit you better. The great majority of apartment landlords don’t allow tenants to keep animals, while other apartments are simply too small for a rambunctious puppy or kitten.
|DID YOU KNOW: Just 7% of rented properties are advertised as being suitable for pets.|
You’ll also get more privacy if you rent a house.
Apartment buildings may have their own security – including a porter at the door, if you’re looking for somewhere fancy – whereas if you rent a house, you’ll have to purchase your own alarm system.
The most important variable is you, though. Make a list of what you want out of your new home, and find a place which meets those criteria the best – and which feels the most like home.
How much does rent cost in London?
People say all sorts of scary things about finding a house to rent in London – and they’re not wrong. It costs a lot.
But as long as you have a good job lined up, it’s totally possible. Here are the kind of rental costs you’ll be looking at, courtesy of the London Assembly.
|Type of home||Average monthly rent|
How London rent costs compare
You’ve seen the figures for London’s monthly rent; now let’s compare them to the biggest American cities.
Living in England’s capital is expensive – but as is evident below, if you can afford the rent in any of the biggest cities in the US, you’ll be fine in London town.
|Type of home||London||New York City||Los Angeles||Chicago|
(Data sourced from publications including CBS Chicago, ApartmentGuide.com, and RentJungle.com)
Other London rental costs
It may not sound right, but it’s true: renting doesn’t just involve paying rent.
So before you dive headfirst into your wonderful new life in beautiful, bustling London, make sure you’ve taken into account all the expenses you’ll face.
And whenever you feel ready to make the move, complete this form to receive shipping quotes from trusted specialists.
When you eventually find your home – the place where you’ll build the foundations for your new life in this historic city – you’ll have to pay a deposit.
The Tenant Fees Act 2019 means you’ll be asked for a maximum of five weeks’ rent if your annual rent is under £50,000 ($64,700).
If your tastes are slightly more expensive, and your annual rent is above £50,000, you can expect to pay a maximum of six weeks’ rent.
Your landlord is legally obliged to put your deposit in a government-supported tenancy deposit protection (TDP) scheme within 30 days of receiving it from you.
This scheme will protect your money during your stay in the property. And the good news is, your deposit is refundable in full, as long as you:
- Keep to the terms laid out in your contract
- Pay your rent and bills
- Don’t damage the property significantly (a quick tip: encourage the landlord to explicitly write into your contract that wear and tear is fine)
Furthermore, once you’ve told the landlord you want to rent their property, it's perfectly normal for them to request a holding fee while you sort out all the details.
Once you’ve signed the contract, that fee will be absorbed into your deposit, and will ideally be returned to you at the end of your tenancy.
When you come to the end of your stay, agree with your landlord how much you’ll be paid back (hopefully the entire deposit). They’re then required to pay you that amount within 10 days.
If there are any issues, the money will remain safe and sound in a TDP scheme until you and your landlord have come to an agreement.
These payments, also known as letting fees, are now banned in the UK.
As of June 2019, these extra fees (which had previously risen to as high as 20% of the rent) must be paid by landlords instead – so don’t worry about hidden costs.
Furnished vs Unfurnished
Either your new rental property will come with furniture, or you’ll need to supply your own. Listen to your gut over this decision – it probably knows the answer – but if your gut is confused, here’s a quick way of making your choice.
Go for a furnished property if your rental period is short, if your stay in this historic city is temporary, and if you don’t really mind what your home looks like – or, of course, if you visit a furnished place and love the look of it.
Choose an unfurnished home if you’re lingering in London a little longer, if you can imagine creating a life for yourself here, and if you want your pad to feel like yours. You’ll have more freedom this way – you can be welcoming and warm, or barren and brutalist.
And if you have kids, you’ll be able to customise your home for them, too!
You’re prepared to pay the rent. You’ve even set aside some of your salary to pay for food, drink, toiletries, new clothes, and fun.
This puts you ahead of most renters – but before you throw yourself a budget completion party, there are yet more costs to consider.
