Renting in the capital is a nightmare. Firstly, it’s horrendously overpriced which means most people in their twenties have a lot of restrictions on what they can actually afford. Secondly, estate agents have a terrible reputation and from my experience I would say that reputation is more than well deserved. Those two things combined can make the whole situation way more stressful than it really should be.
As I’ve rented in London for around 7 years now, I’ve definitely learned some tips and tricks to ease the pain, slightly. I’m moving again in a few weeks so I thought I’m probably able to give some fairly decent advice for anyone thinking of moving house in the capital. Also I’d say I’m quite good at this house stuff, maybe because I’m a pro internet stalker… ha.
Here are some things I’ve learned for anybody thinking of renting in London:
1. The internet is your best friend
Don’t bother going into physical estate agents. It will be a waste of time. If you know some agencies in the area you wish to live in, send them an email and ask to be put on a waiting list for any new properties that fit your criteria. Sometimes they will email you properties before they go up on their website or in their office.
The sites I would recommend for flat hunting are: Zoopla, Gumtree, Nestoria, Rightmove, Moveflat. Be prepared to spend half your life on them, if you see properties as soon as they go live, you’ve got a better chance. You can now set up alerts on Rightmove too, which is probably the most depressing thing ever.
2. Location – the more you know, the more chance you’ve got
Know the postcodes, streets or areas you would like to live in. The more you know about an area, the easier it is to search for. You will get more relevant properties if you do this rather than just searching the borough eg. Hackney, Islington etc. Searching E9 5EN for example, you’d have properties near that street, it just narrows down your search which is time saving.
Also research the area and check if there are any specific housing estates that rent too. A lot of the time they do not advertise, it’s a matter of finding out if they exist and then contacting them. That’s how we found our new place.
3. Speed is important
Make sure you go and look immediately. The same day, the same hour!? If you are super flexible you’ll be the early bird who catches the worm. Properties in London go as quick as a click of the fingers. Be aware that you will have to most likely make your decision on that day and potentially put down a holding deposit. I had to put down £700 for my new place. A couple of weeks rent is usually the norm.
4. Savings will legit save you
Save up enough money for 6 weeks rent (if your deposit turns out to be 4 – well then lucky you, you’ve got some savings now!), and a estate agent/contract fee which could be up to £250 depending on the agency. If you can’t save because you’re mainly living paycheck to paycheck like most people, overdrafts and interest free credit cards are your friends. Set a minimum payment to something like £50 a month. A deposit is always your money so you will get it back as long as you don’t trash the place.
Estate agent advice:
5. Keep your budget vague (but not too vague)
Don’t tell an estate agent your total budget. They are more likely to charge you more if they think you can afford more. Give them a rough estimate.
6. Negotiating is possible
Some people may not realize that you can also negotiate on rent and deposits if you want to put in an offer. The asking weekly rent price is sometimes negotiable, as can be the deposit. I got my last deposit down to 4 weeks rather than 6.
7. Conduct background research on an agency before handing over any cash
If your potential new estate agent is really small and you’re a bit suspicious, you can search a company on Duedil. Usually you will be able to see details such as the state of the business, if the company director has had any previous business’ and what happened to them (eg. did they go bankrupt or dissolve) this can be a bad sign. Companies House also is worth checking if Duedil doesn’t have any info. Insist on written confirmation and receipts of any money handed over.
8. Try and make sure you get your landlords name and number
Once you have moved in, estate agents can be hell – especially if they’re in charge of ‘managing’ the property. I used to rent through Felicity J Lord and it was such a farce. It was unbelievable how much effort it was to get anything done. It’s always good to have a relationship with your landlord incase things get dodgy. For example, the agency I was with for the past 3 years, to put it politely, were fucking crap. It’s good that I have my landlords number to let him know what the deal is with problems in the flat. We ended up convincing him to ditch them anyway.
9. The deposit protection scheme
Make sure your agency or landlord puts your deposit in one of the three deposit protection schemes within a couple of weeks of you moving in. For them to not do this is illegal. I would recommend checking with all 3 schemes that your deposit is with one of them when you’re settled in. I did this and found out my deposit was not in any of them, which is really bad! I confronted the agency and they immediately put it one, I kept following up until I got written confirmation from DPS. I’m so glad I checked, even more so now the agency went totally bust. You can find out what the 3 schemes are called on the governments website here.
