Renting a house in London isn't always as easy as finding somewhere you like, moving in and paying the rent each month.
Before you set off on your journey to rent a house, there are 10 things you need to know.
1. It costs more than you think
So you’ve finally saved enough to pay your first months rent and the deposit. You're all set and ready to move. Or are you..? There may turn out to be some extra hidden costs.
Landlords and letting agents will want to run credit and reference checks on potential tenants, the cost of which will be passed onto you. On top of this, if you’re renting a house through an agency, it's likely there will be admin fees and a larger deposit than expected.
To give an example, for a house that costs £1,200 per month you might expect to pay:
- Deposit (usually around 6 weeks* rent): £1,662.00
- 1st month's rent (paid upfront): £1,200.00
- Administration fees*: £200.00
- Referencing fees*: £60.00
* varies between agencies
Total due before moving in: £3,122.00
The administration and referencing fees will vary wildly between agencies. You should always check the fees with the agent before making an offer on a property in London.
2. Bills, bills, bills
Bills are an unfortunate reality of renting a home.
As a tenant, you will likely be responsible for paying all of the household bills. This may include:
- Gas and/or electricity,
- Water bills,
- Council tax,
- Service charge (only for some properties),
- TV license (if you plan on watching live TV),
- Landline phone bill,
- Contents insurance,
- Digital TV or satellite TV subscriptions,
- Broadband bill
There can be agreements where landlords will cover some of these bill so it's always best to check with the agent or landlord.
If there are more bedrooms in your house than people, check out getting a water meter as it could save you money.
3. Electrical goods - who supplies the basics
Whether you're taking a property furnished or unfurnished, you need to check what electrical goods are included in the price, and what condition they're in. If you need any of these things but they aren't supplied, you'll need to factor the cost of purchasing these into your decision.
- Washing machine
If any of these items are supplied but in a bad condition, it's worth considering negotiating with the landlord to have these cleaned or replaced before you move in.
4. Become Sherlock Holmes at the viewing
No, we don’t mean dusting for prints and popping on a tweed deerstalker, but what you should do is some serious property detective work. Take along your very own Watson if it helps!
Now is your chance to check for yourself. Here's some things to get you started:
- Any guttering for moss and mould
- Underneath and around taps to check for leaks or low water pressure,
- What's the water pressure like in the shower?
- Do the windows and doors open and close smoothly?
- Are the floorboards or carpets damaged?
- Flush the toilet; you can even road test it if you have nerves of steel!
- Check the garden and any alleyways for fire exit routes,
- Do the locks work ok?
- Where is the post box and is this safe and secure?
5. Check the guide price for your area
Yes, you can make an offer on the asking price! Before you do, check the London area rental guide prices for the area to see what's a reasonable price for property in the area.
Also check the price of similar property on the market right now. The price of a 2 bed in an area can vary greatly depending on the furnishings and state of the building.
Give yourself the best chance of putting in an offer that will be accepted by doing your research.
6. Read the contract!
This is really important. In most cases you will be asked to sign an assured shorthold tenancy agreement (AST) before your tenancy starts.
If there is anything in the contract you are unclear about, seek legal advice before you sign. Make sure any agreements made at the time of the offer are reflected in the contract.
The contract should also be supplied with an inventory - this details all the furniture & appliances within the property, as well as the current condition of the property. Make sure you check this and update the agent or landlord with anything that has been missed. This includes things like stains on the carpets and nails in the wall - you might loose some of your deposit when you move out if you haven't noted these issues at the start.
7. Find furniture for free - ask family, friends & freecycle
Whether you're moving into a furnished or unfurnished property, chances are you might need to pick up a few extra pieces of furniture. This can quickly push up the cost of moving if you buy things new.
A great way to get free furniture is to check on Freecycle where you can find people in your area that have all sorts of things they want to give away, for free!
Let your friends and family know you're in need - you'll be surprised by the things people have that they want to give away!
8. Move day takes longer than you think
Start your packing at least a week before your move day to make sure you have enough boxes. There's nothing more stressful than leaving packing to the last minute and running out of boxes when the van is on it's way.
If you're hiring a self-drive van, packing early will also help you decide what size van you need to hire. Making 2 or 3 trips might be possible if you're not moving too far, but if it's a long journey to the new house you'll probably want a van big enough to take everything in one go.
Once you've made it to the other end, it's time to unload and unpack. Finding a new home for all of your possessions takes time! Make things easy for yourself, book a day off work to give you plenty of time to get everything right, so you can relax and enjoy your new home sooner.
9. Read the meters
One of the first things you should do when you move into your new home is read the meters and update your suppliers to let them know. If you don't so this, you could be liable for any usage before you moved in.
Whilst you're on the phone, it's worth asking about payment options. It might work out cheaper to pay by direct debit or by having a prepayment meter.
10. Clean all the time, especially when you move out
Finally, it's important to makes sure you clean your home regularly from the day you move in.
It's not uncommon for landlords and agents to perform regular inspections - make sure you're always prepared as these can happen with as little as 24 hours notice.
To get your full deposit back when you move out, the place will need to be sparkling. If you haven't been cleaning regularly, long-term damage might have been done to the property and it'll be harder to get the place up to the high standards required.
Before you move out, make sure you know what you need to do to get your deposit back.