Unless you’re a student, you’ll need to pay this. Council tax can range from $54 to $404 per month, so it’s important to know how much it’s going to cost in advance.
After all, that’s a difference of $4,200 over the course of a year.
First, find your potential new home’s local council, then find out its council tax band.
Then visit your local council’s website, find out what they charge, and set up a direct debit to make sure you always pay on time.
To show you what you can expect, MoveHub has used council data to calculate that the average council tax rate in London is $193.53 per month.
Turns out you need water, electricity, and gas to live with a basic degree of comfort. We know, humans are needy like that.
You can expect to pay $118 per month for electricity and gas, while $40 should be enough to cover your water usage.
So set aside at least $158 every month, depending on where you’re planning on living.
The landlord is responsible for the building as a structure (as long as you don’t take a flamethrower to it), but you’re responsible for your own belongings – so get them insured!
If you do, it should cost an average of $209 per year, according to the Money Advice Service – or just $4 per week.
Look around the room and mentally calculate how much your belongings cost. That’s a good deal.
In this, the third decade of our fledgling millennium, the internet is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity.
Ask the landlord what the place’s current setup is, then visit some comparison sites and check out whether you can get a better price or connection.
Broadband deals often come bundled together with a phone line – that’s pretty good, if making calls on a landline is your jam.
If you enjoy watching live TV or BBC iPlayer, you need a TV licence – and until Killing Eve is available on Netflix, it’s hard to justify not getting one.
If you have a TV or other screen which plays in colour, a TV licence will cost you £154.50 ($200) per year, while if you – like 7,161 others in the UK – own a black-and-white TV, you’ll pay £52.
Once you’ve taken care of these bills, there are just a few more pitfalls to watch out for.
So be a smart renter, read our tips, and don’t get short-changed just because you’ve come over from the good ol’ US of A.
Top 7 tips for renting in London
1. Be realistic with your budget
To work out your budget for rent, consider your wage and expected monthly expenses, and leave some extra – you don’t want to be caught out.
2. Do due diligence on your preferred areas
Whether that means checking the transport links to see how long your commute will be, seeing how highly rated the schools are, or working out how many good pubs or clubs are within a 10-mile radius, research everything – and then go see the area for yourself.
3. Use official companies, please
There are so many good sites and estate agents out there who will ensure you don’t get screwed over. If you go through Craigslist or a similar route, you’re relying on individual strangers – which means risking everything blowing up in your face.
4. Keep your head on a swivel
The process of renting a place can be easy and convenient, or it can be complex and taxing – but either way, you need to keep on top of everything. We recommend making a spreadsheet of all your potential new homes.
5. Be prepared for the process to take at least a few weeks
You don’t just walk into a new home. It takes time and effort to lock down your rental property, so give it at least a couple of months, just to be sure. You don’t want to be left with no place to live, just because you started too late.
6. Create a peaceful atmosphere
Naturally, you’d like to start off on the right foot with your future housemates, whether they’re friends, strangers, or your spouse and kids.
So make sure you’ve all agreed who’s taking which room, who needs to use the shower when, and what cupboards – if any – are communal.
If someone’s taking the smallest room, maybe they should pay less rent – and if so, how much? Do your kids need separate rooms, or can they share? Make sure to work all of this out before you move in.
And if you haven’t met before, maybe go for a drink before you start living together, just to find out if you all get on (at least to a vaguely acceptable level).
7. Decide whether you want to rent a property for a set period
There are two choices when it comes to finding a property to rent in London: agree to a fixed-length contract (usually a year), or get a rolling contract that you can choose to end each month.
What you go for will depend on your circumstances – again, it’s a question of whether you’re looking for a temporary place or a long-term home – but you should be aware of both options.
Now you’re ready to take the final step: visiting the best rental websites for finding a place of your own in the capital.
The 10 best rental websites for London
4. Find a Hood
5. Find Properly
Now you know exactly what to do when you’re looking for a home ahead of your move to the UK’s biggest, most populated, most exciting city.
Thrills, spills, and bills await you in the capital – and you’re ready for all of it.
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