Deciding where you want to live in London can be a complex task. There are many factors which you should take into account when making this choice and these considerations will differ from person to person.
Working travellers who are unable to visit London before relocating here, may benefit from the Kickstart package which offers accommodation assistance.
- Areas nearer Central London are generally more expensive, so you need to figure out a balance between affordability and convenience to your place of work.
- You also need to think about the public transport in your area. Consult the Transport in London page for assistance with this.
- It’s vital to work out what the local amenities in a particular area are like. Is there a decent supermarket nearby? Is there an affordable gym? What about good pubs?
Who is going to share your humble abode? Just you and your cat? Or will you risk a flatshare with strangers to make the rent more affordable? You could end up making great new friends this way.
Finding a property
If you’re just arriving, the chances are that you’ll need to find accommodation to rent in London.
Estate agents will usually charge an admin fee when they’re drawing up tenancy agreements and doing reference checks, so you could save money by going through a letting agent or an ad in a paper. This latter option means that you’ll end up doing the legwork yourself.
Whichever method works for you, make sure you act fast. Properties don’t sit around for long in London. So you are going to need to keep in constant contact with estate agents, or arrange viewings of properties that you’ve seen in a paper immediately, because someone else will also be looking to get there first.Our North London, South London, East London and West London pages have listings for estate agents in 20 areas of London.
Once you’ve got to the property, it’s time to find out some more details.
Is the property fully furnished? This can mean anything from the basics of a sofa, bed, wardrobe, oven, fridge etc. to full sets of cutlery and crockery, paintings on the walls, board games etc. This really varies depending on the landlord.
Unfurnished accommodation is another option. The rent is generally much cheaper, but you’ll have to purchase loads of new furniture courtesy of your credit card. To kit out your new home, try looking for basics at Ikea and Argos.
How much space are you going to need? Beware of ‘double’ rooms that are box rooms which someone has shoved a double bed into, so there is no space left to unpack your prized CD collection, and you have to store your wardrobe in the hall. Remember you’ve probably got a lot more stuff than you imagine!
Is there a lounge? Or will you have to all cram into someone’s bedroom, trying to avoid eye contact with their dirty laundry so that you can watch a film together.
Is the kitchen separate from the lounge? That Oscar-winning film might not be as enjoyable with a boiling kettle and three cycles of bedclothes spinning over the top of it.
So, you’ve found some people to live with, you’ve found a location that you’re happy with, and finally you’ve found a flat or house that’s not too shabby for you. So what do you do now? If you’re happy with this property, then don’t go away and think about it, because the chances are that it’ll be gone within the next few hours. If you liked it, then you can bet your first month’s rent that someone else will as well.
So if you’re sure, then inform the estate agent or landlord that is showing you round, that you wish to put down a holding deposit. This will immediately take the property off the market, so that no-one else can view it. The holding deposit is often the equivalent of a week’s rent for the whole property. If the landlord backs out at any time after this, then this deposit will be refunded, but if you change your mind, then you will lose your deposit.
Reference checks and guarantors
After this point, it is time for the estate agent or landlord to do some checks on you. They need to know that you are going to be able to pay the rent every month, so they will normally need proof of a permanent income from each of you. This is accomplished by contacting your place of employment. But hang on…you’ve only just moved to London, you haven’t sorted yourself out with permanent work yet. So what do you do? Don’t panic! Lots of people go through this dilemma. The answer is that you need to find yourself a guarantor. This means that if you can’t pay your rent, then someone that you have nominated will guarantee that they can pay it for you. Normally an understanding parent or relative fits the bill. They will need to have checks done on their finances as well.
Other than this, you will sometimes need to give detailed former accommodation details and dates, so that previous landlords can be contacted to vouch for you. They need to check that you didn’t set your last place on fire, or run off without paying a couple of months rent.
So once you have given all the reference details that they require from you, they will run checks on you. This can take anything from a couple of days, to several weeks. You will not be given the keys to your property until this work has been completed.
This gives you chance to find the remaining damage deposit money that you will need.
The damage deposit is normally equivalent to 4-6weeks rent money, and is payable up front (along with your first month’s rent), on the day that you are given the keys to the property. It is there for the landlord to ensure that you can’t trash the place before you leave, and if you do cause any damage it will come out of this deposit. If you and the landlord agree that no damage was caused then this deposit will be refunded after you have moved out, whether this is six months or six years from now.
The holding deposit that you have already paid will contribute to this damage deposit.
You may also have to pay the estate agents an administration fee of somewhere in the region of £100, which pays for the work that they have done for you, including drawing up the contract, doing reference checks on you etc.
Once you have paid all the necessary monies, have a good look through the tenancy agreement before you sign it. You will be asked to initial each page of this contract, so make sure you read what you are initialling. There may be requests in there, which you find unreasonable, such as agreeing to pay for a professional upholsterer cleaner, or window cleaner once a month. If you have any questions, then mention them now before it is too late.
Make sure that you understand how long your tenancy agreement will last. It is normal to sign a year’s contract, which means that you have to stay there for at least a year. However, often there can be a six month break in contract, where after six months either you or your landlord can terminate the agreement with one month’s notice.
Getting the keys
Once you have signed on the dotted line, had a panic attack from parting with the wad of cash that was looking quite snug in your hand, and been given the keys to your new home, you are pretty much free to start unpacking.
Oh except for the inventory list that you will have to go through with your landlord.
The inventory is a list of every item of furniture in the property, with comments about the condition of the furniture. Make sure you pay attention, and speak up if you don’t agree with the landlord’s interpretation of what an ‘excellent condition’ paintwork job is. It’ll be you that has to pay for that biro mark on the wall if you don’t mention it now.
Once that is over, chuck the landlord out, and start the unpacking.
Or open a bottle of champagne to celebrate your arrival in London!
People to inform
Once you’re unpacked, you are going to have to inform several people of your arrival. This is for your benefit as well as theirs.
First off is the local council, who need to be told that you’re there, so that they can start sending you extortionate council tax bills. You can’t dodge this I’m afraid. They will track you down, and threaten you with court summons if you don’t pay up, so best to get it sorted a.s.a.p. You can also get on the electoral roll by contacting the council.
You will need to contact the local water company and electricity and gas suppliers so that they can open an account for you. They may ask you to give meter readings, so that you are not being charged for the previous tenants’ long hot daily baths, or secret sideline launderette service.
Unless you plan on living the high life every night, you are probably going to require the services of a television as a cheaper option. This means that you have to pay an annual TV licence of around £142.50. It can be paid by direct debit, and it is much more preferable to pay this small amount of money (which covers all televisions under one roof) than get faced with a massive fine.
Many of us are happy with our mobile phones nowadays, but if you do find that you can’t live without a landline telephone as well, then you should contact BT, who will either tell you what your number is and open a new account for you, or they may need to come and fit you with a new line.
You should also contact your bank, credit card companies and the DVLA. Most of the above can be done by using the excellent address moving website iammoving.com You can even switch energy supplies whilst you’re at it.
It is normally a good idea to register with a local dentist and doctor in the area. Find your nearest practices through the nhsdirect.co.uk website that have a find a doctor/dentist service when you type your postcode in.
Finally, make sure you purchase contents insurance. Your landlord should have building insurance, but isn’t obliged to have contents insurance to cover the cost of your belongings in case of fire or theft for example. Moneysupermarket.com have some great advice on home insurance.
For those of you who have moved here from abroad, you may be interested in….
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