10 Things you need to know before you rent in London

10 Things you need to know before you rent in London

When I moved to London, I had never rented! I literary moved overseas and out of home at the same time. I had no idea what to expect when trying to find a place, I was living in a hostel while working full time, with backpackers coming and going for the first 4 months.

Four months isn’t the usual length of time it takes to find a place. My timing didn’t help as I moved over during the Christmas period and was a victim of fraud.

Eventually, I found a place with my friend, signed the contract, paid the deposit and we finally had a home!

Here are 10 things you need to know before you rent in London…

1. What website should I use for finding a place in London?

Shared houses the best places to search for a room are Spareroom or the Kiwis in London Facebook page. You could join Britbound,  their facebook group is quite active with expats posting rooms to rent frequently.

Renting or buying a house or an apartment then have a look at Zoopla and Rightmove this is where agencies will list properties. Alternatively, sign-up to a few agencies in the area you are searching in some of the common ones are Hamptons International, Foxtons, Knight Frank, Savills and many more. 

Recommendation: Kiwis in London and Britbound will also have expats renting out their rooms whilst they are on holiday. It’s a good way to have some stability whilst finding a room. Also, note that this is not normally allowed within a rental contract to sublet a room. 

2. Conduct a thorough inventory

Conduct a thorough inventory for the room and apartment
Conduct a thorough inventory for the room and apartment

When you move in you should receive an inventory for the room, apartment or house from the landlord or agent. Check that everything is correct and make sure any amendment is documented with photos.

If the landlord or agent doesn’t have an inventory, then create your own by taking photos and documenting the condition and assets. Ideally, the landlord should sign this inventory.

I was caught out on this, I didn’t realise you needed an inventory and when I left my first flat the landlord decided to charge me £50 for a couch I apparently damaged. It was a white couch! who puts a white item in a share house?! and I lived with 4 other people which it could have been anyone. Before I left I made sure I had it dry cleaned so was pretty annoyed about losing my £50. In fairness it wasn’t a lot of money and was a lot of effort to fight to get the money back. 

3. Ask for everything in writing

Any conversation you have with the landlord or agent should be followed up or stated in writing, then you can go back on this at a later stage if you need to.

This goes for anything like landlord or agency wanting to inspect the house to handing in your notice. Any changes in agreements like change of rent should be included in a contract variation. 

4. Check the water pressure

Check the water pressure in the bathroom
Check the water pressure in the bathroom

Ok, so a bit of an odd one! Although surprisingly it is quite common for the pressure to be very weak.

My first apartment this was a serious issue. The water pressure failed in one of our apartment bathrooms for over a month without being fixed, I ended up spending a lot of time at the gym to shower. Good for my waistline but overall a frustrating experience. 

5. Check what break clauses there are

Check what break clauses there are in the contract
Check what break clauses there are in the contract

Some unforeseen circumstances could come up and it’s good to understand your break clauses.

Is it a break clause? Which means a fixed-term tenancy can be ended at x months. Check the specific wording of the clause to see the conditions.

It may be possible to change tenants within a tenancy and leave with a Section 47/48 Notice but the landlord is not obligated to allow the change and there will be a cost associated.

6. Find out how much money you will need to pay in advance

With all the changes that have happened in tenancy make sure you understand what you need to pay for in advance. This is a really useful document for anyone struggling with this.

Here are the PERMITTED CHARGES in accordance with the Tenant Fee Act 2019:

  • First month’s rent in advance
  • Tenancy Deposit 5 or 6 weeks depending upon the rental amount
  • Holding Deposit maximum one week’s rent
  • Early termination when requested by the tenant a charge not exceeding the financial loss experienced by the landlord
  • Utilities, communication services, TV licence and council tax
  • Default charge for late payment of rent limited to interest charged at 3% above the Bank of England base rate, when rent is more than 14 days late
  • Default charge for replacement of lost key or security device equivalent to cost incurred
  • Changing the tenancy documents after the commencement of the tenancy – this is around £50 with VAT

The same rules DO NOT apply to a Non-Housing Act Tenancy which is formed when one of the following criteria is in place:

  • The annual rent exceeds £100,000 (if only!)
  • The property is occupied by an entity (Company let) rather than an individual
  • The property is not used as a main or primary home
  • There is a Resident Landlord

7. Find out where your deposit will be held

Putting down a deposit can be anything from a few hundred to thousand pounds (of course price range dependent) and you should understand where your deposit is being held.

Your deposit should be protected if you rent a flat under Assured Shorthold Tenancy contract (AST). This will change if you are renting a short let (i.e. anything under 6 months).

There is now a Zero Deposit Guarantee which means you no longer have to pay a deposit upfront, instead these deposit guarantee will request 1 weeks’ worth of rent and a yearly admin fee. You will not get your money back using this method so if your rent is £1,000 a month and therefore, you’d lose around £200 + the admin fee. If there are any damages during the tenancy you will still be liable for these.

8. Understand how rent increases work

We all get annoyed when the train tickets go up every year by RPI, you should expect the same for your rent. You’ll at your bank account thinking there is another percentage of my salary gone. In most cases your agent or landlord will increase the rent each year and is subjected to the market, RPI or both.

9. Be Careful of Scams

Room renting can mean you experience scams especially on the likes of free listing sites such as Gumtree and you’ll also come across this on Spareroom occasionally.

A couple of tell-tale points it’s a scam:
• Poorly worded and spelling mistakes in the description of the property
• The same phone number, email address or contact name appear in different adverts
• The pricing is unusual for the area
• When they contact you they ask for a deposit before viewing the property
• The photos look like they may have been copied from the internet
• No viewings are allowed

10. Understand the difference between being a leaseholder and not

There is no difference if you are moving into a room rather than a house. If your name is on the lease, you’ll have the same rights. All tenants are ‘jointly and severally liable’ which means that if one of the other tenants does not pay their portion of the rent then you can be pursued for it by the landlord. Things vary slightly if your name is not on the lease.

Disclaimer: This is based on my experience and research. If you are unsure, please seek professional advice. You could contact Citizens Advice or speak to an Estate Agent for further advice.

Happy future renting!

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