HOW TO RENT IN LONDON: TEN TIPS
We’ve put together a few tips to make navigating the rental market easier. Our guide to renting focuses on some of the quirks of London’s lettings market. It is not an exhaustive guide to renting in the UK. Landlord and agent legal responsibilities are steadily increasing and it is important tenants know how the law protects them. For a clear overview of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, the government’s How To Rent guide is a good starting point.
Don’t take marketing information at face value. There’s nothing worse than wasting an evening travelling to a viewing only to discover the move-in date is a month later than advertised or that the landlord is looking for a minimum two year tenancy.
Furthermore, London letting agents are sometimes slow to take down old listings. This can be a ploy to generate more leads for properties that are actually available. Before drawing up a shortlist of properties, confirm they are still on the market.
2. Be organised
Begin your search as early as possible, ideally 2 to 3 months prior to your move-in date. This gives you time to evaluate different areas and negotiate without being under time pressure.
Agents and landlords understandably respond better to organised tenants. Before commencing viewings, you need to be in a position to take the right property off the market quickly when it becomes available. To do this you should:
- be in a position to pay the deposit, first month’s rent and any other moving fees
- know the earliest date you can begin a tenancy
- have passport/visa information to hand
- if possible, have previous landlord references ready
- have a letter from your boss/HR confirming your employment and salary to speed up the referencing process. If you are self-employed or not working then you may be asked to provide proof of funds
Once you have secured a place, most utilities and council tax can be set-up at the start of the tenancy. However we recommend organising broadband installation in advance as many internet providers have quite a long lead time for connecting a line. For an estimate of a property’s internet speeds, you can type the address into a broadband speed checker.
3. Be wary of vague marketing
If a property has been on the market for a while and doesn’t have clear photography and advertising copy then tread carefully. It is often a warning sign that there will be a host of issues. It is best to not let your curiosity get the better of you and waste time on a viewing. The chances of finding a hidden gem are slim!
Similarly, if an agent wants you to view other properties during a scheduled viewing, it’s fine to be polite but firm and check they match your search criteria before agreeing.
4. Take promised repairs/renovations with a pinch of salt
If a landlord is promising to carry out major works (kitchen/bathroom renovations) during the tenancy it is best to remain sceptical. Even if renovation works are written into the contract, it is practically very hard to enforce. Perrygate advises clients to only agree to a contract if the rent is fair market value for a property in its current condition.
5. Expect to pay a premium if you don’t want to share
London’s high renting costs mean letting a room in a house or flat share is far more common for professionals in their 20s and 30s than in other UK cities. A good quality studio in Zone 1 will start from £1,500 and a 1 beds from around £2,000.
When looking at commutable areas, it’s easy to become fixated on the tube map and forget that other options are available. London has one of the best bus systems in the world and many areas without the tube may have excellent rail links to your workplace. Commute From is an excellent site for finding areas within an acceptable commuting time and you can double-check routes on Transport for London’s journey planner.
7. Prepare to negotiate
Don’t take advertised asking prices as the final word and try to identify properties where they may be some movement on price. Just as letting agents will try to have a few prospective tenants lined up for each property, we recommend you have a shortlist of several properties. This gives you a greater chance of identifying a property where a discount can be secured. Any issues you notice in the flat which you are OK to live with can be mentioned during negotiations. Some landlords will consider a lower rent if you can commit to a longer tenancy.
When evaluating rental prices:
- Remember, just because comparable, properties are listed as ‘Let Agreed’ at a certain rent does not necessarily mean that is the amount on the tenancy contract.
- Pay attention to when a property first came on the market. This will give a good indication of whether it is struggling to let at its advertised rent. Browser plug-ins such as Property Log for Chrome tracks when properties were first listed and any changes to asking rental prices. Do not over-rely on these tools as whilst they are very useful, they are not always 100% accurate.
- Check if a property is being listed with more than one agent. This indicates it is struggling to rent at the asking price.
8.Factor in other major costs
Check the property’s council tax band and factor it into your budget.
If you want to avoid large energy bills, pay attention to the Energy Performance Certificate. Marketing information should clearly display the EPC. A higher rating likely means lower bills. Generally speaking, new-builds have higher EPC ratings than period properties.
9. Don’t forget private landlords
When we conduct rental searches at Perrygate we give our clients a full overview of the market. This means we review landlord listing sites such as Openrent, Gumtree and Upad. The main advantage of finding a property through these sites is that you there are no sky-high tenancy fees (which will be banned from June 2019). Having direct contact with a good landlord can also make a tenancy go a lot more smoothly.
10. Avoid emailing
Last but not least. This is a common mistake made by many struggling to let. The best rental properties don’t stay on the market for long and an email can easily be overlooked by a busy agent or landlord. If you see a property you’re interested in, we’d recommend phoning to go over your search criteria (see Point 2) and book in a viewing. Of course once you have secured a property then keeping correspondence in writing can sometimes be a good idea if there are any issues.
Want to find a property to rent in London without the stress? Perrygate offers a Rental Search Service for a fixed fee to take care of the whole process for you. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your London relocation.