My First Property

Tips For Renting In London

There are many things to consider when renting in London. London offers a wholly different experience to other British cities, thanks to a range of factors. Multiculturalism, its status as a tourist destination, along with its sheer size and population make renting in London quite overwhelming. Whether you are moving in from elsewhere or into your first rental property, these tips should give you all the information you need to find a good rental property in London.

Understanding the London Rental Scene

The first step for renting in London is to understand what you are getting into. Renting in London is wholly different to renting in Manchester or Newcastle, and you should be prepared for a swift change of pace. To do this, you should...

1) Change how you see London

As is the case with many cities the size of London, it cannot be viewed through the same lens as smaller cities. Instead of seeing the capital as one big city with a defined centre, try to picture London as hundreds of micro communities all stitched together. There may be a vibrant multicultural area right next to a quirky hipster village. Maybe even on the same street you will find a bunch of different aesthetics and moods. By looking at the city like this, you will be able to better picture the variety that London has to offer.

When many people move to London, they think of the city as either North, South, East, West or Central. In their mind, each of these sections evokes a certain feel, such as rich West London or artsy North London. These assumptions will not help you find a good rental property, and may cause you to write off certain areas altogether. With the sheer variety and multiplicities that every area of London has to offer, it is important to consider every option and avoid becoming tunnel visioned.

Of course, if you have a specific area you want to move to for work or friends then you will be set on that. However, if you want to move to Camden to be close to work, there is no harm in also considering Chalk Farm, Crouch End or Harringay. These places may offer the same lifestyle and commuting distance, and might also be a tad more affordable. Which brings us to...

2) Research prices in different areas

While generalisations about London area lifestyles should be avoided, some general rules about rental costs are good to know. Average rent tends to mirror house prices in London, with the highest rents found in Central and West-Central London. The lowest rentals tend to be found in some of the outlying areas such as Dagenham, Barking and Havering.

However, to state that east London is cheaper 100% of the time would be a misstep. Areas such as Greenwich and Hackney see higher rental costs that Hammersmith on average, despite the latter being found in West London. If you find interest in a certain area, you may find that neighbouring areas are a little lighter on the wallet. For instance, Hackey is generally more expensive than Mile End, which sits just south. We recommend taking a look at the official London Rents Map on the Mayor of London site for a clearer picture.

The sheer variation in price, aesthetic and lifestyle that is found all over London means that to count anywhere out would be a mistake. Consider all options, and be open to areas you had not previously considered. Visit areas at different times of day, at the weekend as well as a weekday to gain a better feel for any given area.

A common saying in finding a new home is that it is all about location. This adage is taken to its extreme with London. Two apartments on the same road may be the same size and condition, but one has a slightly better view. This might mean the rental cost of this apartment is higher than the other. In short, prices vary from area to area, street to street and even property to property.

Deciding What You Want

Once you have looked into what London has to offer, the next step is to define exactly what you want from a rental home. There are multiple factors that come into this, from your requirements to your budget. Additionally, it may be wise to acknowledge that you may not find the perfect home. So thinking about what you are willing to compromise on is probably a good idea.

1) Define your requirements

Do you need parking with your rental? How many bedrooms will you need? These are questions you should be asking yourself before you start searching for a property. Ask yourself what it is you physically require, and what are some things you could live without. For instance, do you 100% need a dishwasher? Do you need space for a home working station?

We recommend creating two lists. The first will contain all the things you absolutely need your new home to have. The second will contain everything from the first list, along with extra features that would be nice to have as well. Separating things you need from the things you want will help you gain a better understanding of which properties are suitable for you.

It may be that you find two properties, one of which contains everything you want, but is a little further away from work. The second contains less of the stuff you want, but the location is much better. It is then up to you to weigh up the pros and cons of each and pick which property you prefer.

2) Define your budget

It is no secret that renting in London is more expensive than everywhere else in the UK. However, your budget for a property is not decided by the cost of rent alone. There are other things you will need to pay for, such as council tax and utility bills. These can vary depending on the location and type of property. Apartments generally spend less on utility bills due to their ability to hold in more heat, while houses might spend more on council tax due to a higher security risk. Finding out the costs of these things for a property is as essential as the rental costs.

One quirk of renting in London is how rental costs are advertised. Typically, a property will be advertised at £XXX a week. However, this does not mean that four of these payments count for a month. For instance, if you see a property advertised at £250 a week, this does not mean that the monthly cost will be £1000. A better way to find the rental cost is by multiplying the weekly cost by 52 (weeks in a year) to find the total annual cost. Divide this figure by 12 to get a more accurate monthly cost. These minor differences in costs might make or break your chances of affording a property.

