Most people in the UK prefer living in a house to a flat. In the cities, more people succumb to flats, but in the country most people live in their own house with a garden.
Prices range depending on the location within London with the most upscale areas in the city center ranking as some of the most expensive real estate in the world.
Britain's rental market is quite competitive, but subject to the world markets ups and downs. London is one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Rents do decrease the further they are from a city center.
Online search engines are one of the best ways to get an estimate of the current market and to track new properties. Most sites allow you to set-up alerts to find the best property for you.
Newspaper classifieds remain popular. Note that you should call ads that attract you immediately (within daytime hours) as good properties can go fast.
You can also put your own ad in the paper. This is not as popular an option, but may help attract the perfect property.
Many places have billboards offering advertisements for a variety of goods and services. Watch these boards for useful postings. Laundrettes, cafes, grocery stores, community centers, and bars all might have private ads.
An estate agent is a useful resource for finding the right place quickly. A good agent knows the legal pitfalls and has access to a variety of housing. An agent will provide you with a description of available properties, escort you to viewings, make sure your contract complies with expected standards. You will find hundreds of different agencies, such as Barnard Marcus, Hamptons, KFH, Knight Frank, ParkHeath, Winkworth... etc.
Letting agents charge an administrative fee if a suitable property is found. This varies from one estate agent to another but can be anywhere from £150 to £350 to be paid by the tenant (usually the owner will pay 10% of the yearly rent).
Agencies are numerous in London. While it is easy to fund an agent to help you find a home, it is important to find the best agent possible. Ask your friends, family, and contacts in the city for recommendations or find recommendation on Easy Expat's forum and contact expats living in London.
To find an accredited agent, contact:
The National Association of Estate Agents
Arbon House 21 Jury Street, Warwick CV34 4EH
Tel. +44 (0) 1926 496800
It is always strongly recommended to visit the apartment before renting rather then renting sight unseen. This ensures you will be satisfied with the accommodations and able to abide by the contract. It might also establishe a relationship with the landlord.
Set appointments as soon as possible. The longer you wait – even if its only a matter of hours – the greater the chance that the apartment will be rented before you get there. If possible, try to visit the area around the apartment both during the day and at night, or ask around to see what it is like. Perfectly peaceful areas during the day can turn into unbearable residential areas at night if there are bars nearby. Likewise, a calm neighborhood in the evening may be a nightmare during the day due to traffic or construction works
Approach a first visit like an interview: Dress nicely, be prepared, and arrive on time. You should feel free to ask questions about the rental.
1) How long is the lease?
2) How much is the security deposit?
3) Are utilities included in the rent? If not, how much are they?
4) Are pets allowed?
Once a property has been found, the prospective tenant may be invited to pay a reservation fee to the agency to keep the property off the market. This holds the property while the security and credit checks are being processed. This fee is usually the value of one to two weeks rent and is deductible from the deposit. It may not be fully refunded if the applicant fails the security checks, and may be used to pay administration fees.
References will be required to check that the tenant is able to pay the rent every month.
The Citizens Advice Bureau offers information about agreements and tenant rights.
Contracts should be in writing to be considered a legal document. This is a vital step to protect yourself and ensure that the owners responsibilities and your responsibilities as a tenet are met.
Most residential agreements are Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). This is the standard agreement used across the UK. This means that the tenant has the right to stay in the property for six months before the landlord can ask them to leave (break clause). It stipulates that after six months the landlord or the tenant may give leave, with usually one or two month's notice. The term of the contract can be any length of time, but if more than three years, it must be drawn up by deed. During the breaking clause, the landlord cannot repossess the property, and the tenant cannot give notice (except on special agreement).
To make sure the contract is adhered to and you are not later charged with pre-existing damage, you should do a walk through with the landlord before signing the contract. This is the time to ask any last minute questions. When you move into the flat, you will need to sign an inventory to certify the state of the accommodation and possessions if furnished. For anything broken, or for all further improvements you will need to ask the landlord.
To terminate a tenancy agreement, refer to the terms of the agreement. Most apartments require that tenants submit a termination letter at least 30 days before their move date. Notice should be written and sent by registered mail.
If you are leaving before your contract (lease) is up, you may incur a penalty. That should also be clarified in the contract (break clause). Some leases contain an "early-out" or "early-release" clause, which states under what conditions you can break your lease and the amount you owe the landlord. This may be dependent on a visa not being issued/re-newed, or other unforeseen circumstances. Keep in mind that your security deposit may also be forfeited, depending on tenant laws.
When you reach the move out date, meet with your landlord to complete a walk-through. Review your contract to find out what repairs or damages are not covered under your lease. Have your landlord check for potential damage or repairs before you move out to avoid surprise fees down the road. Discuss how and when you should expect to receive your security deposit with the landlord. You may also ask if you may use your security deposit to pay the last month's rent.
If you do have issues with your landlord or living situation, contact the Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) for free advice. This service offers independent and confidential advice face-to-face or by telephone.