Renting a Flat in London
If you’re going to be spending three or more months in Europe, consider renting a flat. It’s a great way to live like a local and can actually save you money. If you’re staying with a group, a flat is definitely the way to go. Check online to find rental agencies and private landlords, compare prices, and read reviews. Craigslist, London Guest Suites, and Homes & Property are great websites to start your search.
Living in a flat will give you privacy (unlike a hostel), a kitchen, and the opportunity to explore local bars and restaurants. Some flats come with free Internet access, but don’t expect a washing machine. Many flats have a minimum stay of six or twelve months. If you’re staying in Europe long-term, this shouldn’t be an issue. Most flats in London come furnished.
London’s rental market is quite competitive nowadays. Here are some tips for renting a flat:
- Decide on a budget and stick to it (make sure to include bills)
- Start your search early (most flats are advertised one month before availability)
- Keep an open mind (don’t make your search too narrow)
- Be watchful for scams (especially online)
Give yourself plenty of time to search for the perfect flat. You’ll probably have to take a few days off work in order to visit different flats, fill out paperwork, and meet with landlords/agents. It’s a good idea to explain your criteria to a local estate agent. He or she can help you find a place with everything you’re looking for. Keep in mind that London is one of the world’s most expensive cities in which to live. It may appear cheaper to live outside the city, but transportation costs can be exorbitant. Let your agent know to which locations you will most frequently travel.
Don’t let someone talk you into a contract about which you feel unsure. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you are asked to pay via money transfer or Western Union, it’s probably a scam. Did you know that private landlords are not regulated? Even so, there are many benefits if you choose to rent from them. For example, private landlords are usually more flexible than rental companies (this is great if you don’t know how long you will be in London).
Before you sign the contract, there are some questions you should ask your landlord/agent. First off, ask who manages the property so you know who you’ll be dealing with if problems arise. Are bills included in the rent? Ask if there is or will be a noisy building site nearby. When you view the room, ask what is included and what belongs to the current tenant. Take inventory of all fixtures in the flat and inquire about access to private gardens.
Stick to your budget and remember that you will have to pay a deposit when you sign the contract. You must also provide a bank statement showing that you have sufficient funds to cover the first few months’ rent and a letter from your employer stating your salary. Ask your agent what the total cost will be – including fees. There are three government approved Tenancy Deposit Protection Schemes; make sure your deposit is paid into one or you won’t be able to dispute issues with your deposit later.