The purpose of this guide is to explain the different steps of renting in London. Once you have found the property that suits you, here are the steps to moving to the British capital. From the signing of the rental contract to the charges, we help you to better understand the procedures when renting in London.
1. Rentals in London: make an offer
The first step when you have found your accommodation in London is to make an offer to the owner. In England, this offer is negotiable. Of course, this concerns the rent price but may also include other elements.
It all depends on when you enter the house: the earlier you move into the apartment or house, the more likely you are to be able to negotiate with the landlord. It is common to negotiate some renovations to be done in your future rental. For example, it is possible to request that the carpet be changed (in England, most goods have carpet on the floor in most rooms) or that a dishwasher be installed.
Some properties are available furnished or partially furnished. If you would like to have your own furniture but the chosen property is already furnished, the owner will add costs for the storage of his furniture, and if you move in with your pets, you must inform the owner before making an offer. Some people will not accept pets and if they do not, it is common for the security deposit amount to increase to 8 weeks instead of 6, especially if the apartment is rented furnished.
When the offer is accepted by the owner and you wish to reserve it and withdraw it from the market (in this case the owner cannot rent it to another person), you must pay 1 to 2 weeks’ rent in advance to secure the transaction (holding deposit). If you reconsider your offer and are no longer interested in the property in question, this deposit will be retained by the owner.
2. Request for references and verification of your identity
It is very common to ask for references before signing a rental contract in London. This is called the application form and reference check. The purpose of this document is to verify your identity, creditworthiness and “good conduct”. Verification of the accuracy of this information will be done by a private company and not by the owner or agency. These references are taken very seriously and will be scrupulously checked. So it’s better not to cheat!
In this context, you may be asked to provide a letter from your former landlord if you were a previous tenant or from a person who has known you for at least 3 years if you were a landlord or if you lived with your parents. Family members are of course not considered authentic witnesses.
Concerning your solvency, your employment contract in the country and the contact details of your employer are generally sufficient. Again, the employer in question will be automatically contacted so no tricks! Some agencies request the last 3 months of bank statements. In the case of a student, for a rental of more than 6 months, the parents’ tax notice will also be requested.
You will also be asked to prove your identity and in this case nothing simpler, a photocopy of your identity card or passport is sufficient. You will also have to give your last known address, even if it is not in the United Kingdom.
If you do not have any income from employment (e.g. student, business owner, unemployed) and you do not have a guarantor residing in the United Kingdom, you will be asked to pay 6 months’ rent in advance, except for a shared flat, for which 1 month is usually sufficient.
3. Drafting and signing of the rental contract in London
The security deposit for renting an apartment or house in London is 6 weeks. But as we said earlier, this can vary if you bring pets, for example. These 6 weeks of guarantee will be collected by the agency on an escrow account belonging to it. This is called the deposit scheme.
The classic rental contract in England is called AST for Assured Shorthold Tenancy. It is a one-year renewable contract. Again, this duration is an average, it is possible to make a contract of 2 or 3 years but if the tenant leaves before the end of the contract, he will still have to pay until the end of the 2 or 3 years.
The tenant and the landlord have 2 months’ notice to terminate a lease. You therefore have 2 months to inform your landlord of your departure and the landlord must also inform you 2 months in advance if he wants you to leave the premises. 3 months before the end of the rental contract, i.e. 1 month before the notice date, it is advisable to inform the landlord about the renewal of your rental contract.
There is no standard lease agreement in the United Kingdom. This document can therefore vary, be very long and contain many elements. It is important to be accompanied by real estate professionals when signing your rental contract in London. These will help you avoid pitfalls and procedural defects.
There is in England what is known as a break clause, i.e. a termination clause that can only be relied on 6 months after you move into your London apartment or house and when you sign the AST, you will have to pay an agency fee ranging from £150 to one week’s rent.
4. Different charges for renting in London
Be sure to check if the charges are included in the price of your rent. In student or private residences, the rent always includes all charges (electricity, internet, heating, hot water…) but this is not the case when you rent a house or apartment in London.
Finally, it should be noted that condominium charges (elevator, doorman, janitor, maintenance of common areas, garden, etc.) are generally included in the rent, which may sometimes explain why the latter is higher than another.
You will also have to pay a council tax, the equivalent of the housing tax. This varies depending on your borough of residence. You will find all the necessary information on your borough’s website. If you are a student, you will not have to pay this tax by providing proof of your studies to the owner.
Concerning the insurance of your apartment or house in London, please note that in the case of a rental, it is up to the owner to insure his property. The tenant has no obligation to insure himself. Some, however, choose to insure their furniture when they move to London.
5. Arrival inventory when you move to London
The check-in or inventory of fixtures at your London apartment is carried out by an outside company and is generally included in the application fee.
The inventory of fixtures, whether on entry or exit, is carried out in a very rigorous manner. So be careful to maintain your apartment properly if you want to review your deposit! For example, it is forbidden to drill holes in a wall to hang frames on. Even if you use double-sided tape or fixed paste. The slightest small brand could cost you all or part of your deposit.
Before you move into your new apartment in London, it is imperative that it is clean. Thus, the previous tenant is required to use a professional cleaning company. And if you find that the apartment is not clean enough between the departure of the previous tenant and your arrival, the owner will have to clean it again so that the accommodation is in the best possible condition for your move.
6. Inventory of places of departure when you leave your apartment in London
When you leave your apartment in London, you will be asked to use a specialised company to professionally clean your accommodation. The check-out inventory will be carried out following this cleaning and thus the apartment will be clean for the next tenant.