10. Flat sharing, or renting just a room
The best place for finding a room, is without a doubt Spareroom. Moveflat is also good. I have advertised a lot of rooms on both these websites over the years and you will always find good people to come and live with you, and there are lots of options if you’re looking too! My tips would be to make sure you make a nice profile on there; add a photo so you don’t look like a time waster and only apply for adverts you are actually interested in. Make sure you spend time on your messages to people, but don’t write essays.
So there’s my advice! Hopefully this will have been of some use to someone, if you have any questions about anything I’ve written please do comment and I’ll try and answer as best I can. As they say, knowledge is power – so don’t be scared, just be super prepared and with a bit of hard work and time you will find somewhere. Happy flat/house-hunting! x
3 Responses to “My top 10 tips for renting in London”
Oh god… estate agents and letting agents are a nightmare. This post is so useful! I knew so little when I first rented, and so many people I know are just trying to feel their way around!
Something I’d add is to photograph EVERYTHING when you move in. Every scrape, scratch, dent, anything left behind by previous tenants and not cleared up, rubbish, dirt, anything. This completely saved me when my landlord attempted to take £1000 of our deposit to fix things he said we’d broken, but photographs proved were already broken when we moved in.
Also: the landlord/agency HAS to give you a copy of the certificate for the Deposit Protection Scheme, the number to identify it, and the pack of ‘Prescribed Information’. If they don’t do this (as ours didn’t), they’ve acted illegally and you could be entitled to up to 3 times the amount of your deposit back from them. The benefit of them giving you this is that it helps you know what to do if you get in a dispute (as we did – and we had to sort it by ourselves!)
I’d also say keep written records of absolutely everything – if you need to speak to the agency or landlord try & do it through email so there’s written evidence. If you get repairs done yourself, get receipts. I ended up having to voice record our agents because they’d insist on talking in person, make promises, then deny ever having said it!
Ooh, and another thing. Know your rights – and fight for them! We nearly got completely fucked over by our landlord & agency because they’d say we weren’t entitled to something (when we were) and we were too worried to challenge it because we presumed they knew better. Of course they were just trying to get our money! Citizen’s Advice Bureau & also Shelter give really good free advice. :)
Yes you’re completely spot on with your advice! This blog post could have been so much longer but I didn’t want to bore anyone with mega essay so thanks for your comment with more info – I hope people read it! :)
The photographing one is a very good point. I do the same thing whenever I move in somewhere too, i should have added that one for sure.
Yep with deposit scheme, the thing is you are entitled to that money but the chance of getting 3x that money is potentially slim. I had to file a dispute with the DPS, I got my full deposit back but my agency had gone bust at that point. The only reason I got it all back was because they just didn’t respond at all, I also had to go to a lawyer and get legal documents witnessed. If you had an agency who hadn’t put money in the scheme (they’re probably dodgy anyway) – I doubt you’d see that money ever again, never mind 3 x it. All a LTD company has to do to clear debts is dissolve/liquidate. It’s very easy for people to set up LTD companies again and again to remove any financial problems and con people! I can see that my current agency have JUST set up another company after going bust before. It’s insane they can do that. This is why Duedil is a god send.
Shelter is amazing for sure!
And yeah I totally agree with keeping everything in writing, I live with a lawyer currently so she’s big on that :) voice recording is a great idea too if you’re getting nowhere.
Maybe we should name and shame all the bad agencies… there truly isn’t enough online about some of these crooks!!
It’s AMAZING how companies which have gone bust can just reform again. So many people getting tricked out of money! The idea of small claims court is scary, and I think that’s what puts so many people off it, so they just give up. I know my landlord thought if he just bulldozed me and lied about my rights and threatened me, then I’d be too scared to stand up for myself, and I’m pretty convinced this is how he’s scammed other tenants before. He tried charging us £150 an hour for any time he spent responding to our emails disputing his claims, and even £150 an hour for 7 hours because a WeTransfer upload (of the photographs he took on the exit inspection which he did without us, even showing how he’d made damage worse for photos) took 7 hours to do – as if that’s ‘7 hours of work’! He tried so hard to scare me, but then when I went to the DPS dispute, submitted 45 pages of evidence of his lies/bullying/false claims – he didn’t even respond! So we got all our money back. It is such a good feeling knowing you stood up for yourself despite all the effort. I’m very glad you got your deposit back too, scummy agents and landlords get so much money off people! There just isn’t much information made readily available for people when they’re renting, and landlords/agencies sure don’t give it to anyone, so posts like this are really great for giving people a helping hand! (And yep, I’m very tempted to shame my agency. They were terrible, lying to us and the landlord, letting themselves into the house randomly, taking viewers round without letting any of us know… all sorts!)