Additionally (as if there was not enough to think about price-wise already), you may have to pay what is called a holding deposit. This is a fee charged by the lettings agent to reserve the rental property in your name while contracts are finalised. Provided you do not back out of the agreement, you will get this money back. Typically, a holding deposit accounts for rent for one week. The Landlord Deposit Protection scheme is a Government-backed service that ensures you will get the deposit back if you are a good tenant.

Finding a Rental Property

Now that you have a better idea of what you can afford, the time has come to hunt for a property. This is where things get interesting. The rental market in London is very different to everywhere else, so we recommend you:

1) Stay on your toes

The London rental market is incredibly competitive. Properties are snatched up the day they are put to market, and sometimes even before that. This is due to the incredibly high demand for accommodation in London, so we cannot recommend enough that you stay on your toes and be prepared to act quickly. Always stay updated with the latest properties that are put to market. A good way to do this is by setting up a property alert on OnTheMarket.com. This will help you stay ahead of the game, as OnTheMarket lists rental properties in London 24 hours or more before they are advertised on other property sites.

If you find a property that you think you might like, it is always worth taking your references to the viewing. This is so that if you like the property, you can apply there and then. If not, by the time you have arranged another viewing to make the application, someone else will have swooped in and landed the rental. More often than not, multiple potential tenants will be racing to land the best rental properties. To avoid any unnecessary interruptions of your search, make sure you have all your documents prepared beforehand. This includes references, proof of good credit, proof of deposit and general ID. To stay ahead of the race even more:

2) Find a great lettings agent

Research lettings agents in the area of London that you aim to live. A good, reputable agent will be able to give you valuable advice and local knowledge, helping you make a wise decision on which properties are contenders. Take advantage of your agent by asking plenty of questions about the local area, the finances involved with each rental, and the details of each property. Ideally, you want to prove to your agent that you are a proactive property hunter. This will ensure that they prioritise your interest when a new property is listed, and get in touch with you before other, potentially less active, property hunters

A good lettings agent may also be able to advise you on the right type of property for you. Some of the questions we recommended you ask yourself, an agent might be able to help you with. Tell them your requirements, and they can help you find a property to match. Ask them which areas of London best match your desired lifestyle, and they will be able to point you in the right direction.

3) Factor in future increases in rent

If you are planning to live in a rental for a long time, you should be prepared for your rent to increase over time. Not only does a long term rental provide better security for the tenant, it is also better for the landlord. With rates going up in London faster than everywhere else, you should be ready for an increase in rent at some stage of your tenancy.

This also adds to the competitiveness of the rental market. This is because tenants who can guarantee to accommodate increases in rent are likely to be looked upon more favourably by landlords than tenants who cannot. Stephanie Nash, head of Fulham lettings at Strutt & Parker says that more and more landlords are favouring longer-term tenancies that provide greater security for both landlord and tenant. It may be wise to go for a property with a cheaper rent, so you will more likely be able to afford it if and when the rent goes up.

Before You Move...

When you have found a property, it is important to set yourself in good standing for a healthy, informed and mutually-beneficial relationship with your landlord. Making sure you are both on the same page about everything will ensure that your tenancy will be enjoyable for both parties. First of all...

1) Set in place your expectations for maintenance

Whoever is responsible for managing the property (be it the landlord or the agency), it is vital that you state your expectations for high quality of maintenance. One of the main reasons that tenancies fall apart, aside from seeking better value, is because maintenance issues are not dealt with properly. Since you do not own the property, is it not your responsibility to pay for maintenance. Make sure you find out who is responsible for this, and let them know that you expect good maintenance standards.

2) Know your rights

Before you sign your rental contract, make sure you familiarise yourself with your rights as a tenant. These are listed in full over on the UK Government website. Knowing these rights will help you maintain authority in the tenancy, and deter any potential bad landlords from taking advantage of you. For tenants who are blatantly ignorant of their rights, it can be fairly common for landlords to push their luck. Do not give them the opportunity, and learn your rights.

Final Notes

We hope this has given you some good starting points for renting in London. If you stay on your toes, stay educated and keep an open mind, you will not go far wrong.

More first-time house buying articles:

  1. Getting a Survey on an Auction Property
  2. Why People Sell Property via Auctions
  3. Property Likes versus Must Haves
  4. Why You Should Visit a House at Different Times of Day
  5. Buying a House: Exchange & Completion

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